ROME, SEPT. 15, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today to a group of some 100 newly ordained bishops upon receiving them in audience this morning in the apostolic palace in Castel Gandolfo. The bishops are taking part in an annual course organized jointly by the Congregation for Bishops and Congregation for Eastern Churches.
* * *
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate!
As Cardinal Ouellet mentioned, for the past 10 years newly appointed bishops have gathered in Rome to make a pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Peter and to reflect on the primary commitments of the episcopal ministry. This meeting, organized by the Congregations for Bishops and by the Congregation for Eastern Churches, is an addition to the initiatives for the permanent formation prescribed by the post-synodal apostolic exhortation “Pastores Gregis” (No. 24). You are invited to renew your profession of faith and your trusting adherence to Jesus Christ at the tomb of the Prince of the Apostles, showing the same impulse of love as Peter himself, and strengthening your ties of communion with his Successor and with your brother bishops.
Together with this central aspect of the initiative is a strong experience of affective collegiality. The bishop, as you well know, is not alone, but rather he is part of that “corpus episcoporum” that dates back to its apostolic roots and extends to our times, bringing us together in Christ, “Shepherd and bishop of our souls” (Roman Missal, Preface after the Ascension). May the episcopal fraternity that you are living in these days be lived out in your daily service, helping you to act always in communion with the Pope and with your brothers in the episcopate, and to cultivate friendships with your fellow bishops and with your priests. In this spirit of communion and friendship, I receive you, bishops of the Latin and Eastern rites, with great affection, greeting through each one of you the Churches entrusted to your pastoral care, with a particular thought for those that, especially in the Middle East, are suffering. I thank Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, for the words he addressed to me on your behalf, and for the book, and Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches.
This annual meeting with the bishops attending this course has given me the possibility to highlight some aspects of the episcopal ministry. Today I would like to reflect briefly with you on the importance of acceptance, on the part of the bishop, of the charisms that the Spirit arouses for the edification of the Church. Episcopal consecration has conferred on you the plenitude of the sacrament of holy orders that, in the ecclesial community, is placed at the service of the common priesthood of the faithful, of their spiritual growth and their sanctity. The ministerial priesthood, as you know, has the objective and mission to make the faithful live out the priesthood in which they participate, through baptism and in their way, in the one priesthood of Christ, as the conciliar constitution “Lumen Gentium” states: “Though they differ from one another in essence and not only in degree, the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood are nonetheless interrelated: each of them in its own special way is a participation in the one priesthood of Christ” (No. 10).
Because of this, bishops have the task of watching and working to ensure that the baptized increase in grace, in accordance with the charisms the Holy Spirit causes to arise in their hearts and communities. Vatican II recalled that the Holy Spirit, while unifying in the communion and ministry of the Church, provides and directs her with different hierarchical and charismatic gifts and embellishes her with their fruits (cf. ibid., 4). The recent World Youth Day in Madrid showed, once again, the fecundity of the charisms of the Church, concretely today, and the ecclesial unity of all the faithful gathered around the Pope and the bishops. This is a vitality that reinforces the work of evangelization and the presence of Christ in the world. We are able to see — and we can almost touch — that the Holy Spirit is still present in the Church today, and that He creates charisms and unity.
The fundamental gift you are called to cherish in the faithful entrusted to your pastoral care is that of divine filiation; in other words, the fact that everyone participates in Trinitarian communion. Baptism, which makes men and women “children in the Son” and members of the Church, is the root and source of all other charismatic gifts. Through your ministry of sanctification, you educate the faithful to participate with increasing intensity in the priestly, prophetic and regal office of Christ, helping them to build the Church, actively and responsibly, according to the gifts they have received from God. In fact, always bear in mind the fact that the gifts of the Spirit — be they extraordinary or simple and humble — are always given freely for the edification of all. The bishop, as a visible sign of the unity of his particular Church, has the duty of unifying and harmonizing charismatic diversity, favoring reciprocity between the hierarchical and the baptismal priesthood.
Accept, therefore, the charisms with gratitude for the sanctification of the Church and the vitality of the apostolate! And this acceptance and gratitude to the Holy Spirit, who also works among us today, are inseparable from the discernment that is proper to the mission of the bishop. Vatican Council II said as much when it gave pastoral ministry the task of judging the genuineness of charisms and their proper use, not extinguishing the Spirit but testing and retaining what is good (cf. Ibid., No. 12). This seems important to me: On one hand, not to extinguish but, but on the other, to distinguish, order and keep in mind through examining. Therefore, it must always be clear that no charism can dispense from deferring and submitting to the pastors of the Church (cf. apostolic exhortation “Christifidelis Laici,” No. 24). By accepting, judging and ordering the different gifts and charisms, the bishop carries out a great and valuable service to the priesthood of the faithful and to the vitality of the Church, which will shine as the Lord’s Bride, clothed in the sanctity of her children.
This articulated and delicate ministry requires the bishop to nourish his own spiritual life with care. Only in this way does the gift of discernment grow. As the apostolic exhortation “Pastores Gregis” affirms, the bishop becomes “father” given that he is fully a “son” of the Church (No. 10). Moreover, in virtue of the plenitude of the sacrament of Holy Orders, he is teacher, sanctifier and pastor who acts in the name and in the person of Christ. These two inseparable aspects call him to grow as son and as pastor as he follows Christ, in order that his personal sanctity may be an expression of the objective sanctity he received through episcopal consecration.
Hence, I exhort you, dear brothers, to remain always in the presence of the Good Shepherd and to assimilate increasingly his sentiments and his human and priestly virtues, through personal prayer, which must accompany your difficult apostolic days. In intimacy with the Lord you will find consolation and support for your committed ministry. Do not be afraid to entrust to the heart of Jesus Christ all your concerns, certain that he looks after you, as he already admonished the Apostle Peter (cf. 1 Peter 5:6). May your prayer always be nourished by meditation on the Word of God, by personal study and just rest, so that you will be able to listen and accept with serenity “what the Spirit says to the Churches” (Revelation 2:11) and lead all to the unity of faith and love.
The sanctity of your lives and your pastoral charity will be an example and support to your priests, your main and irreplaceable collaborators. It will be your urgency to make them grow in co-responsibility as wise guides of the faithful, who are also called to build the community with their gifts, charisms and the witness of their lives, so that the choral communion of the Church may bear witness to Jesus Christ, that the world may believe. And this closeness with priests, yet today, with all their problems, is of very great importance.
Entrusting your ministry to Mary, Mother of the Church, who shines before the People of God full of gifts of the Holy Spirit, I impart with affection to each one of you, to your dioceses and particularly to your priests, the apostolic blessing. Thank you.