VATICAN CITY, NOV 18, 2003 (VIS) - John Paul II wrote a message to Italian bishops who are celebrating the fifty-second general assembly of the Italian Episcopal Conference (C.E.I.) in Assisi, Italy.
'Your concern as pastors,' writes the Pope, 'will be focused on this occasion on the topic ' of the parish, very opportunely presented in the program of your assembly as the 'Church living in the midst of the homes of Her sons and daughters.' ' I must emphasize that I share with you the conviction of the central and irreplaceable role of the parish to make participation in the Church possible, and in a certain sense easy and spontaneous for every person and family. As the Vatican Council II affirmed ' parishes 'represent the visible Church constituted throughout the world'.'
The Holy Father emphasizes the 'essential presence of parishes in Italy, their vitality and capacity to carry out a pastoral and social service which is attentive to the needs of the people' and recalls that during the assembly 'the best ways to preserve and increase this richness in the face of the great social and cultural changes of our age' will be studied.
'In order to accomplish these goals it will be particularly important for Italian parishes to maintain a 'familial' characteristic which distinguishes them and makes them, in a certain way, big 'families of families': thus, parishes will be a warm and welcoming environment ' and will be able to offer a great contribution to the defense and promotion of that precious and invaluable reality, which unfortunately is continually threatened today, which is the family.'
At the end of the message, the Pope expresses his 'lively appreciation' for the pastoral care with which the bishops guide Italian life and recalls that 'the nation which has contributed so much to building up Europe and to the diffusion of authentic values of civilization, continues to struggle with various problems and contrasts, as the weed of political terrorism has not yet been completely rooted out.'
'I am beside you,' he concludes, 'in the work that each one of you carries out in order to promote serenity and harmony in relationships between the diverse forces and political, social and institutional components. I share ' in your continual commitment to the defense of human life, the family founded on marriage, scholastic freedom and ' in the development of employment and in helping the poorest sectors of the population. I unite myself to you spiritually in order to invoke the gift of peace on all of humanity which is tormented by so many bloody conflicts. With you, I commend the Italians who died in Iraq while fulfilling their duty in the service of the Iraqi people, to the Lord.'
MESS;@;...;CEI ;VIS;20031118;Word: 470;