Cardinal: What Is the Relation Between Bishops and Priests?

Affirms Episcopal Role as Father, Teacher, Coworker

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KAOHSIUNG, Taiwan, NOV. 19, 2010 ( Cardinal Paul Shan Kuo-hsi is underlining the importance of good relations between bishops and priests, like that of a father with a son, or coworkers in the work of evangelization.

The Jesuit cardinal, who is the retired bishop of Kaohsiung and former president of the Chinese regional episcopal conference in Taiwan, was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2006. At that time doctors told him he had only months to live, but four years later, he is looking forward to celebrating his 87th birthday on Dec. 3.

In a letter, dated May 1, 2010, but only recently publicized, addressed to all his brother bishops, the cardinal reflected on the relationship between prelates and priests.

He noted that this relationship has characteristics of that between a father and son, a master and pupil, and coworkers of pastoral work and evangelization.

«The father-son relationship, which a bishop has with his priests, is not paternalistic, like that of an ancient patriarchal society,» the cardinal stated.

He explained: «The father-son relationship between the Father and his only Son is such that they are one in being, with one heart and one mind, mutually loving one another and inseparable.

«This is the most perfect model for a bishop’s father-son relationship with his priests.»

Cardinal Kuo-hsi noted that a bishop, as «the head of the diocesan family» should «primarily take care of the priests’ livelihood and material needs.»


«This is especially true for elderly and sick priests,» he stated. «Although a diocese’s finances may be tight, caring for priests should still be a priority.»

The prelate acknowledged, «But since the bishop is usually too busy to please everyone, the best thing to do is to select priests, sisters and laypeople who are fervent, fair and knowledgeable in financial affairs to form a committee, under the supervision of the bishop. They should charitably and justly manage and distribute the diocese’s resources.

«This would permit each priest to be unconcerned about their material needs, and to be totally dedicated to evangelization and pastoral work.»

«I respectfully invite each bishop to lead the priests of his diocese to form a sacerdotal college (presbyterium),» the cardinal said, «which would have a warm, friendly and lovable atmosphere, with a spirit of mutual cooperation and care for one another, and with the priests united with one heart and mind.»

«In order to form such a community,» he added, «the priests need to be in constant contact, communication, and communion with one another.»

«The relationship between Jesus and his Father is a perfect model for priests and their bishop to follow,» the prelate affirmed.

In this light, he continued, «after the bishop announces the decision, the priests should wholeheartedly accept it, taking it as the will of God expressed through the bishop.»

«This will certainly bring blessings from God to enable the priest to complete the pastoral and evangelization work the bishop has entrusted to him,» Cardinal Kuo-hsi affirmed. «It will also help the priest to feel happy and peaceful.»


Reflecting on another characteristic, he noted that «the relationship of the bishop and the priests of his diocese can be likened to the master-pupil relationship, which Jesus has with his disciples.»

«The bishop should be the first to set an example,» the prelate stated. «In his daily life, when dealing with persons and things, he must actively live out the three virtues of faith, hope and charity.»

He affirmed that «the bishop is the protector and the instructor in the fundamentals of the faith.»

«He must also protect the Church’s hierarchy, and teach the importance of communion and unity with the Successor of St. Peter,» the cardinal said.

Finally, reflecting on the third characteristic of this relationship, Cardinal Kuo-hsi noted that «when Jesus proclaimed the Gospel on this earth, he selected the apostles as his coworkers and aides.»

«In pastoral work and evangelization, priests are the bishop’s most intimate partners and friends,» he said.

«Therefore,» the prelate added, «in the process of planning and making policy for pastoral and evangelization work, the bishop should allow the priests to participate in research and discussion.»

«If the bishop lives like Jesus, he will not treat the priests as his employees or servants,» the cardinal affirmed. «Rather he will call them his coworkers and friends.»

He continued, «If the priests, with one mind and one heart, support the bishop in his pastoral ministry and evangelization work, the diocese will reap an abundant harvest.»

Cardinal Kuo-hsi concluded, «If the bishop can maintain a good relationship with his priests, like a father with his sons, or a master with his coworkers, then he will be happy and peaceful, and God will bless his pastoral and evangelical work with abundant fruit.»

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