Directory Tells What a Bishop Should Be

Vatican Publishes Pastoral Guidelines

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 9, 2004 ( Bishops of the 21st century should be men of prudence, humility and chastity, able to listen and to dialogue, with “a heart open to all,” says the Holy See.

It lays out its view in the “Pastoral Directory for Bishops, ‘Apostolorum Successores,'” just published in Italian by the Vatican Congregation for Bishops. Other language editions are being prepared.

The document responds to a request of the Synod of Bishops of October 2001, which called for the updating of the 1973 directory, the Vatican press office said today.

The new directory includes John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation “Pastores Gregis” dedicated to the figure of the bishop and published last October.

It also includes the proposals suggested by the synod, whose theme was “The Bishop, Minister of the Gospel for the Hope of the World.” Additionally, it has selected papal and other magisterial documents since the Second Vatican Council.

The directory, which runs about 300 pages, is essentially pastoral and practical.

It seeks, according to the Vatican press office statement, “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 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,” the statement explains.

One of the great novelties is the chapter dedicated to the bishop’s spirituality, which presents as the goal “holiness in pastoral charity,” the statement continues.

“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,” the Vatican note states.

The fourth chapter of the directory illustrates some principles that must guide the bishop’s pastoral governance: “the principle of truth, of collaboration, of respect for competencies, of the right person for the right post, of justice and legality.”

The text dedicates much space to the three essential tasks of the bishop: “teacher of the faith and announcer of the Word,” “Sanctifier of the Christian People,” and “father and pastor of the diocese,” says the press statement.

Other questions addressed are parish life, the diocesan pastoral plan, assistance to families, young people, emigrants, and action in favor of justice and peace.

A chapter dedicated to the “bishop emeritus” lists his rights and duties in regard to the universal and the local Church.

The appendix refers to the procedure to be followed in a diocese while the nomination of the new bishop is awaited.

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