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Bishops are not apologists, crusaders, managers

Unusual Congregation of Bishops meeting may foreshadow reform

28 February, 11:29
Bishops are not apologists, crusaders, managers (by Giovanna Chirri) (ANSA) - Vatican City, February 27 - Pope Francis presided over a meeting of the Congregation for Bishops in the Sala Bologna of the Vatican Apostolic Palace on Thursday in which he firmly called for heightened standards to be used in the choice of pastors. He said that the Church has no need of bishops that are "apologists for her causes or crusaders for her battles, but humble and trusting sowers of the truth, who know that it is always given to them anew and trust in its power." The unusual audience is thought by some to foreshadow other similar meetings with the various Congregations that would help to take stock of the Vatican ministries ahead of a new Constitution for the Curia, currently under examination by a council of eight cardinals set up by Pope Francis prior to last summer. A bishop, he told the Congregation - under the Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet and considered one of the Holy See's most powerful ministries, since it selects its "leadership class" around the world - is not "a manager, a company administrator". "The flock needs to find a place in the heart of its Pastor," he said. "If this is not solidly anchored in itself, in Christ and His Church, the bishop will continually be at the mercy of the waves, in search of ephemeral compensations, and will offer no shelter to his flock".

He concluded by asking "where can we find such men? It isn't easy. Are they out there? How do we select them?".

Questions that seem to prompt reflection and a call for reform.

Pope Francis said that "to choose such ministers we too need to elevate ourselves, to rise to the 'upper level'." Very significant was also his reference to the Apostolic Church, an ecclesiastical model desired by the Second Vatican Council and that Pope Ratzinger had already considered at the very beginning of his papacy. Pope Francis noted that the Episcopal College takes the place of the Apostolic College, that "the world needs to know that there is this uninterrupted succession". People, he said, need to find in the Church lasting principles. A bishop, therefore, he said, must bear witness alongside the Church, with an inherent ability to renounce and sacrifice, and who is not the "mathematical sum of his virtues", even though "certainly, there is a need for someone who excels; whose human integrity ensures a capacity for healthy relationships ...

so as not to project his shortcomings onto others and to become a destabilising factor ... his cultural preparation must enable him to enter into dialogue with men and their cultures; his orthodoxy and faithfulness to the complete Truth held by the Church makes him a pillar and a point of reference ... his transparency and detachment when managing community assets must confer authority and merit the esteem of all." A bishop must attend to his flock "assiduously and daily", despite the fact that assiduousness and dailiness are often associated in our time with routine and boredom, he said, making pastors "try to flee 'elsewhere'." Instead, he must not be at the "mercy of the waves, in search of ephemeral compensations" and unable to offer "shelter to his flock". Pope Francis's determined stance and tone cannot but have sparked debate and emotions among bishops and the Congregation that presides over them.