Bishop Needs Holiness Above All, Final Message Says

Key Features Outlined by Synodal Assembly

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 26, 2001 ( A bishop of the third millennium should be characterized, above all, by holiness, the Synod of Bishops emphasized in its final message.

The synod offered decisive features that a bishop should have: First, he must be a saint. He also must be poor with the poor, live in communion with the rest of the Church, be the custodian and prophet of truth, and the promoter of unity, the synod said.

This portrait was drawn by the 280 episcopal participants in the assembly. The Vatican Press Office presented the concluding text today with the consensus of the participants. The synod ends Saturday.

The message begins by stating that, above all, the world expects holiness in a bishop.

«Bishops achieve this through the exercise of their apostolic ministry with the ´humility and strength´ of the Good Shepherd,» the message stresses. «One form of holiness, which the world needs today, is precisely the openness to all that is distinctive of a Bishop, through his patience and boldness in giving ´reason for the hope´ which is in him.»

In the second place, the document invites the bishops to embrace poverty.

«Just as we must struggle to free those oppressed by a poverty that is destructive, so there can be a kind of poverty that frees our energies for love and service,» the synod states.

«The Bishop is the father and brother of the poor. When it is necessary, he should not hesitate to raise his voice for those who have no voice, so that their rights will be recognized and respected,» the prelates add.

The synod called on the bishops of the third millennium to live their ministry in «communion and collegiality» with all other bishops, «united among themselves and with the Pope, the Successor of Peter.»

Another trait of the bishop, as defined by the assembly, is his mission as «guardian and prophet» to «warn his people against false teachings that threaten the purity of Christian hope.»

«This love leads him to oppose every slogan and stance which, claiming to reduce the Cross of Christ to nothing, at the same time obscures the true face of the human person and our sublime destiny as creatures called to share the divine life,» the assembly stresses.

A further characteristic of bishops is that they be «weavers of unity.» The synod sees them as the leaders who must encourage, discern and pay attention to the life of their priests, religious, parishes, movements, small communities, formation and charity services.

Lastly, the synod asks bishops to become missionaries, «proclaiming to all God´s plan of salvation, extolling his mercy, sharing it through the sacraments of new life, and teaching his law of love by bearing witness to his presence ´always and until the end of time.´»

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