About the New Pastoral Directory for Bishops

Translations of «Apostolorum Successores» Being Prepared

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 9, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the Vatican press office’s presentation on the new «Pastoral Directory for Bishops, ‘Apostolorum Successores,'» published by the Congregation for Bishops.

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1. The Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops of October 2001, on «The Bishop, Minister of the Gospel for the Hope of the World,» suggested the updating of the Directory for Bishops, issued on February 22, 1973, with the title «Ecclesiae Imago.» In recent days this new Directory was published in Italian, while translations into the principal languages are now under way.

The Directory takes into account the documents of the Second Vatican Council, the 1983 Code of Canon Law, the different Papal Documents published over these years, especially the Apostolic Exhortation «Pastores Gregis,» as well as profound changes that have taken place in society.

It begins with the words «Successors of the Apostles» («Apostolorum Successores»), a title that is at the root of the ministry of the Bishop and that defines his figure and mission in the Church.

2. The Directory is essentially pastoral and practical and is an instrument that seeks to help Bishops to carry out their complex ecclesial service in response to the needs of the Church and of today’s society, at the beginning of the third millennium, characterized by new challenges and problems, by great progress and sudden changes.

The responsibilities that weigh on the shoulders of the Bishop for the good of the diocese, as well as of society, are great. There are many who turn to the Bishop, either for the religious life or to receive light, support and consolation in difficulties, burdening him with their problems and concerns.

3. The Directory underlines the importance and role of the ministry of the Bishop in the life of the Church. The Bishops are, by Divine Will, the Pastors of the Church, with the task of teaching the Gospel, of sanctifying and of being spiritual guides, in hierarchical communion with the Successor of Peter and with the other members of the Episcopal College. For this reason, St. Paul affirms that the Church was «built upon the foundation of the Apostles» (Ephesians 2:20).
<br> The Bishop is a father who lives for his children and is at one with his Church and with his priests, spending himself to form consciences and to make the faith grow.

4. The Directory covers to the whole ministry of the Bishop, both in the universal as well as the local Church.

Chapters 1-3, after recalling the identity and mission of the Bishop, reflect on his solicitude for the universal Church and on episcopal collegiality. Totally new, in relation to the preceding Directory, is the third chapter on the spirituality and permanent formation of the Bishop in which, after referring to the sources of episcopal spirituality, the Bishop is reminded of his path toward holiness in pastoral charity. The theological virtues and human talents are listed that must support the Bishop in the pastoral ministry: pastoral prudence, rich humanity, humility, chastity, goodness, sincerity, ability to listen and to dialogue, a heart open to all. No one is excluded from the Bishop’s heart.

5. Chapter 4 illustrates some essential principles that must guide the pastoral governance of the Bishop, such as:

— the principle of truth,
— of collaboration
— of respect for competencies,
— of the right person for the right post,
— of justice and legality.

From these indications is inferred that the Bishop must be effectively an «ecclesial» man and a man of communion involving priests, religious and the laity in the ensemble of the diocesan family. He is, in fact, the center of unity of the local Church.

6. Chapters 5-7 address the ministry of the Bishop in the local Church and are essentially articulated according to «the three tasks» that constitute «the pastoral function» of the Bishop, that is:

The Bishop teacher of the faith and announcer of the Word (munus docendi). The duties of the Bishop are recalled as the first person responsible for evangelization and catechesis, as well as his sensitivity and attention to the different realms and means for the spreading of the Gospel.

The Bishop sanctifier of the Christian People (munus sanctificandi). The Directory underlines the central character of the Liturgy in the life of the diocese, especially of the Eucharistic celebration. Also addressed are important topics such as the central character of Sunday, the importance of popular piety, the decorum of sacred places.

The Bishop father and pastor of the diocese (munus regendi). Emphasis is placed on the radical spirit of service and vigilance on the development of diocesan life that forms part of the pastoral governance of the Bishop. In particular, the Bishop’s governance must express in the best way possible the same features of the Good Shepherd. Opportune indications are given on the personal responsibility of the Bishop and on the role of the organizations that share in his pastoral function, such as the diocesan Synod, the Curia and other diocesan Councils.

7. A separate chapter (8th) is dedicated to the parish, the Church present in the midst of the homes of men, and to the Foreign Vicariates, with indications on the adaptation of parish assistance to particular needs. Also addressed are pastoral questions affecting large cities and the organization of the whole of pastoral care. In this context, mention is also made of the pastoral Visit, whose importance was attested in the last Synod of Bishops.

Guidelines are given for the diocesan pastoral plan and for spiritual assistance, giving particular care and attention to some sectors and categories: the family, young people, emigrants, action in favor of justice and peace. Also included are suggestions regarding the exercise of charity, volunteer work, solidarity among the local Churches, etc.

8. All together new is Chapter 9 on the Bishop Emeritus, which lists his rights and duties in regard to the universal Church and the local Church.

Finally, in the Appendix reference is made to the «sede vacante» of the diocese, with indications on the procedure that must be followed while awaiting the nomination of the new Bishop.

[Translation by ZENIT]

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