The Pope today received the first group of bishops from the US to arrive in Rome for their ad limina visit. This group, from the New York region, will be followed by the other American bishops in a series of ad limina visits during the coming weeks.
"Our era needs to hear the truth revealed by God, about man and about the human condition," the Holy Father said. He asked the bishops to undertake their mission of teaching the Gospel with vigor and courage. "The task of a bishop is nothing other than this: to be a convincing witness and a courageous teacher of the truth which sets man free," he said.
Pope John Paul noted that the message of the Gospel has obvious applications to the leading social issues of the day; he mentioned in particular the need to restore understanding for "the dignity of the human person." But he warned that the promotion of "moral values" constitutes only a small part of the Christian evangelical message.
"The challenge is enormous, but this is the moment!" the Pope insisted. He said the Catholics of the United States suffer from the effects of a cultural climate marked by secularism and by doubt, and urged the bishops to confront "the challenge of radical skepticism" by boldly proclaiming the message of Jesus Christ. The modern secular world does not have the strength to guard human freedom, he pointed out; only the Christian truth can make men truly free.
Finally, the Pope observed that all sound theology must be firmly founded in the Word of God. He warned against analysis of the Scripture based on "sterile rationalism or cultural pressures," and recommended an effort to see the Bible as the "living Word"-- as God's gift to the Church.