The Pope expressed this conviction Friday when he received the first group of French bishops, from the provinces of Cambrai and Reims, on their five-yearly visit to the Holy See.
Based on reports the bishops gave him in individual meetings, John Paul II said that in today's world "your mission has become, without a doubt, more complex and delicate, in particular, because of the crisis you must continue to address."
"It is characterized by spiritual and pastoral fragility and by the social climate in which Christian values and the very image of the Church are not perceived in a positive way," he continued.
He described the society "in which a subjectivist and lax moral view often reigns."
The bishop must address this situation at a time when there is a decrease in the number of priests and of consecrated persons, the Holy Father said.
"Regardless of the apostolic circumstances," what is most important is that bishops be animated by "the hope of Christ" in their ministry, he said.
To achieve that objective, the Pope advised the French prelates to "pay attention to your own spiritual life, rooting your ministry in an intense relationship with Christ, in prolonged meditation on the Scriptures, and in an intense sacramental life."
"In this way, you will be able to communicate to the faithful the desire to live in intimate union with God, and to affirm their faith, so that together you can propose the faith to your fellow citizens," he explained. "Every mission is based on this privileged relationship with the Lord."