TO THE BISHOPS OF THE MISSION TERRITORIES
PARTICIPANTS IN THE SEMINAR PROMOTED BY THE CONGREGATION
FOR THE EVANGELIZATION OF PEOPLE
Saturday, September 8th 2018
Dear Brothers, good morning!
I am pleased to meet you at your training seminar. With you I greet the communities entrusted to you: the priests, the men and women religious, the catechists and the lay faithful. I am grateful to Cardinal Filoni for the words he addressed to me and I also thank Archbishop Rugambwa and Mons. Dal Toso.
Who is the bishop? Let us question ourselves about our identity as pastors in order to have more awareness of them, even if we know that there is no identical model-standard in all places. The ministry of the bishop shudders, so great is the mystery that it carries within itself. Thanks to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the bishop is configured to Christ the Shepherd and Priest. It is called, that is, to have the features of the Good Shepherd and to make the heart of the priesthood, that is, the offering of life. Therefore, it does not live for itself, but strives to give life to sheep, in particular to those weak and endangered. For this reason the bishop nourishes a real compassion for the crowds of brothers who are like sheep without a shepherd (cf. Mk 6:34) and for those who in various ways are discarded. I ask you to have gestures and words of special comfort for those who experience marginality and decay; more than others, they need to perceive the Lord's predilection, of which you are the caring hands.
Who is the bishop? I would like to sketch three essential traits with you: a man of prayer, a man of proclamation and a man of communion.
Praying man. The bishop is the successor of the Apostles and how the Apostles are called by Jesus to stay with him (cf. Mk 3:14). There he finds his strength and his trust. In front of the tabernacle he learns to entrust himself and entrust himself to the Lord. Thus matures in him the awareness that even at night, when he sleeps, or during the day, between fatigue and sweat in the field he cultivates, the seed matures (cf. Mk 4: 26-29). Prayer is not for the bishop devotion, but necessity; not a commitment among many, but an indispensable ministry of intercession: he must bring people and situations every day before God. Like Moses, he extends his hands to heaven in favor of his people (cf. Ex 17,8-13) and is able to insist with the Lord (cf. Ex 33,11-14), to negotiate with the Lord, like Abraham. The parrhesia of prayer. A prayer without parrhesia is not prayer. This is the Pastor who prays! One who has the courage to discuss with God for his flock. Active in prayer, he shares the passion and the cross of his Lord. Never satisfied, he constantly tries to assimilate himself to him, on the way to become like Jesus the victim and altar for the salvation of his people. And this does not come from knowing many things, but from knowing one thing every day in prayer: "Jesus Christ, and Christ crucified" (1 Cor 2: 2). Because it is easy to carry a cross on the chest, but the Lord asks us to bring a much heavier on his shoulders and on his heart: he asks us to share his cross. Peter, when he explained to the faithful what the newly created deacons had to do, he added - and also applies to us, bishops: "Prayer and the proclamation of the Word". In the first place, prayer. I like to ask the question to every bishop: "How many hours a day do you pray?".
Ad man. Successor of the Apostles, the bishop perceives as precisely the mandate that Jesus gave them: "Go and proclaim the Gospel" (Mk 16:15). "Go": the Gospel does not announce itself while sitting, but on the way. The bishop does not live in the office, as a company administrator, but among the people, on the streets of the world, like Jesus. He carries his Lord where he is not known, where he is disfigured and persecuted. And coming out of itself, he finds himself. He does not like comfort, he does not like the quiet life and does not spare his energies, he does not feel like a prince, he works for others, abandoning himself to God's faithfulness. If he seeks worldly apprehensions and assurances, he would not be a true apostle of the Gospel.
And what is the style of the ad? Witness humbly the love of God, just as Jesus did, who was humbled by love. The proclamation of the Gospel suffers the temptations of power, of contentment, of the return of image, of worldliness. Worldliness. Beware of the worldliness. There is always the risk of curing the form of the substance, of turning into actors rather than witnesses, of watering down the Word of salvation by proposing a Gospel without the crucified and risen Jesus. But you are called to be living memories of the Lord, to remind the Church that to announce means to give life, without half measures, even ready to accept total self-sacrifice.
And third, a man of communion. The bishop can not have all the gifts, all the charisms - some believe they have, poor things! - but he is called to have the charism of the whole, that is, to hold together, to cement the communion. The Church needs union, not soloists out of the chorus or of leaders of personal battles. The Pastor gathers: a bishop for his faithful, he is a Christian with his faithful. He does not make news in the newspapers, he does not seek the consent of the world, he is not interested in protecting his good name, but he loves to weave the communion by involving himself in the first person and acting with a dismissal. He does not suffer from lack of protagonism, but lives rooted in the territory, rejecting the temptation to move away frequently from the Diocese - the temptation of the "airport bishops" - and fleeing the search for his own glories.
Do not get tired of listening. It is not based on projects made at the table, but lets itself be questioned by the voice of the Spirit, who loves to speak through the faith of the simple. Become one with his people and above all with his presbytery, always available to receive and encourage his priests. He promotes by example, rather than by words, a genuine priestly fraternity, showing priests that they are Pastors for the flock, not for reasons of prestige or career, which is so bad. Do not be climbers, please, nor ambitious: feed the flock of God "not as masters of the people entrusted to you, but making you models of the flock" (1 Pet 5,3).
And then, dear brothers, flee clericalism, "anomalous way of understanding authority in the Church, very common in many communities in which behaviors of abuse of power, conscience and sexuality have occurred". Clericalism - corrodes communion, inasmuch as it "generates a division in the ecclesial body that foments and helps to perpetuate many of the evils that we today denounce. Saying no to abuse - either of power, of conscience, any abuse - means strongly saying no to any form of clericalism "(Letter to the People of God, 20 August 2018). Therefore you do not feel lords of the flock - you are not the owner of the flock - even if others did it or if certain local customs favored it. The people of God, for whom and to whom you are ordained, feel you fathers, not masters; thoughtful fathers: no one should show attitudes of subjection to you. In this historical juncture certain tendencies of "leaderism" seem to be accentuated in various parts. To show oneself to be strong men, who keep their distance and command over others, could appear comfortable and captivating, but it is not evangelical. It often damages irreparable damage to the flock, for which Christ gave his life with love, lowering himself and annihilating himself. Be therefore men poor in possessions and rich in relationship, never harsh and grumpy, but affable, patient, simple and open.
I would also like to ask you to take care, in particular, of some realities:
The families. Although penalized by a culture that transmits the logic of the provisional and favors individual rights, they remain the first cells of every society and the first Churches, because they are domestic churches. Promote courses of preparation for marriage and accompaniment for families: will be sows that will bear fruit at the time. Defend the life of the conceived as that of the elderly, support parents and grandparents in their mission.
The seminars. They are the nurseries of tomorrow. There you are at home. Carefully check that they are guided by men of God, capable and mature educators, who with the help of the best human sciences guarantee the formation of healthy, open, authentic, sincere human profiles. Give priority to vocational discernment to help young people recognize the voice of God among the many that reverberate in the ears and in the heart.
Young people, therefore, to whom the upcoming Synod will be dedicated. Let us listen, let ourselves be provoked by them, welcome desires, doubts, criticisms and crises. They are the future of the Church, they are the future of society: a better world depends on them. Even when they seem to be infected by the viruses of consumerism and hedonism, we never put them in quarantine; let's try them, we feel their heart begging for life and begging for freedom. We offer them the Gospel with courage.
Poors. To love them means to fight against all poverty, spiritual and material. Dedicate time and energy to the last, without fear of getting your hands dirty. As apostles of charity, you reach the human and existential peripheries of your Dioceses.
Finally, dear brothers, be wary, I beg you, of the lukewarmness that leads to mediocrity and sloth, that "noon day devil". Be wary of that. Beware of the tranquility that dodges the sacrifice; of pastoral haste that leads to intolerance; of the abundance of goods that disfigures the Gospel. Do not forget that the devil enters from his pockets! I wish you instead the holy restlessness for the Gospel, the only restlessness that gives peace. I thank you for listening and blessing you, in the joy of having you as dearest among the brothers. And I ask you, please, not to forget to pray and to pray for me. Thank you.
TEXT SOURCE: Vatican.va - Unofficial Translation