Excerpts from greetings read by Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley of Boston to Pope John Paul II yesterday at Castel Gandolfo.
''Our recent history is one of great pain because of the tragedy of clerical sexual abuse with its all devastating consequences. As a church we are striving to bring healing to all of those affected by this crisis. Oftentimes the victims and their families were among those most committed to the life of the church, and so the abuse has been experienced as the most serious betrayal.
''Our Catholic faith assures us that our God is so loving and powerful that He brings good out of evil. We are humbled by our sins and offenses but confident that God does not forsake us and calls us to strive for healing and reconciliation.
''The pain of these recent years has certainly convinced us of the importance of prayer in our lives. As you reminded us in Novo Millenio Ineunte, Christians cannot survive in today's world on a superficial prayer life. All of our pastoral programs must have prayer as their foundation in order that we find the strength to carry out the mission of the Church, with humility, love and mercy.
''We thank you for all that you do to confirm our faith and to lead the Church of Christ on the path of fidelity and service. Your many writings, your outreach to the youth, and your missionary journeys have inspired us all in our pastoral ministry. We are particularly grateful for your unceasing defense of human life when it is most vulnerable, the life of the unborn and of those whose lives are slipping away."
Excerpts from Pope John Paul II's remarks to the visiting bishops from New England: ''The church in the United States has long been committed to making her voice heard in public debate in the defense of fundamental human rights, the dignity of the person and the ethical requirements of a just and well-ordered society. In a pluralistic nation like your own, this has necessarily involved practical cooperation with men and women of various religious beliefs, and with all people of good will, in the service of the common good. I am deeply appreciative of your continuing efforts to promote ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue on every level of the church's life, not only as a means of overcoming misunderstandings between believers, but also for fostering a sense of common responsibility for the building of a future of peace. As the tragic events of 11 September 2001 have made clear, the building of a global culture of solidarity and respect for human dignity is one of the great moral tasks confronting humanity today. In the end, it is in the conversion of hearts and the spiritual renewal of humanity that the hope of a better tomorrow lies, and here the witness, example and cooperation of religious believers has a unique role to play.
''More than once in the course of these meetings I have told you of my admiration for the outstanding contribution which the Catholic community in the United States has made to the spread of the Gospel, the care of the poor, the sick and those in need, and the defense of fundamental human and Christian values. Today I wish to encourage you, and through you, all the Catholics of America, to continue to bear faithful testimony to the truth of Christ and the power of his grace to inspire wisdom, reconcile differences, heal wounds and point to a future of hope. The church in your country has been chastened by the events of the past two years, and much effort has rightly been expended on understanding and addressing the issues of sexual abuse which have cast a shadow on her life and ministry. As you continue to confront the significant spiritual and material challenges which your local churches are experiencing in this regard, I ask you to encourage all the faithful -- clergy, religious and lay -- to persevere in their public witness of faith and hope, so that Christ's light, which can never be dimmed, will continue to shine forth in and through the Church's entire life and ministry."