Here is a translation of Pope Francis’ address this morning during the general audience in St. Peter’s Square.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In the previous catechesis we saw how the Lord continues to feed His flock through the ministry of Bishops, helped by presbyters and deacons. It is in them that Jesus renders Himself present, in the power of His Spirit, and continues to serve the Church, nourishing in her faith, hope and the witness of charity. Therefore, these ministries are a great gift of the Lord for every Christian community and for the whole Church, in as much as they are a living sign of His presence and His love.
Today we want to ask ourselves: What is requested of these ministers of the Church, so that they can live their service in a genuine and fruitful way?
In his “Pastoral Letters,” sent to his disciples Timothy and Titus, the Apostle Paul reflects with care on the figure of Bishops, presbyters and deacons. There is also the figure of the faithful, of the elderly, of the youth. He focuses on a description of every Christian in the Church. He underlines for the Bishops, priests and deacons that to which they are called, and the prerogatives that must be recognized in them, who are chosen and invested with these ministries. Now, it is emblematic how, together with the gifts inherent in the faith and in the spiritual life, that can’t be overlooked in that very life, some exquisitely human qualities are listed: hospitality, sobriety, patience, meekness, reliability and goodness of heart. I repeat:hospitality, sobriety, patience, meekness, reliability and goodness of heart. This is the alphabet, the basic grammar of every ministry! It should be the basic grammar of every Bishop, of every priest and of every deacon! Yes, because without this good and genuine predisposition to encounter, to know, to dialogue, to appreciate and relate with ones brethren in a respectful and sincere way, it is not possible to offer a truly joyous and reliable service and witness.
There is, therefore, an underlying attitude that Paul recommends to his disciples and, consequently, to all those who are invested with the pastoral ministry, be they Bishops, priests or deacons. The Apostle exhorts to revive continually the gift that was received (cf. 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6). This means that the awareness must always be alive that one is not a Bishop, priest or deacon because one is more intelligent, good and better than others, but only because of a gift of love, a gift of God freely given, in the power of His Spirit, for the good of His people. This awareness is truly important and is a grace to pray for every day! In fact, a Pastor who is conscious that his ministry flows only from the mercy and heart of God will never be able to assume an authoritarian attitude, as if everyone was at his feet and the community was his property, his personal kingdom.
The awareness that everything is gift, everything is grace, also helps a Pastor not to fall into the temptation to put himself at the center of attention and to be confident only in himself. They are the temptations of vanity, of pride, of sufficiency, of arrogance. Woe if a Bishop, a priest or a deacon thinks he knows everything, that he always has the right answer for everything, and is in need of no one. On the contrary, the awareness that he is first of all the object of the mercy and compassion of God should lead a minister of the Church to be always humble and understanding in dealing with others. Also, in the awareness of being called to protect courageously the deposit of faith (cf. 1 Timothy 6:20), he will listen to the people. He is conscious, in fact, of always having something to learn, also of those who can still be far from the faith and from the Church. With his own fellow Bishops, priests and deacons, all this should lead him to assume a new attitude, marked by sharing, co-responsibility and communion.
Dear friends, we must always be grateful to the Lord, because in the person and the ministry of Bishops, priests and deacons He continues to guide and to form His Church, making her grow along the way of holiness. At the same time, we must continue to pray, so that the Pastors of our communities can be a living image of communion and love of God.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our catechesis on the Church, we have seen that the Lord continues to shepherd his flock with love through the ordained ministry of bishops, priests and deacons. Today we consider the qualities demanded of these ministers in their service to Christ and the Church. In addition to the essential gifts of firm faith and holiness, Saint Paul lists such human qualities as kindness, gentleness, patience, prudence and attentive concern for others.
These gifts too are required for the exercise of spiritual leadership. In a special way, Paul urges the Church’s ordained ministers to rekindle constantly the gift of God which they have received.
For it is only by acknowledging that their ministry is an unmerited gift of God’s mercy that bishops, priests and deacons can serve their brothers and sisters with humility, generosity, wisdom and compassion, and thus build up the Church’s communion in faith and love. Let us thank the Lord for the gift of this threefold ministry in the Church, and pray that our ordained ministers may always be sustained in their efforts to be living icons of the Father’s loving concern for all his children.
Pope Francis (In italian):
I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, including the various groups from England, Denmark, South Africa, Indonesia, Japan and the United States of America. I thanks the choirs for their praise of God in song. Upon all of you, and your families, I invoke joy and peace in the Lord Jesus. God bless you all!
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I give a cordial welcome to the Italian-speaking pilgrims. I greet the Scalabrinian Sisters; the Missionary Carmelites of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, holding their General Chapter, and the students and docents of the Faculty of Science of Social Communication of the Pontifical Salesian University, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of its foundation. I greet families with victims of road accidents and of deceased persons, and assure my prayer for all those who have lost their life on the roads and for those who have never returned to the affection of their families. I greet the faithful of Canicatti, the Palliative Care Federation, the RE.LEG.ART Cooperative of Perugia, the children of the Saint Matthew’s Hospital of Pavia and those of the Ectodermic Dysplasia National Association. May the visit to the tombs of the Apostles foster in all the sense of belonging to the ecclesial family.
A thought goes to young people, the sick and newlyweds. Yesterday we celebrated the Memorial of Saint Martin, Bishop of Tours. May his great charity be an example to you, dear young people, to live life as a gift; may his abandonment in Christ the Savior sustain you, dear sick, in the darkest moments of suffering; and may his spiritual vigor remind you, dear newlyweds, of the centrality of faith in the conjugal journey.[Translation by ZENIT]