Cardinal Re Draws a Profile of Today´s Bishop

Prefect Highlights Role of Shepherd

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 24, 2002 ( The ideal bishop should be a shepherd who is close to his flock and who exercises his ministry, indifferent to applause or criticism, says a top Vatican official.

Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, outlined his vision for the ideal prelate during a homily at a Mass of the general assembly of the Italian episcopal conference. The assembly is being held in the Vatican.

“The bishop is the guide of his people. He is the one who goes ahead of them, like the good shepherd, indicating by word and the testimony of life the journey to be undertaken,” Cardinal Re said. He added that this work must be done in a spirit of service and with an authority that is sensitive to the dignity of people.

“A bishop´s concern must never be his personal dignity but rather the good of souls,” the prefect emphasized.

He said that a bishop today must often go against the current, and thus must must neither fear criticism nor attach much importance to applause.

A bishop must foster a spirit of cooperation around him and initiate timely consultations, appealing to competent individuals and making use of the various diocesan organizations, the cardinal said. However, when it comes to making decisions, the responsibility is solely his, the prefect added.

The Italian cardinal proceeded to enumerate the challenges of the bishop´s mission in today´s world: secularization; ethics in scientific, technological and economic progress; and a culture that offers confused solutions to life-and-death issues.

Hence, “it is of fundamental importance that bishops, in virtue of the mandate and grace received by their episcopal ordination, address the challenges, acting with collegial affection, in harmony of thought and commitment, under the guidance of Peter´s Successor,” Cardinal Re emphasized.

Bishops must pay special attention to their priests, “establishing with each one a cordial, direct, trusting and confidential relation,” being a father and brother to them, the cardinal explained.

Contemporary society “needs the closeness of bishops, priests and religious because, given the difficulties of past years, they need reasons for life and hope,” the Italian cardinal continued.

Cardinal Re concluded by appealing to his brothers in the episcopate to have confidence in Christ, in the Church, and in our times “because today we also have so many opportunities to do good.”

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