By Jesús Colina
VATICAN CITY, DEC. 13, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Cardinal Tarciso Bertone, Benedict XVI’s secretary of state, consecrated three new bishops in St. Peter’s Basilica on Saturday, encouraging them to be “ministers of joy.”
Referring to the liturgical season that prepares the Church for Christmas, the prelate called them “Advent bishops,” heralds of that joy that only Christ can give.
The basilica was filled with faithful who had come from different parts of the globe to witness the episcopal ordinations.
The principal celebrants — besides the 50 bishops and hundreds of priests — were Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino, former president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and Archbishop Giuseppe Molinari of L’Aquila, Italy.
Two of the new bishops are close collaborators with the Pope. Bishop Jean Laffitte, 57, of the Emmanuel Community, born in Oloron-Sainte-Marie, France, will be the new secretary of the Pontifical Council of the Family.
He has previously served as the vice president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, consultor of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and an undersecretary of the Pontifical Council of the Family.
Another new prelate, Bishop Mario Toso, 59, a member of the Salesians, will serve as the new secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
Born in Mogliano Veneto, Italy, he served as rector of the Salesian Pontifical University of Rome between 2003 and 2009.
Before that, Father Toso was the dean of the university’s philosophy faculty (1994-2000) and director of the Institute for Social and Political Sciences. He was nominated for the latter office again in June after he had stepped down as rector.
The third newly consecrated bishop is Bishop Giovanni D’Ercole, 65, of the Sons of Divine Providence, a group of priests founded by St. Luigi Orione.
Born in Morino, Italy, Bishop D’Ercole will serve as the auxiliary bishop of L’Aquila. His nomination represents a gesture of the Pope’s nearness to the faithful of this archdiocese that was devastated by recent earthquakes.
Bishop D’Ercole has served as assistant director of the Vatican press office, and in the Secretariat of State. Along with his service in the Holy See he has been active in social matters, especially working with troubled young people.
In his homily, Cardinal Bertone recalled that the Pontiff has often stressed “that the first necessity of our time is to bring God to the world.”
He affirmed: “God is in the world but frequently he goes unrecognized; he does not wish to impose himself on our attention.
“God knocks at the door, and waits for us to open it. In a certain sense, he is the first one to wait.”
Because of this, the cardinal continued, “we must open our minds and our hearts, learn how to welcome him, listen to him, to be able to understand him, love him, worship him.”
It is something, he observed, that is quite evident in the present liturgical context. The ordination that takes place in Advent, he explained, encourages the new bishops to be “ministers of joy.”
This is the joy, Cardinal Bertone continued, “that Christ gives to his Apostles; that joy that you yourself experience and receive today as a gift that is a fruit of the Holy Spirit; that joy that already for some time, as priests, you have dispensed to the faithful, through the Gospel and the sacraments, through your witness.”
Today, in his first Mass celebrated after the Episcopal ordination, Bishop Laffitte commented on the words of Cardinal Bertone in this homily. The prelate affirmed that he wants to be a bishop who is “meek and humble of heart, an apostle of the joy of Christ.”
He added: “I would like to thank the Lord who has chosen me as his instrument. He knows why, though I do not.”