VATICAN CITY Pope John Paul II told a group of American bishops Thursday that church institutions in the United States universities, schools and hospitals must be ''genuinely Catholic'' and conform to the church's moral teaching.
He stressed that they must foster their Catholic identity and promote church teaching on ''respect for human life, marriage and family and the right ordering of public life.''
In the latest of a series of speeches to visiting American prelates, the pope touched on a theme that has produced tensions over free speech issues on campuses and problems when hospitals require government funding.
John Paul told bishops from Oregon, Washington and Alaska that it was of ''utmost importance'' that Catholic institutions in the United States ''be genuinely Catholic: Catholic in their self-understanding and Catholic in their identity.''
He said all those working at such institutions, including non-Catholics, ''should show a sincere and respectful appreciation of that mission.''
He said colleges and universities ''are called to offer an institutional witness of fidelity to Christ and to his word as it comes to us from the church.''
John Paul praised Catholic health care institutions in the United States and said that challenges from changing social and economic circumstances must not lessen their commitment to the church's moral policy.
''Established policies in complete conformity with the church's moral teaching need to be firmly in place in Catholic health care facilities,'' he said.
The pope also touched on the financial crisis facing many parish schools in the United States, urging the bishops to assure the schools remain accessible to the poor despite the economic problems.
American bishops are making ''ad limina'' visits required by all bishops every five years throughout 2004.
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