Here below is a translation of Pope Francis’ weekly general audience catechesis given today in St. Peter’s Square.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
We heard what the Apostle Paul says to the Bishop, Titus, how many virtues we bishops must have, we all heard, no? And it’s not easy, it’s not easy because we are sinners. But we entrust ourselves to your prayers so that we can at least hope to be closer to the things that the Apostle Paul advises for all Bishops. Do you agree? Will you pray for us?
In previous catecheses, we were already able to underline how the Holy Spirit always fills the Church abundantly with His gifts. Now, in the power and grace of His Spirit, Christ does not fail to give rise to ministries, in order to build Christian communities as His Body. Distinguished among these ministries is the episcopal. In the Bishop, helped by the Presbyters and Deacons, is Christ Himself who renders Himself present and who continues to take care of His Church, ensuring her protection and guidance.
In the presence and ministry of the Bishops, of Presbyters and of Deacons we can recognize the true face of the Church: it is the Hierarchical Holy Mother Church. And truly, through these brothers chosen by the Lord and consecrated with the Sacrament of Holy Orders, the Church exercises her maternity: she generates us in Baptism as Christians, making us reborn in Christ; she watches over our growth in the faith; she supports us between the Father’s arms, to receive His forgiveness, she prepares for us the Eucharistic table, where she nourishes us with the Word of God and the Body and Blood of Jesus; she invokes upon us God’s blessing and the strength of His Spirit, sustaining us throughout the course of our life and enveloping us with His tenderness and warmth, especially in the most difficult moments of trial, of suffering and of death.
This maternity of the Church is expressed in particular in the person of the Bishop and in his ministry. In fact, as Jesus chose the Apostles and sent them to proclaim the Gospel and to feed His flock, so the Bishops, their successors, are placed at the head of the Christian communities, as guarantors of their faith and as a living sign of the Lord’s presence in our midst.
Therefore, we must understand that it is not about having a position of prestige, an honorific charge. The Bishop is not an honorary role. It is a service! Jesus wanted it this way. There must be no place in the Church for a worldly mentality. A worldly mentality speaks of a man who has an ‘ecclesiastical career and has become a bishop’. There should be no place for such a mentality in the Church. The Episcopate is a service, it is not a position of honor, to boast about. To be Bishops means to have always before our eyes the example of Jesus who, as Good Shepherd, came not to be served but to serve (cf. Mt 20:28; Mk 10:45) and to give His life for his sheep (cf. Jn. 10:11). Holy Bishops – and there are so many in the history of the Church – show us that this ministry is not sought, it is not requested, it cannot be bought but it is received in obedience, not to elevate oneself, but to lower oneself, as Jesus “humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:8). It is sad when we see a man who seeks this office and does so many things to get it and when he gets it does not serve, instead goes around like a peacock and lives only for his vanity.
There is another precious element, which merits being put in evidence. When Jesus chose and called the Apostles, He thought of them not separated from one another, each one on his own, but together, so that they would be with Him, united, as one family. The Bishops also constitute one College, gathered around the Pope, who is custodian and guarantor of this profound communion, which Jesus and His Apostles themselves had so much at heart. How beautiful it is, therefore, when the Bishops, with the Pope, express this collegiality! And try to become more, more, and more the servants of the faithful, the servants of the Church! We experienced it recently in the Assembly of the Synod on the Family. However, we think of all the Bishops scattered around the world who, though living in different localities, cultures, sensibilities and traditions – One bishop the other day told me that to come to Rome it took a flight of 30 hours – far away from one another, feel themselves part of one another and become expression of the profound bond in Christ between their communities. And, in the common ecclesial prayer, all Bishops place themselves together in listening to the Lord and the Spirit, thus being able to give profound attention to man and to the signs of the times (cf. Second Ecumenical Vatican Council, Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 4).
Dear friends, all this makes us understand why Christian communities recognize in the Bishop a great gift, and they are called to nourish a sincere and profound communion with him, beginning with the Presbyters and the Deacons. There is no healthy Church if the faithful, the priests, deacons are not united around their bishop. The Church that is not united around their bishop is a sick Church. Jesus wanted this union, of all faithful with the Bishop. As well as the priests and deacons too. And this in the awareness that it is precisely in the Bishop that the bond is rendered visible of each Church with the Apostles and with all the other communities, united with their Bishops and the Pope in the one Church of the Lord Jesus, which is our Hierarchic Holy Mother Church.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters:
In our catechesis on the Church, we have seen that the Holy Spirit constantly bestows his gifts for the upbuilding of the Body of Christ. Among these gifts are the ordained ministries. Through the sacrament of Holy Orders, bishops, priests and deacons are called to guide and protect Christ’s flock, above all though the celebration of the sacraments which give us new life in Christ. The Church is thus both hierarchical and maternal: her ordained ministries are at the service of her spiritual motherhood. This is especially clear in the case of bishops, who are called to lead the Christian community as living signs of the Lord’s presence in our midst. Like the Apostles whose successors they are, the Bishops form on college in communion with the Pope. This collegiality is seen not only in special assemblies like the recent Synod but also in the daily communion of Bishops throughout the world. Let us ask the Lord to draw us nearer to himself and to one another through the ministry of our bishops, priests and deacons, in the unity of “our Holy Mother the Hierarchical Church”.
Pope Francis (In Italian):
I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, including the various groups from England, Malta, Denmark, Japan and the United States of America. Upon all of you, and your families, I invoke joy and peace in the Lord Jesus. God bless you all!
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A cordial welcome goes to the Italian-speaking pilgrims! In this audience, we are connected to our sick brothers. Because it might rain, they are in the Paul VI Hall. They are connected to us through the big screen. Let us greet them. I greet first of all the Archbishop of Turin, Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia, and the official delegation of the Diocese, with the Mayor Piero Fassino. I am happy to announce that, God willing, next June 21 I will go on pilgrimage to Turin to venerate the Holy Shroud and to honor Saint John Bosco, on the bicentenary of his birth. I greet the Poor Daughters of Saint Cajetan; the Major Superiors of the Hospitaller Order of Saint John of God and the participants in the Forum promoted by Caritas in Veritate. I greet the members of the Guglielmo Marconi Federation, the Military Group of the Defense Administration; the partners of the Cooperative Credit of Paliano and the Italian Fashion Federation.
I exhort everyone to promote the cultu
re of encounter, recognizing the Lord present particularly in the poor.
A particular thought goes to all the SLA sick and, while assuring them of my closeness and prayer, I hope that the whole civil society will support their families in facing such grave conditions of suffering.
Finally a thought goes to young people, the sick and newlyweds. Yesterday we celebrated the Memorial of Saint Charles Borromeo, intrepid pastor of Milan. May his spiritual vigor stimulate you, dear young people, to take the faith seriously in your life; may his trust in Christ the Savior sustain you, dear sick, in your moments of greatest difficulties; and may his apostolic dedication remind you, dear newlyweds, of the importance of Christian education in your conjugal home.[Translated by ZENIT]