Here is a translation of the Pope’s address of last Saturday to the Bishops taking part in a Seminar organized by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
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I give you my cordial welcome, together with those in charge of the Missionary Dicastery, led by Cardinal Fernando Filoni, whom I thank for the words with which he introduced our meeting. I hope that this modernizing Seminar will be fruitful for each one both spiritually and pastorally.
You responded with faith and generosity to the call of the Lord, who chose you to be Shepherds of His flock. You did not let yourselves be frightened by the difficulties and the challenges of the present-day world (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 52-75), which today render even more arduous the mission of the Bishops, but you put your trust in the Lord, imitating the first disciples and Saint Peter, who exclaimed: “At your word, I will let down the nets!” (Luke 5:5). You also were called, with all the Pastors of the Church, to put the Word of Jesus at the base of your mission, to offer hope to the world.
During these two weeks you have looked at the various dimensions of episcopal life and ministry, which respond to the fundamental mission of the Church: to proclaim the Gospel. As I underlined in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, perceived today is the imperative need of a missionary conversion (cf. 19-49); a conversion that concerns every baptized person and every parish, but which, naturally, the Pastors are first to be called to live and witness, in as much as they are the leaders of the particular Churches. Therefore, I encourage you to order your life and your episcopal ministry to this missionary transformation which calls up the People of God today.
At the center of this missionary conversion of the Church is service to humanity, imitating her Lord who washed the feet of His disciples. The Church, in as much as She is an evangelizing community, is called to grow closer [to others], to shorten the distances, to abase herself to the point of humiliation if it is necessary and to assume human life, touching in the people the suffering flesh of Christ (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 24). In this perspective, addressing the Bishop’s duty as leader of God’s family, Vatican II stressed that the Bishops, in the exercise of their ministry as fathers and pastors in the midst of their faithful, must behave as “those they serve,” having always under their eyes the example of the Good Shepherd, who came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life for all (cf. Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Gregis, October 16, 2003, 42). A luminous example of this pastoral service is the Korean Martyr Saints, Andrew Kim Taegon, priest; Paul Chong Hasang and Companions, whose liturgical memorial we celebrate in fact today. Anchored in Christ, the Good Shepherd, they did not hesitate to shed their blood for the Gospel, of which they were faithful dispensers and heroic witnesses.
The Church is in need of Pastors, that is servants, of Bishops that are able to kneel down before others to wash their feet. Pastors close to the people, meek, patient and merciful fathers and brothers, who love poverty, be it as freedom for the Lord or as simplicity and austerity of life. You are called to watch incessantly over the flock entrusted to you, to keep it united and faithful to the Gospel and to the Church. Force yourselves to give a genuine missionary impulse to your diocesan communities, so that they grow ever more with new members, thanks to your witness of life and your episcopal ministry exercised as service to the People of God. Be close to your priests, look after religious life, love the poor.
While I am addressing you, I cannot fail to go in thought to those Brothers that, for various reasons, are not here with us. I send all a fraternal and blessed greeting. How I would like it if, for instance, the Chinese Bishops ordained in recent years were present at today’s meeting! From the depth of my heart, however, I hope that the day is not far off! I wish to assure them, not only of my and our solidarity, but also that of the worldwide Episcopate so that, in our common faith, they know that, if at times they might have the impression of being alone, stronger is the certainty that their sufferings will bear fruit – and great fruit! – for the good of their faithful, of their fellow citizens and of the whole Church.
Dear Brothers, we are living a time of synodal