The call to communion, the formation of youth, the defense of the family, and solidarity with the needy were the main topics that the Pope highlighted in his address to the bishops of the Peruvian episcopal conference, whom he received in audience Tuesday at the end of their quinquennial "ad limina" visit to Rome.
In his address, John Paul II referred to a crucial challenge of the age: "the spirit of communion must reign in the Church," not only as an exigency of the message of Christ, but also as a response to the profound hopes of the world.
The Holy Father reminded the bishops they are "called to be an example of communion," at a historic moment in which the capacity to interrelate frequently coexists with a feeling of isolation within the human family.
Numerous examples of holiness in Peru, such as St. Rose of Lima and St. Martin of Porres, serve as models for pastors, "who must identify themselves with the personal style of Jesus Christ, which consists of simplicity, poverty, closeness, renunciation of personal advantages and full confidence in the power of the Spirit beyond human means," the Pope continued.
Among youth, he added, must be awakened "the passion for the great ideals of the Gospel," combining their evangelization with an urgent pastoral program on vocations.
John Paul II said that Peru "needs priests and evangelizers, saints, knowledgeable and faithful to their vocation. ... This is a task in which the bishop must show a special relation of father and teacher."
Referring to marriage, the Holy Father explained that it is imperative "that youths know the true beauty of love."
On this point, he referred to the need of a multidisciplinary pastoral program that integrates catechesis, the educational action of other lay faithful, the help of families themselves, and the fostering of conditions that favor the love of spouses and family stability.
"Pastors must make their voice heard to highlight the importance of the family as the original and fundamental cell of society, and its irreplaceable contribution to the common good of all citizens," the Holy Father stressed.
This appeal is particularly urgent when, "for more or less opportunistic reasons, anti-birth political projects are planned, the desires for matrimonial fidelity are suffocated, or the development of family life is made difficult in other ways," John Paul II said.
Referring to the vigor of the Peruvian Church's action in favor of the poor, and given the difficult economic situation the country is experiencing, the Pope also encouraged the bishops to foster "a concrete, tangible and organized program of social pastoral care ... which will lay the foundations of a harmonious and lasting development based on the spirit of fraternal solidarity."
This was the framework in which the Pope also wished to express his profound gratitude to the numerous ecclesial institutions, emphasizing the work of the institutes of consecrated life, which "make the light of the Gospel and fraternal help reach the most remote places of Peruvian lands," from the Amazon jungle to the Andean highlands and the coastal plains.