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THE OFFICE OF THE BISHOP

PopeFrancisWe have already had the occasion to stress, in preceding catechesis, how the Holy Spirit is always abundantly filling the Church with his gifts. Now, by the power and grace of His Spirit, Christ does not fail to set up ministries in order to build up Christian communities as his Body. Among these ministries, one can distinguish that of the episcopate. In the bishop, assisted by priests and deacons, it is Christ himself who makes himself present and who continues to care for his Church, by ensuring his protection and his guidance.

  • In the presence and in the ministry of the bishops, of the priests and deacons, we can recognize the true face of the Church: it is the Hierarchical Holy Mother Church. And truly, through these brothers chosen by the Lord and consecrated through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, the Church exercises her motherhood: she gives birth to us in Baptism as Christians, giving us a new birth in Christ; she watches over our growth in the faith; she accompanies us into the arms of the Father, to receive his forgiveness; she prepares the Eucharistic table for us, where she nourishes us with the Word of God and the Body and Blood of Jesus; she invokes upon us the blessing of God and the power of his Spirit, sustaining us throughout the course of our life and enveloping us with her tenderness and warmth, especially in those most delicate moments of trial, of suffering and of death.
  • This motherhood of the Church is expressed in particular in the person of the bishop and in his ministry. In fact, as Jesus chose the Apostles and sent them out to proclaim the Gospel and to tend his flock, so bishops, his successors, are set at the head of Christian communities, as guarantors of the faith and as living signs of the presence of the Lord among them. We understand, then, that this is not a position of prestige, an honorary title. The episcopate is not an honor, it’s a service. This is how Jesus wanted it. There should be no place in the Church for a worldly mentality. The worldly mentality says: “This man took the ecclesiastical career path, he became a bishop”. No, no, in the Church there must be no place for this mindset. The episcopate is a service, not an honor to boast about. Being a bishop means keeping before one’s eyes the example of Jesus who, as the Good Shepherd, came not to be served, but to serve (cf. Mt 20:28; Mk 10:45) and to give his life for his sheep (cf. Jn 10:11). Holy bishops — and there are many in the history of the Church, many holy bishops — show us that this ministry is not sought, is not requested, is not bought, but is accepted in obedience, not in order to elevate oneself, but to lower oneself, as Jesus did who “humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8).
  • There is another precious element that deserves to be pointed out. When Jesus chose and called the Apostles, He did not think of them as separate from one another, each one on his own, but together, because they were to stay with Him, united, like a single family. Furthermore, bishops also constitute one single College, gathered around the Pope, who is the guardian and guarantor of this profound communion that was so close to Jesus’ heart and to his Apostles’ too. How beautiful it is, then, when bishops, with the Pope, express this collegiality and always seek to be better servants to the faithful, better servants in the Church! We recently experienced it in the Assembly of the Synod on the Family. (cf. Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, n. 4).

bishopAll this makes us understand that Christian communities recognize in the bishop a great gift, and are called to nourish a sincere and profound communion with him, beginning with the priests and deacons. No Church is healthy if the faithful, the deacons and the priests are not united to the bishop. This Church, that is not united to the bishop, is a sick Church. Jesus wanted
this union of all the faithful with the bishop, including the deacons and priests. And this they do aware that it is precisely in the
bishop that the bond is made visible with each Church, with the Apostles and with all other communities, united to their bishops
and the Pope in the one Church of the Lord Jesus, that is our Hierarchical Holy Mother Church.

Thank you. (Pope Francis— General Audience—11/5/14)