VATICAN CITY, MAY 23, 2001 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II met this morning with 73 Salesian bishops and exhorted them “to persevere courageously in their witness to Christ and the Gospel.”
The bishops have gathered for the first time to reflect on Don Bosco´s charism in the episcopal service. They were joined by six cardinals who are attending the extraordinary consistory.
Over the past decade, the Pontiff has appointed 42 bishops from among the Salesians, who often work as missionaries in new dioceses. There are now 104 Salesian bishops. Last Oct. 1 the Holy Father beatified Bishop Luigi Versiglia, a Salesian.
During today´s meeting, John Paul II recalled the example of three Indian Salesians, superiors of a novitiate, who were recently “sacrificed” in the region near Imphal, victims of a separatist group.
“I exhort all Salesians to persevere courageously in their witness to Christ and the Gospel,” the Pope said.
The Salesians´ meeting began Tuesday with greetings from Father Juan Edmundo Vecchi, the rector major.
The Salesians have had 199 bishops and 12 prefects and apostolic administrators. Lately, two new apostolic prefectures have been entrusted to Salesians: Gambela, in Ethiopia, and Baku, in Azerbaijan, as well as the Diocese of Cairo, Egypt. In recent years many Salesians have served in the Arab world, and in territories with a strong Muslim presence.