Vatican City, 10 September 2015 (VIS) – The bishops are witnesses to the risen Christ, educators, spiritual guides and catechists, mystagogues and missionaries, Pope Francis affirmed this morning as he received in audience in the Clementine Hall the new bishops ordained during the past year. They were accompanied by Cardinal Marc Ouellet, P.S.S., prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, and Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. The following are extensive extracts from the Holy Father's address.
“Bishops .. are witnesses of the Resurrected Christ. This is your primary and indispensable task. You have been entrusted the preaching of the reality that holds up the entire edifice of the Church. Jesus is risen! … We too will be resurrected with Christ. … This is not an obvious or easy proclamation. The world is so content with … what it is seemingly able to provide that appears useful to suppress the demand for what is definitive. … However, we are assailed by questions, the answers to which can only come from a definitive future. … How can we face our difficult present if our sense of belonging to the community of the Risen Christ fades? Will we be able to remember the greatness of human destiny if there abates in us the courage to subordinate our life to the love that does not die?”.
“I think of great challenges such as globalisation, which brings together those who are distant from each other yet at the same time separates those who are close; I think of the epochal phenomenon of migration that unsettles our times; I think of the natural environment, the garden God gave to us as the habitat for human beings and for other creatures, threatened by short-sighted and often predatory exploitation; I think of the dignity and future of human work, of which entire generations are deprived; I think of the desertification of relationships, a widespread abdication of responsibility … the bewilderment of many young people and the solitude of many elderly. … I do not wish to focus on this agenda of tasks to complete as I do not want to alarm you. … I wish only to offer to you the joy of the Gospel. … Remember always that it is the Gospel that protects you and therefore do not be afraid to go everywhere and to be with those whom God has entrusted to you. … No sphere of human life is excluded from the interest of the heart of the pastor. … Be on your guard against the danger of neglecting the many and singular situations of the members of your flock; do not renounce encounters with them; do not spare preaching of the living Word of the Lord; invite all to the mission”.
Bishops as educators, spiritual guides and catechists
“With those who are at home, who frequent your communities and partake of the Eucharist, I invite you to be educators, spiritual guides and catechists, able to take them by the hand and to lead them up Mount Tabor, guiding them in the knowledge of the mystery they profess. … Do not spare any efforts in accompanying them and do not let them resign themselves to staying on the plain”.
Bishops as mystagogues
“I think of baptised people who do not however respond to the demands of their Baptism. Perhaps it has long been thought that the land on which the seed of the Gospel falls is not in need of care. Some have drifted away as they are disillusioned by the promises of faith or perhaps because the path to realising them has appeared too challenging. Some instead leave, slamming the door behind them, holding our weaknesses against us or seeking, while not entirely successfully, to convince themselves that they had been deceived by hopes that were ultimately dashed. Be bishops able to intercept their path. … Do not be scandalised by their pain or their disappointments. Enlighten them with a humble flame … always able to illuminate those who are reached by its light that is, however, never blinding. Devote time to meeting them on the road to their Emmaus. Offer them words that show to them what they are still unable to see: the hidden potential of their very delusions. … More than with words, warm their hearts by humbly listening, interested in what is truly good for them, so that they open their eyes and are able to reverse course, returning to Him, from Whom they had drifted.
Bishops as missionaries
“As pastors and missionaries of God's gratuitous salvation, seek also those who do not know Jesus or have simply refused Him. Go in their direction … without fear or unease. … It is not true that we can do without these distant brothers. It is not permissible for us to dispense with our concerns about their fate. … Seeing in us the Lord Who calls to them, perhaps they will have the courage to respond to the divine invitation. If so, our communities will be enriched by what they have to share and our Pastors' hearts will rejoice to repeat once more, “Today salvation has come to this house”.