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Pope Francis’ Address to New Bishops

“You are, therefore, witnesses of the Risen Christ. This is your primary and indispensable task.”

Below is the ZENIT translation of Pope Francis’ address to new bishops this morning in the Vatican:

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In the context of these days of reflection and sharing, organized by the Congregation for Bishops and the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, I am happy to be able to greet you with the same greeting which the Risen Christ addressed his disciples, gathered in the Cenacle in the evening of the “day after the Sabbath” (cf. John 20:19-23).

The night of the Cross and also the time of God’s silence having definitively passed, the Risen Christ comes, crossing the doors of the fears of the disciples, halting in their midst, showing them signs of his sacrifice of love, giving them the mission received by Him from the Father, breathing on them the Holy Spirit for them to dispense the forgiveness and mercy of the Father, first fruit of his Passion, in the world. Then, the disciples found themselves again. For a brief but dark interval, they allowed themselves to be dispersed by the scandal of the cross: dismayed, ashamed of their weakness, forgetful of their identity as followers of the Lord. Now, to see the Risen One’s face puts the fragments of their lives together again. The recognition of His voice made them find again that peace that was lacking in their hearts since they had abandoned Him. Shaken by the breath of His lips, now they understand that the mission they receive will not be able to crush them.

You are Bishops of the Church, called recently and consecrated. You came from an unrepeatable encounter with the Risen Christ. Crossing the walls of your impotence, He has reached you with his presence, although knowing your denials and abandonments, flights and betrayals. This notwithstanding, He arrived in the Sacrament of the Church and has breathed over you. It is a breath to protect, a breath that upsets life (which will never be as it was before) even if it cheers and consoles as a light breeze, of which one cannot take possession. I beg you not to domesticate this power, but to let it upset your life continually.

Bishops, Witnesses of the Risen Christ

You are, therefore, witnesses of the Risen Christ. This is your primary and indispensable task. It is not the mawkish discourse of the weak and of losers, but only richness that the Church hands down, although through fragile hands. Entrusted to you is the preaching of the reality that supports the whole edifice of the Church: Jesus is Risen! He who subordinates his life to love could not remain in death. God the Father has resurrected Jesus! We, too, will resurrect with Christ!

It is not an obvious or easy proclamation. The world is so happy with what it is seemingly able to provide that appears useful to suppress the demand for what is definitive. Men are so forgetful of eternity while, distracted and absorbed, they administer the existing, putting off what will come. So many are tacitly resigned to the habit of navigating to what is in sight, to the point of removing the reality itself of the port that awaits them. Many are so robbed by the cynical calculation of their survival that they are now rendered indifferent and, not rarely, impermeable to the very possibility of the life that does not die.

And yet we are assailed by questions whose answers cannot come but from the definitive future. They are, in fact, so committed that we will not know how to respond excluding that “day after the Sabbath,” doing without the horizon of eternity which that opens, limiting themselves to the amputated logic of the closed present, in which we remain imprisoned without the light of that day. How can we address the unfortunate present if the sense of belonging to the community of the Risen Christ fades in us? How will we be able to give the world what we have that is most precious? Will we be able to recall the grandeur of the human destiny, if the courage in us weakens to subordinate our life to the love that does not die?

I am thinking of dramatic challenges such as globalization, which brings close what is far and, on the other hand, separates what is close; I am thinking of the epochal phenomenon of the migrations that upsets our times; I am thinking of the natural environment, garden that God has given as habitation of the human being and to the other creatures and which is menaced by myopic and often predatory exploitation; I am thinking of the dignity and future of human work, of which whole generations are deprived, reduced to statistics; I am thinking of the desertification of relations, of the widespread lack of responsibility, of indifference to tomorrow, of the growing and fearful closing; of the loss of so many young people and of the loneliness of not a few elderly. I am certain that each one of you could complete this catalogue of problems.

I do not want to concentrate on such an agenda of tasks because I do not want to scare you or scare myself. You are still on honeymoon! As Bishop of Rome who, after laborious discernment, has given his feeble voice so that the Risen Christ adds you to the Episcopal College, I am anxious to consign you, once again, to the joy of the Gospel.

The disciples rejoiced in meeting live again the Shepherd that accepted to die for his flock.” You must also rejoice while consuming yourselves for your particular Churches. Do not let yourselves be robbed of such a treasure. Always remember that it is the Gospel that will protect you and therefore, do not be afraid to go everywhere and to spend time with all those the Lord has entrusted to you.

As I was able to reflect in Evangelii gaudium, no ambit of men’s life is excluded from the interest of the Pastor’s heart (cf. nn. 14-15; Redemptoris missio, 33). Beware of the risk of neglecting the many and individual realities of your flock; do not give up meetings; do not spare the preaching of the living World of the Lord; invite all to the mission.

Bishops as Educators, Spiritual Guides and Catechists

For those who are of the house, who frequent your communities and who approach the Eucharist, I invite you to be educators, spiritual guides and catechists, able to take them by the hand and have them go up to Tabor (cf. Luke 9:28-36), guiding them to knowledge of the mystery they profess, to the splendor  of the divine face hidden in the Word which perhaps they have lazily accustomed themselves to hearing without perceiving its power. For those who already walk with you, procure places and prepare tents in which the Risen Christ can reveal his splendor. Do not spare energies to accompany them in the climb. Do not let them be resigned to the plain. Remove with delicacy and care the wax that is slowly deposited in their ears, impeding them from hearing God who attests: This is my Beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased (Matthew 17:5).

It is joy that draws, that enchants, that enraptures. Without joy, Christianity deteriorates into exhaustion, pure exhaustion. Take care of your priests, so that they reawaken such enchantment with God in the people, so that they always want to remain in His presence, feel nostalgic for His company, desire nothing other than to return to His presence.

There are too many empty words that take men far from themselves, relegated to the ephemeral and limited to the provisional. Make sure that it is Jesus, the beloved of God, who is the solid nourishment that is continually ruminated and assimilated.

Mystagogue Bishops

Second, I have recalled “the baptized persons who, however, do not live the exigencies of Baptism.” Perhaps it has been presupposed for a long time that the earth, in which the seed of the Gospel fell, was not in need of care. Some have moved away because they were disappointed by the promises of the faith or because the way to reach it seemed too exacting. Not a few have left banging the door reproaching us for our weaknesses and seeking, without succeeding altogether, of convincing themselves of being deceived by hopes that in the end were denied.

Be Bishops capable of intercepting their path; make yourselves also apparently lost wayfarers (Luke 24:13-35) asking what happened in the Jerusalem of their life and, discreetly, letting them pour out their cold heart. Do not be scandalized by their sorrows and their disappointments. Illumine them with the humble flame, guarded with trembling, but always capable of illuminating one who is reached by its limpidity, which, however, is never blinding.

Spend time meeting them on the road of their Emmaus. Dispense words that reveal to them what they are still incapable of seeing: the potentialities hidden in their own disappointments. Guide them in the mystery that they bear on their lips without at this point recognizing its strength. More than with words, warm their heart with the humble and interested listening to their true good, so that they open their eyes and can change their course and turn to Him from whom they have distanced themselves.

Remember, I beg of you, that they already knew the Lord. Therefore, they must rediscover Him because, in the meantime their eyes have been darkened. Help them to recognize their Lord, so that they have the strength to turn to Jerusalem. And the faith of the community will be enriched and confirmed by the testimony of their re-entry. Watch so that the arrogance of the “older children” does not insinuate itself dangerously in your communities, which renders one incapable of rejoicing with the one who “was lost and is found” (Luke 15:24).

Missionary Bishops

As missionary pastors of the free salvation of God, seek also those who do not know Jesus or have always rejected him. Go in their direction, halt before them and look, without fear or suggestion, on which trees they have clambered (cf. Luke 19:1-10). Do not be afraid to invite them to come down immediately, because the Lord wishes to enter, precisely today, in their home. Make them understand that salvation passes again under the tree of their life, and hurry to walk to their dwellings, at times full of things empty of meaning.

It is not true that we can do without these estranged brothers. We are not allowed to remove our anxiety over their fate. Moreover, to occupy ourselves with their genuine and definitive good could open a breach in the walled perimeter with which they jealously guard  their autarchy.  Seeing the Lord in us who interpellates them, perhaps they will have the courage to respond to the divine invitation.  If this should happen, our communities will be enriched with what they have to share and our heart of Pastors will rejoice to be able to repeat again: “Today salvation has come to this house.” May such a horizon prevail in your look of Pastors in the imminent Jubilee Year of Mercy that we prepare to celebrate.

On imparting upon you and upon your Churches the Apostolic Blessing, with great affection and gratitude I bless the Lord Cardinals Marc Ouellet and Leonardo Sandri, the Congregations that they preside over and the whole body of their collaborators.

[Original Text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]

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