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The people need you, Stay with the flock: Pope Francis to New Bishops

Vatican City, 19 September 2013: ‘The people need you, always be among the flock, do not fall into the spirit of careerism. Witness with your life what you teach, exhorted Pope Francis to new bishops who called on him on Thursday morning in the Clementine hall of the Apostolic place, in the Vatican. The audience marked the end of the annual Conference for New Bishops, which provides formation and orientation for men who have been elevated to the episcopate each year.
"We are called to be pastors not from ourselves, but from the Lord and not to serve ourselves, but the flock that was entrusted to us", said the Pope elaborating the nature and the mission of the bishop. The Pope focused in particular on the verb "feed " which, he said means "accept with magnanimity, to walk with the herd, and stay with the sheep". Your heart, he said, " has to be so great to be able to accommodate all".

Pope Francis focused especially on three points with regard to this journey. First, he said, a bishop must have affection for their priests. Priests are the people closest to the Bishop. “Time spent with your priests is never lost!” he said. “Receive them when they call on you, do not let a phone call go unanswered, always be close to them, in continual contact with them.” In off-the-cuff remarks he insisted that if a priest calls his Bishop, the Bishop should respond the same day, or at most the next day, and that the Bishop should always find a way to make time for priests who want to see him.

The second point is presence in the diocese. Reminding the Bishops of his call that Pastors must have “the odour of the sheep,” the Pope told the Bishops their presence among their people “is not secondary, it is indispensable!” He called on them, to “go down into the midst of your faithful, even to the edges of your dioceses and into all those ‘existential peripheries’ where there is suffering, solitude, loss of human dignity.”

His third point referred to the “style” of service. He called for Bishops to serve with humility, which he described as a certain austerity and a focus on what is essential. We Pastors, he said, must not have "the psychology of Princes." He complained of "ambitious men, men that are married to this Church, but hoping for a more beautiful or a richer [Church]. This is a scandal!" he said, describing the desire for a bigger or better diocese as a kind of "spiritual adultery." He warned the Bishops not to fall into the "spirit of careerism," which he called "a cancer."

Pope Francis spoke finally about a third element of tending the flock: remaining with the flock. “I refer to stability,” he said, “which has two precise aspects – ‘to remain’ in the diocese, and ‘to remain’ in this diocese, without seeking change or promotion.” In an age when travelling has become very easy, the Holy Father said “the ancient law of residence hasn’t passed out of fashion.” Residence in the diocese is not only functional, he insisted, but has deep theological roots. “Avoid the scandal of being ‘airport bishops!’” he said.

"One of the first tasks that you have there is the spiritual care of the presbytery, but do not forget the human needs of each priest, especially in the most delicate and important of their ministry and their lives. It is never a waste of time that passed with the priests!, Pope Francis reminded them.

"Be welcoming Pastors," he concluded, "journeying with your people, with affection, with mercy, with sweetness of expression and paternal firmness, with humility and discretion, being able to see your own limitations, and with a good sense of humor . . . and remain with your flock!”
Source: VR Sedoc


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