Pope Exhorts Bishop-Friends of Focolare Movement

Message Urges Them to Be "Instruments of Mercy and Communion"

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 27, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Before he was hospitalized, John Paul II sent a message to 90 bishop-friends of the Focolare Movement, requesting that they be "instruments of mercy and communion."



The Pope's letter, addressed to Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, archbishop of Prague, Czech Republic, was written for the meeting of prelates from 47 countries, held Feb. 19-25 at the Mariapolis Center of Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome.

The topic of the meeting was "The Presence of the Risen One among His People: Vital Principles of the Church of the Third Millennium."

The letter, published by the Holy See on Friday, begins with a special greeting to Focolare founder Chiara Lubich, to whom the Pope renews his "esteem" and "recognition for the evangelical testimony that the movement offers in so many parts of the world."

The meeting of bishops, during this Year of the Eucharist, "will be undoubtedly for all a source of renewed apostolic vitality and missionary boldness to address the numerous social and religious challenges of our time," says the Pope.

The message, signed Feb. 19, invites bishops to contemplate "Jesus with ever more lively ardor in the mystery of the Eucharist," so that, "following his example, you will be able in all circumstances to be instruments of mercy and communion."

"The secret of pastoral effectiveness is the Lord, crucified and risen, whom we adore in the sacrament of the Eucharist. To be eloquent signs of his love and architects of his peace in all environments -- you know it well -- it is necessary that everyone cultivate above all an intimate and constant familiarity with him," the Holy Father added.

While the bishops' meeting was in progress, they heard the news of John Paul II's tracheotomy.

Before leaving Castel Gandolfo, the prelates wrote a message to the Pope, in which they expressed their "most affectionate greeting, together with most fervent desires for his speedy recovery."

Chiara Lubich's address to the bishops was read by Natalia Dallapiccola, one of her first companions at the beginning of the Focolarini, in which she emphasizes that the "risen Jesus is not a static presence," but acts as a "unifying, and therefore, active principle: love."