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Priests are "first catechists," Pope remarks May 08, 2003

Pope John Paul II today reminded European priests that every pastor is "the first catechist of his community."

The Pope made his remarks during a May 8 audience with participants in a conference on priests' duties in religious education. The conference was sponsored by the European Council of Episcopal Conferences, COMECE.

Every priest has "a mandate to preach and to teach" from his diocesan bishop, Pope John Paul said. And every pastor should be attuned to his people's needs for "spiritual, cultural, and doctrinal formation." The Pontiff encouraged priests to use the Catechism of the Catholic Church as the primary reference for parish religious-education work.

"The Christian faith represents the richest patrimony that the European people can draw upon," the Pope continued. He asked priests to be mindful of opportunities for religious instruction in families, workplaces, and public affairs as well as parish programs. By integrating the teaching of the Gospel into everyday life, he said, pastors could make an enormous contribution to the "new evangelization" that is required for Europe in the 21st century.

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