Pope at Audience: Pray for your bishops

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Newly elected Pope Francis I, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, leads a a mass with cardinals at the Sistine Chapel, in a still image taken from video at the Vatican March 14, 2013. Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio surprised the world on Wednesday when he ended a run of nearly 1,300 years of European popes and greeted St. Peter's Square for the first time as Pope Francis. REUTERS/Vatican CTV via Reuters TV (VATICAN - Tags: RELIGION) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS.

A Church that is not united around its bishop is a sick Church. Jesus wanted unity between the bishop and all the faithful, starting with priests and deacons. However the role of bishop is not a position of honor, it is a service. Therefore, there is no room in the Church for a worldly mentality, for people who seek ‘ecclesiastical careers’, for bishops who instead of lowering themselves in service, are vain, proud and power-hungry.

The Ordained Ministries and in particular the role of Bishops and episcopal collegiality were the focus of Pope Francis’ General Audience catechesis this week.

The Pope began by asking those present to pray for bishops, that they may be men of virtue: “It isn’t easy” he noted “we are all sinners, so pray for us”.

He then said Christ himself instituted the ordained ministries with the purpose of building up the Church, as His Body. The Pope said among these the role of the bishop stands out because through the Bishop it is Christ himself who is present.

Moreover, in carrying out his service of protecting and guiding the people of God, the Bishop expresses the motherhood of the Church.

Moving from his scripted speech, the Pope continued “We understand, therefore, that it is not a position of prestige, an honorary role. The Bishop is not an honorary role it is a service. Jesus wanted it this way. There should not be room in the church for a worldly mentality. A worldly mentality speaks of a man who has an ‘ecclesiastical career and has become a bishop’. There should be no place for such a mentality in the Church. The Bishop serves, it is not a position of honor, to boast about”.

Pope Francis said that the many Bishops who are Saints show us that one does not seek this ministry, one does not ask for it, it cannot be bought, one accepts it in obedience, not in an attempt to climb higher but to lower oneself, just as Jesus “humbled himself and became obedient unto to death, even death on a cross”(Phil 2,8).

And he added “It is sad when we see a man who seeks this office and does all he can to get it and when he gets it does not serve, instead goes around like a peacock and lives only for his vanity”.

Pope Francis continued “The Bishops are also called to express one single college, gathered around the Pope, who is the guardian and guarantor of this profound communion that was so dear to Jesus and His apostles themselves”. Recalling the recent Synod on the Family, the Pope observed that it is beautiful when the bishops, with the Pope express this collegiality, despite “living in places, cultures, sensibilities and traditions that are different and distant from each other”.

Concluding the Pope said we must recognize our Bishop as a great gift “in the knowledge that it is in the Bishop that the relationship of each Church with the Apostles is visible and with all the other communities, united with their bishops and the Pope in the One Church of the Lord Jesus, that is our Holy Mother the Hierarchical Church”.

Below please find a Vatican Radio translation of the Holy Father’s General Audience

Our Holy Mother the Hierarchical Church

Dear Brothers and Sisters Good day,

We heard the things that the Apostle Paul says to the Bishop Titus, how many virtues we bishops must have, we all heard no? And it’s not easy, it’s not easy because we are sinners. But we entrust ourselves to your prayers so that we can at least hope to be closer to the things that the Apostle Paul advises for all Bishops. Do you agree? Will you pray for us?

We have already had occasion to point out, in the previous reflections, how the Holy Spirit has always filled the Church with an abundance of gifts. Now, in the power and grace of his Spirit, Christ does not fail to give rise to the ordained ministries, in order to build up the Christian community as His body. Among these ministries, that of the bishop stands out. In the Bishop, assisted by priests and deacons, it is Christ himself who is present and who continues to take care of his Church, ensuring his protection and guidance.

In the presence and ministry of bishops, priests and deacons, we can recognize the true face of the Church: she is our Holy Mother the Hierarchical Church. And really, through these brothers chosen by the Lord and consecrated by the sacrament of Holy Orders, the Church exercises her motherhood: she generates us in Baptism as Christians, when we are born again in Christ; she watches over our growth in the faith; she accompanies us into the arms of the Father, to receive His forgiveness; she prepares us for the Eucharistic table, where she nourishes us with the Word of God and the Body and Blood of Jesus; she calls upon us the blessing of God and the power of His Spirit, sustaining us throughout the course of our life and envelops us with her tenderness and warmth, especially in the most delicate moments of trial, suffering and death.

The Church’s motherhood is particularly expressed in particular in the person of the bishop and in his ministry. In fact, as Jesus chose the Apostles and sent them out to preach the Gospel and shepherd his flock, so the bishops, their successors, are placed at the head of the Christian community, as guarantor of their faith and as a living sign of the presence of the Lord among them. We understand, therefore, that it is not a position of prestige, an honorary role. The Bishop is not an honorary role it is a service. Jesus wanted it this way. There should not be room in the church for a worldly mentality. A worldly mentality speaks of a man who has an ‘ecclesiastical career and has become a bishop’. There should be no place for such a mentality in the Church. The Bishop serves, it is not a position of honor, to boast about. Being Bishop means keeping ever present the example of Jesus, as the Good Shepherd, came not to be served but to serve (cf. Mt 20:28; Mk 10:45), and to give His life for His sheep (cf. Jn 10:11). The Bishops who are Saints – and there are many in the history of the Church – show us that one does not seek this ministry, one does not ask for it, it cannot be bought, one accepts it in obedience, not in an attempt to climb higher but to lower oneself, just as Jesus “humbled himself and became obedient unto to death, even death on a cross”(Phil 2,8).

It is sad when we see a man who seeks this office and does all he can to get it and when he gets it does not serve, instead goes around like a peacock and lives only for his vanity.

There is another precious element that deserves to be highlighted. When Jesus chose and called the Apostles, he thought of them not as separate one from another, each on their own, but together, that they might be with Him, united as one family. The Bishops too are a single college, gathered around the Pope, who is the guardian and guarantor of this profound communion that was so dear to Jesus and His apostles themselves. How beautiful it is, then, when the bishops, with the Pope express this collegiality! And try to be the servants of the faithful, the servants of the Church! We recently experienced this in the Assembly of the Synod on the Family. Just think of all the Bishops throughout the world who, despite living in places, cultures, sensibilities and traditions that are different and distant from each other, – One bishop the other day told me that to come to Rome it took a flight of 30 hours – even distant from each other, when bishops feel part of each other and become an expression of the intimate bond, in Christ, in their communities . And in the common ecclesial prayer all Bishops together listen to the Lord and the Spirit, thus being able to pay greater attention to man and the signs of the times (cf. Conc. Ecumenical Council. Vat. II, Const. Gaudium et Spes, 4 ).

Dear friends, all of this makes us understand why the Christian communities recognize the Bishop as a great gift, and are called to nurture a sincere and profound communion with him, starting with the priests and deacons. There is no healthy Church if the faithful priests, deacons are not united around their bishop. This Church not united around their bishop is a sick Church. Jesus wanted this union, of all faithful with the Bishop. The priests and deacons too. And this in the knowledge that it is in the Bishop that the relationship of each Church with the Apostles is visible and with all the other communities, united with their bishops and the Pope in the One Church of the Lord Jesus, that is our Holy Mother the Hierarchical Church.

(from Vatican Radio)

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