Church Differs in Structure From Civil Society, Says Pope

Meets U.S. Bishops From Provinces of Louisville, Mobile and New Orleans

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 5, 2004 ( John Paul II reminded bishops and Catholics of the United States that the Church does not have the same categories and structures as civil society.

For the Pope, the key to genuine cooperation between the laity and their pastors, particularly the bishops, is in the word «communion.»

This is the answer the Holy Father gave Saturday to the prelates of the ecclesiastical provinces of Louisville, Mobile and New Orleans in the address he delivered to them on the occasion of their five-yearly visit to the Vatican.

«An appreciation of the distinct gifts and apostolate of the laity will naturally lead to a strengthened commitment to fostering among the laity a sense of shared responsibility for the life and mission of the Church,» John Paul II said.

«In stressing the need for a theology and spirituality of communion and mission for the renewal of ecclesial life, I have pointed to the importance of making our own the ancient pastoral wisdom which, without prejudice to their authority, encouraged pastors to listen more widely to the People of God,» he said, recalling the proposal in No. 45 of his apostolic letter «Novo Millennio Ineunte.»

«Certainly this will involve a conscious effort on the part of each bishop to develop, within his particular Church, structures of communion and participation which make it possible, without prejudice to his personal responsibility for decisions he is called to make by virtue of his apostolic authority, to listen to the Spirit who lives and speaks in the faithful,» the Pope said.

«More importantly, it calls for the cultivation, in every aspect of ecclesial life, of a spirit of communion grounded in the supernatural ‘sensus fidei’ and the rich variety of charisms and missions which the Holy Spirit pours out upon the whole body of the baptized in order to build them up in unity and fidelity to the word of God,» the Holy Father continued.

«An understanding of cooperation and shared responsibility which is firmly rooted in the principles of a sound ecclesiology,» he added, «will ensure a genuine and fruitful collaboration between the Church’s pastors and the lay faithful, without the danger of distorting this relationship by the uncritical importation of categories and structures drawn from secular life.»

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