The bishops of the Syro- Malabar Church of India were welcomed today by the Pope as they concluded their 'ad limina' visit. In his talk to them in English the Pope noted that "the origins of your Church are directly linked with the dawn of Christianity and the missionary efforts of the Apostles," and added: "The Liturgy of the Syro-Malabar Church, for centuries a part of India's rich and varied culture, is the most vivid expression of your peoples' identity." He underscored that "since 'the Eucharist ... is the most precious possession which the Church can have in her journey through history', I exhort you to guard and renew this treasure with great care, never allowing it to be used as a source of division. ... As the primary custodians of the liturgy, you are called at all times to be vigilant to protect against unwarranted experimentation by individual priests which violates the integrity of the liturgy itself and can also cause great harm to the faithful." Turning to the issue of the pastoral care of Oriental Catholics in India and abroad, the Holy Father said this "continues to be of concern to the Catholic Bishops Conference of India and to the Syro-Malabar Synod. Here, I wish to emphasize the 'urgent need to overcome the fears and misunderstandings which appear at times between the Eastern Churches and the Latin Church ... especially with regard to the pastoral care of their people also outside their own territory'," he said, quoting 'Ecclesia in Asia.' "I am certain that you will continue to work closely with your Brother Bishops of the Latin Rite and the Holy See to ensure that Syro-Malabars throughout India and the world receive the spiritual support they deserve in strict respect for canonical dispositions which are, as we know, appropriate means for the preservation of ecclesial communion." "Charity urges every Christian to go forth proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth," affirmed John Paul II. "Authentic evangelization is sensitive to local culture and custom, always respecting the 'inalienable right' of each and every person to religious freedom. Here the principle remains valid: 'The Church proposes, she imposes nothing'." He told the bishops that openness to their brothers and sisters of other religions "can never diminish the obligation to proclaim Jesus Christ as the way, and the truth and the life'." The Pope said he joined the bishops "in giving thanks that your Eparchies have been blessed with so many priests and religious. ... The burden of your pastoral mission could not be fulfilled without the clergy, your co-workers in the sacred ministry. ... Your necessary reliance on your priests compels you to foster a strong bond with them. They are your sons and friends. ... Likewise, the Religious in your care are members of your family. The witness borne by so many men and women consecrated to lives of chastity, poverty and obedience stands as a true sign of contradiction in a nation which is becoming increasingly secularized." Source: VIS
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