'Bishops must set an example through sanctity of life'
VATICAN CITY, 15 SEP 2011 (VIS) - Today in Castelgandolfo the Holy Father received a group of newly consecrated bishops who are currently participating in a meeting organised by the Congregation for Bishops. For the last ten years the congregation has been inviting new bishops to make a pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Peter in order to reflect on the main responsibilities of episcopal ministry.
"You are invited", the Pope told the group "to renew your profession of faith and your trusting adherence to Jesus Christ over 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".
In this context Benedict XVI explained that "the bishop ... is not alone, he is part of that 'corpus episcoporum' which, joining us to Christ, has been handed down from the Apostles' time to our own". He encouraged the prelates to live every day in episcopal fraternity, working in communion with the Pope and their brother bishops, while "seeking to cultivate friendship with them and with your priests".
"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.
"We must", the Pope added, "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 harmonising the charismatic diversity of ecclesial unity, favouring reciprocity between the hierarchical and the baptismal priesthood".
The Holy Father invited bishops "to accept charisms gratefully, for the sanctification of the Church and the vitality of the apostolate. This acceptance and this gratitude ... are inseparable from discernment, which is part of the bishop's mission. 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. Therefore, it must always be clear that no charism can dispense from deferring and submitting to the pastors of the Church".
Episcopal ministry "requires the bishop to nourish his own spiritual life with care" because, as the Apostolic Exhortation "Pastores gregis" says, "he becomes a 'father' precisely because he is fully a 'son' of the Church. ... 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".
The Holy Father concluded: "The sanctity of your lives and your pastoral charity will be an example and support to your priests, ... 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".
AC/ VIS 20110915 (660)