CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 13, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The mission of the bishop is about more than just checking off items in a to-do list, says Benedict XVI.
The Pope reflected today on role and duties of bishops upon addressing a group of recently appointed prelates who are taking part in a seminar organized by the Congregation for Bishops.
The course, which is in its 10th year, is taking place in the Center of Higher Studies of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ. Participating in it are 99 bishops, 13 of whom belong to the Eastern Churches.
Addressing the prelates in the Swiss Hall of the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo, the Pope reminded them that “the mission of the bishop cannot be understood with the mentality of efficiency and efficacy,” which leads to paying attention primarily to “what needs to be done.”
In fact, the bishop must always “take into account the ontological dimension, which is the foundation of the functional one.”
“By the authority of Christ with which he is invested,” observed the Pontiff, when the bishop is seated on his chair, “he is placed ‘above’ and ‘before’ the community, in as much as he is ‘for’ the community, toward which he directs his pastoral solicitude.”
Benedict XVI then recalled an expression of St. Thomas Aquinas which, in his judgment, can constitute “a true and proper program of life for every bishop.”
Commenting on the phrase of Jesus recorded in John’s Gospel — “the Good Shepherd gives his life for his sheep” — St. Thomas observed: “He consecrates to them his person in the exercise of authority and charity. Two things are called for: that they obey him and that he love them. In fact, the first without the second is not sufficient.”
The Pope also invited the bishops to reflect on the explanatory words of the rite of the conferring of the ring in the liturgy of the episcopal ordination, which recalls that “the Church is the Bride of Christ and the bishop is the custodian of this mystery.”
“Entrusted to the bishop, hence, is a nuptial alliance: that of the Church with Christ,” he said.
The concept of “watching over does not only mean to conserve what has already been established,” the Pontiff stated, “although this element must never be lacking.”
In fact, he explained, “in its essence” it includes “also the dynamic aspect, namely, a perpetual and concrete tendency to perfection, in full harmony and continuous adaptation to new exigencies arising from the development and progress of that living organism which is the community.”
In his greeting to Benedict XVI at the beginning of the audience, the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, thanked the Pontiff on behalf of the 110 newly ordained bishops in “for having been chosen to exercise the apostolic ministry” under the “wise leadership” of the Holy Father, reported the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.
“We are profoundly happy to meet with you and to be confirmed by you in the faith of the Apostles of which we must render testimony in today’s world,” said the cardinal, adding that the gathering of new bishops is “particularly dear” to the dicastery he heads.
“I am happy to preside for the first time and to see the benefits of the fraternal communion that establishes itself among all,” Cardinal Ouellet said. “We are members of very different nations and cultural communities, but only one and the same faith unites us and consecrates us in the service of the Kingdom of God.”