POPE Paul has produced what is believed to be a unique document: He has sent a pastoral letter to his old diocese of Milan.
The, Pope began by recalling that as Archbishop of Milan he had always written a pastoral letter for the Feast of the Assumption—traditionally the beginning of the holiday season for Italians.
As Milan was then without an Ordinary, Pope Paul said that he did not want to let the tradition lapse, and, besides. he wished to recall ,how good and generous the Milanese had been to him while he was in the diocese "where I hoped to end my days". He then gave the main reason for his message, saying. "Our greater regret in this sudden farewell is in the thought of how much of our ministry was left unfinished in Milan . . more was begun than completed."
Pope Paul remarked that his successor will certainly see where he left off and "he will act entirely as the Lord inspires him." The Pope went on to comment: "We had the impression from the very beginning of Our ministry there (in Milan) that the conditions of our society were leading the status of its religious life into a state . . of danger and crisis ...
"We could see the wealth of religious tradition threatened with decline and ruin. They were threatened not only externally but also internally because of a change and a breakdown in the popular awareness of that sound religious mentality and of that traditional fidelity to the Church which are the basis and source of that wealth. The measure of Our concern was proportionate to the worth of the spiritual heritage of which We found Ourself the responsible administrator."
The Pope insisted that this is not a "pessimistic vision of the religious character of our age. but rather a realistic one."
He recalled too that "Our conclusions were directed toward reawakening consciences, encouraging efforts, recommending undertakings, suggesting projects, as if
there was not time to lose and every one of good will should revive himself with renewed activity and militant courage because of a special need of salvation.
"Our age is decisive. It calls for intensity of efforts. It invests us with a vocation of defence and renewal. It demands the fidelity and the sacrifice of great moments."
New Archbishop: see page I.