Bishops

Bishops

Pope Francis  


Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

https://sites.google.com/site/francishomilies/profession-of-faith/23.05.13.jpg

The biblical Readings we have heard make us think. They have made me think deeply. I have conceived of a sort of meditation for us bishops, first for me, a bishop like you, and I share it with you.

It is important — and I am particularly glad — that our first meeting should take place here, on the site that guards not only Peter’s tomb but also the living memory of his witness of faith, his service to the Truth, and his gift of himself to the point of martyrdom for the Gospel and for the Church.

This evening this Altar of the Confessio thus becomes for us the Sea of Tiberias, on whose shores we listen once again to the marvellous conversation between Jesus and Peter with the question addressed to the Apostle, but which must also resonate in our own hearts, as Bishops.

“Do you love me?”. “Are you my friend?” (cf. Jn 21, 15ff.).

The question is addressed to a man who, despite his solemn declarations, let himself be gripped by fear and so had denied.

“Do you love me?”; “Are you my friend?”.

The question is addressed to me and to each one of us, to all of us: if we take care not to respond too hastily and superficially it impels us to look within ourselves, to re-enter ourselves.

“Do you love me?”; “Are you my friend?”.

The One who scrutinizes hearts (cf. Rom 8:27), makes himself a beggar of love and questions us on the one truly essential issue, a premiss and condition for feeding his sheep, his lambs, his Church. May every ministry be based on this intimacy with the Lord; living from him is the measure of our ecclesial service which is expressed in the readiness to obey, to humble ourselves, as we heard in the Letter to the Philippians, and for the total gift of self (cf. 2:6-11).

Moreover, the consequence of loving the Lord is giving everything — truly everything, even our life — for him. This is what must distinguish our pastoral ministry; it is the litmus test that tells us how deeply we have embraced the gift received in responding to Jesus’ call, and how closely bound we are to the individuals and communities that have been entrusted to our care. We are not the expression of a structure or of an organizational need: even with the service of our authority we are called to be a sign of the presence and action of the Risen Lord; thus to build up the community in brotherly love.

Not that this should be taken for granted: even the greatest love, in fact, when it is not constantly nourished, weakens and fades away. Not for nothing did the Apostle Paul recommend: “take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you guardians, to feed the church of the Lord which he obtained with his own Son's blood” (cf. Acts 20:28).

A lack of vigilance — as we know — makes the Pastor tepid; it makes him absentminded, forgetful and even impatient. It tantalizes him with the prospect of a career, the enticement of money and with compromises with a mundane spirit; it makes him lazy, turning him into an official, a state functionary concerned with himself, with organization and structures, rather than with the true good of the People of God. Then one runs the risk of denying the Lord as did the Apostle Peter, even if he formally presents him and speaks in his name; one obscures the holiness of the hierarchical Mother Church making her less fruitful.

Who are we, Brothers, before God? What are our trials? We have so many; each one of us has his own. What is God saying to us through them? What are we relying on in order to surmount them?

Just as it did Peter, Jesus' insistent and heartfelt question can leave us pained and more aware of the weakness of our freedom, threatened as it is by thousands of interior and exterior forms of conditioning that all too often give rise to bewilderment, frustration, and even disbelief.

These are not of course the sentiments and attitudes that the Lord wants to inspire; rather, the Enemy, the Devil, takes advantage of them to isolate us in bitterness, complaint and despair.

Jesus, the Good Shepherd, does not humiliate or abandon people to remorse. Through him the tenderness of the Father, who consoles and revitalizes, speaks; it is he who brings us from the disintegration of shame — because shame truly breaks us up — to the fabric of trust; he restores courage, re-entrusts responsibility, and sends us out on mission.

Peter, purified in the crucible of forgiveness could say humbly, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you” (Jn 21:17). I am sure that we can all say this with heartfelt feeling. And Peter, purified, urges us in his First Letter to tend “the flock of God... not by constraint but willingly, not for shameful gain but eagerly, not as domineering over those in your charge but being examples to the flock” (1 Pet 5:2-3).

Yes, being Pastors means believing every day in the grace and strength that come to us from the Lord despite our weakness, and wholly assuming the responsibility for walking before the flock, relieved of the burdens that obstruct healthy apostolic promptness, hesitant leadership, so as to make our voice recognizable both to those who have embraced the faith and to those who “are not [yet] of this fold” (Jn 10:16). We are called to make our own the dream of God, whose house knows no exclusion of people or peoples, as Isaiah prophetically foretold in the First Reading (cf. Is 2:2-5).

For this reason being Pastors also means being prepared to walk among and behind the flock; being capable of listening to the silent tale of those who are suffering and of sustaining the steps of those who fear they may not make it; attentive to raising, to reassuring and to instilling hope. Our faith emerges strengthened from sharing with the lowly. Let us therefore set aside every form of arrogance, to bend down to all whom the Lord has entrusted to our care. Among them let us keep a special, very special, place for our priests. Especially for them may our heart, our hand and our door stay open in every circumstance. They are the first faithful that we bishops have: our priests. Let us love them! Let us love them with all our heart! They are our sons and our brothers!

Dear brothers, the profession of faith we are now renewing together is not a formal act. Rather, it means renewing our response to the “Follow me” with which John’s Gospel ends (21:19). It leads to living our life in accordance with God’s plan, committing our whole self to the Lord Jesus. The discernment that knows and takes on the thoughts, expectations and needs of the people of our time stems from this.

In this spirit, I warmly thank each one of you for your service, for your love for the Church.

And the Mother is here! I place you, and myself, under the mantle of Mary, Our Lady.

Mother of silence, who watches over the mystery of God,
Save us from the idolatry of the present time, to which those who forget are condemned.
Purify the eyes of Pastors with the eye-wash of memory:
Take us back to the freshness of the origins, for a prayerful, penitent Church.

Mother of the beauty that blossoms from faithfulness to daily work,
Lift us from the torpor of laziness, pettiness, and defeatism.
Clothe Pastors in the compassion that unifies, that makes whole; let us discover the joy of a humble, brotherly, serving Church.

Mother of tenderness who envelops us in patience and mercy,
Help us burn away the sadness, impatience and rigidity of those who do not know what it means to belong.
Intercede with your Son to obtain that our hands, our feet, our hearts be agile: let us build the Church with the Truth of love.
Mother, we shall be the People of God, pilgrims bound for the Kingdom. Amen.


Pope Francis    11.09.18      Holy Mass  Santa Marta        Luke 6: 12-19

https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope-francis/mass-casa-santa-marta/2018-09/pope-francis-mass-great-accuser-bishops-scandal.html
It seems the "Great Accuser" is attacking the bishops of the Catholic Church to create scandal.

Bishops must first of all be men of prayer. Prayer, is a bishop’s consolation in difficult times, since he knows that “Jesus is praying for me and for all bishops.”

This will bring consolation and strength to bishops, who are then called to pray for themselves and the people of God. This, is a bishop’s first duty.

The bishop who loves Jesus is not trying to climb a ladder, advancing his vocation as if it were a mere task or seeking a better placement or promotion. No. A bishop feels chosen, and has the certainty of being chosen. This drives him to speak with the Lord: ‘You chose me, of little importance, a sinner.’ He is humble, because he feels chosen and feels Jesus’ gaze upon his whole being. This gives him strength.

The bishop cannot remain distant from the people; he cannot have attitudes that take him away from them… He doesn’t try to find refuge with the powerful or elite. No. The ‘elites’ criticize bishops, while the people has an attitude of love towards the bishop. This is almost a special unction that confirms the bishop in his vocation

In these times, it seems like the 'Great Accuser' has been unchained and is attacking bishops. True, we are all sinners, we bishops. He tries to uncover the sins, so they are visible in order to scandalize the people. The 'Great Accuser', as he himself says to God in the first chapter of the Book of Job, 'roams the earth looking for someone to accuse'. A bishop’s strength against the 'Great Accuser' is prayer, that of Jesus and his own, and the humility of being chosen and remaining close to the people of God, without seeking an aristocratic life that removes this unction. Let us pray, today, for our bishops: for me, for those who are here, and for all the bishops throughout the world.



Pope Francis      19.09.19   Holy Mass, Santa Marta (Domus Sanctae Marthae), Rome          1 Timothy 4: 12-16    Luke 7: 36-50
Pope Francis  19.09.19  Santa Marta - Ministry

The ordained ministry is a gift which should be appreciated and shared.

Jesus offers this gift to deacons,
priests, and bishops so they might serve others.

I invite everyone and even myself to reflect upon St Paul's first letter to Timothy, todays first reading (1 Tim 4:12-16), focusing on the word "gift", on the ministry as a gift to be contemplated, following Paul's advice to the young disciple: "Do not neglect the gift you have".

It is not a job contract: ‘I have to do it’. The act of doing is in the second place. I must receive the gift and care for it, and from there flows all the rest: in contemplation of the gift. When we forget this, we appropriate the gift, and turn it into a function, then we lose the heart of ministry and lose Jesus’ gaze who looked upon us and said: ‘Follow me.’ Gratuitousness is lost. 

If we do not contemplate the gift we have received, all the deviations we can imagine are unleashed, from the most horrible – which are terrible – to the most mundane, which make us turn our ministry into being about us, rather than about the gratuitousness of the gift and about our love for He who gave us the gift of ministry.

A gift "which was conferred on you through the prophetic word with the imposition of hands of the priests" (1 Tim 4: 14) and that applies to bishops and also to priests and deacons. It is important to contemplate ministry as a gift and not as a function. We do what we can, with good intentions, intelligence, and "even with a little cunning", but always taking care of the gift.

It is human to forget the centrality of a gift, as the Pharisee does in today’s Gospel (Lk 7:36-50) when he forgets several rules of hospitality as he welcomes Jesus to his table.

There was this man, a good man, a good Pharisee but he had forgotten the gift of courtesy, the gift of hospitality – which is also a gift. Gifts are always forgotten when there is some sort of self-interest involved, when I want to do this or that thing – always doing, doing… Yes, we priests must all do things, and our first task is to proclaim the Gospel, but we must take care of our centre, our source from which our mission flows, which is the gift we have freely received from the Lord.

May the Lord help us to care for this gift, to consider our ministry above all as a gift, then as service, so as not to ruin it and not to become entrepreneurs, businessmen and the many things that distance us from the contemplation of the gift and the Lord who gave us the gift of ministry.




Pope Francis   20.09.19    Holy Mass, Santa Marta (Domus Sanctae Marthae), Rome        1 Timothy 6: 2C-12
Pope Francis  20.19.19 Bishops, Priests, Deacons

In yesterdays' reading the Apostle Paul gives his advice to the young bishop Timothy. More advice to bishops is to be found in today’s reading.
Yesterday, at the heart of the message was the call to never neglect the gift of ordained ministry.
Today, the reflection focusses on things that weaken the ministerial life like money, gossip, chatter and silly discussions.

When a minister – a priest, a deacon, a bishop – gives too much value to money", he attaches himself to the root of all evils, referring to today's reading in which Paul describes the love of money as the root of all evils (1Tim 6: 2C-12). "The devil enters from the pockets", is what the old ladies of my time used to say.

Not only bishops, but also priests and deacons, are called to be close.
There are four different ways that ordained ministers must be "close".

First of all, a bishop is a man who is close to God. The apostles invented deacons in order to better serve widows and orphans.
Peter, tells us that our duty – that is the duty of the apostles – is to pray and proclaim the Word.

The bishop’s first task is to pray: it gives us strength and awakens within us the awareness of this gift of the ordained ministry that must never be neglected.

Then second closeness for bishops is to be close to their priests, to their deacons and to their collaborators: the ones who are closest to them.
It is sad when a bishop forgets about his priests. It is sad to hear complaints from a priest who tells you: "I have called the bishop, but I need an appointment to say something to him, and the secretary has told me that everything is full up for three months. A bishop feels closeness to priests, if when he sees that a priest has called him today, he should call him back no later than tomorrow, because he has a right to know, to know that he has a father. Closeness to priests. The devil enters to divide the presbytery, to divide.
And when that happens, it leads to small groups who are divided by ideologies or by sympathies.

So, the third "closeness" of which I am speaking, is the need for closeness among priests themselves.

Finally the fourth is that of bishops and priests with the people of God.

In the second Letter, Paul tells Timothy not to forget his mother and his grandmother, meaning that he must not forget where he came from, where the Lord took him from. Do not forget your people, do not forget your roots! And now as a bishop and as a priest, we must always be close to the people of God.

When a bishop breaks away from the people of God he ends up in an atmosphere of ideologies that have nothing to do with ministry: he is not a minister, he is not a servant. He has forgotten the free gift that was given to him.

Let all of us ordained ministers not forget these four ways in which we must nurture "closeness": closeness to God, prayer, closeness of the bishop to his priests and of priest with the bishop; closeness of priests to each other and of bishops to each other; closeness to the people of God.

Do you pray for your priests, for the pastor, for the deputy pastor, or just criticize him? We must pray for priests and bishops, because all of us - the Pope is a bishop - we know how to preserve the gift - do not neglect this gift that has been given to us this closeness.





Pope Francis 06.10.19 Synod of Bisops For Pan Amazon Region

The Apostle Paul, the greatest missionary in the Church’s history, helps us to make this “synod”, this “journey together”. His words to Timothy seem addressed to us, as pastors in the service of God’s People.

Paul first tells Timothy: “I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands” (2 Tim 1:6). We are bishops because we have received a gift of God. We did not sign an agreement; we were not handed an employment contract. Rather, hands were laid on our heads so that we in turn might be hands raised to intercede before the Father, helping hands extended to our brothers and sisters. We received a gift so that we might become a gift. Gifts are not bought, traded or sold; they are received and given away. If we hold on to them, if we make ourselves the centre and not the gift we have received, we become bureaucrats, not shepherds. We turn the gift into a job and its gratuitousness vanishes. We end up serving ourselves and using the Church.

Thanks to the gift we have received, our lives are directed to service. When the Gospel speaks of “useless servants” (Lk 17:10), it reminds us of this. The expression can also mean “unprofitable servants”. In other words, we do not serve for the sake of personal profit or gain, but because we received freely and want to give freely in return (cf. Mt 10:8). Our joy will be entirely in serving, since we were first served by God, who became the servant of us all. Dear brothers, let us feel called here for service; let us put God’s gift at the centre.

To be faithful to our calling, our mission, Saint Paul reminds us that our gift has to be rekindled. The verb he uses in the original text is fascinating: to rekindle, literally, which means stoking a fire (anazopyrein). The gift we have received is a fire, a burning love for God and for our brothers and sisters. A fire does not burn by itself; it has to be fed or else it dies; it turns into ashes. If everything continues as it was, if we spend our days content that “this is the way things have always been done”, then the gift vanishes, smothered by the ashes of fear and concern for defending the status quo. Yet “in no way can the Church restrict her pastoral work to the ‘ordinary maintenance’ of those who already know the Gospel of Christ. Missionary outreach is a clear sign of the maturity of an ecclesial community” (
BENEDICT XVI, Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, 95). For the Church is always on the move, always going out and never withdrawn into itself. Jesus did not come to bring a gentle evening breeze, but to light a fire on the earth.

The fire that rekindles the gift is the Holy Spirit, the giver of gifts. So Saint Paul goes on to say: “Guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit” (2 Tim 1:14). And again: “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power and love and prudence” (v. 7). Not a spirit of timidity, but of prudence. Someone may think that prudence is a virtue of the “customs house”, that checks everything to ensure that there is no mistake. No, prudence is a Christian virtue; it is a virtue of life, and indeed the virtue of governance. And God has given us this spirit of prudence. Paul places prudence in opposition to timidity. What is this prudence of the Spirit? As the Catechism teaches, prudence “is not to be confused with timidity or fear”; rather, it is “the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it” (No. 1806).

Prudence is not indecision; it is not a defensive attitude. It is the virtue of the pastor who, in order to serve with wisdom, is able to discern, to be receptive to the newness of the Spirit. Rekindling our gift in the fire of the Spirit is the opposite of letting things take their course without doing anything. Fidelity to the newness of the Spirit is a grace that we must ask for in prayer. May the Spirit, who makes all things new, give us his own daring prudence; may he inspire our Synod to renew the paths of the Church in Amazonia, so that the fire of mission will continue to burn.

As we see from the story of the burning bush, God’s fire burns, yet does not consume (cf. Ex 3:2). It is the fire of love that illumines, warms and gives life, not a fire that blazes up and devours. When peoples and cultures are devoured without love and without respect, it is not God’s fire but that of the world. Yet how many times has God’s gift been imposed, not offered; how many times has there been colonization rather than evangelization! May God preserve us from the greed of new forms of colonialism. The fire set by interests that destroy, like the fire that recently devastated Amazonia, is not the fire of the Gospel. The fire of God is warmth that attracts and gathers into unity. It is fed by sharing, not by profits. The fire that destroys, on the other hand, blazes up when people want to promote only their own ideas, form their own group, wipe out differences in the attempt to make everyone and everything uniform.

To rekindle the gift; to welcome the bold prudence of the Spirit; to be faithful to his newness. Saint Paul now moves on to a final exhortation: “Do not be ashamed then of testifying to our Lord, but take your share of suffering for the Gospel in the power of God” (2 Tim 1:8). Paul asks Timothy to bear witness to the Gospel, to suffer for the Gospel, in a word, to live for the Gospel. The proclamation of the Gospel is the chief criterion of the Church’s life, it is her mission, her identity. A little later, Paul will write: “I am already on the point of being sacrificed” (4:6). To preach the Gospel is to live as an offering, to bear witness to the end, to become all things to all people (cf. 1 Cor 9:22), to love even to the point of martyrdom. I am grateful to God that in the College of Cardinals there are some brother Cardinals who are martyrs, because they have experienced in this life the cross of martyrdom. The Apostle makes it quite clear that the Gospel is not served by worldly power, but by the power of God alone: by persevering in humble love, by believing that the only real way to possess life is to lose it through love.

Dear brothers and sisters, together let us look to the crucified Jesus, to his heart pierced for our salvation. Let us begin there, the source of the gift that has given us birth. From that heart, the Spirit who renews has been poured forth (cf. Jn 19:30). Let each and every one of us, then, feel called to give life. So many of our brothers and sisters in Amazonia are bearing heavy crosses and awaiting the liberating consolation of the Gospel, the Church’s caress of love. So many of our brothers and sisters in Amazonia have given their lives. I would like to repeat here the words of our beloved Cardinal Hummes: when he arrives in those little towns of Amazonia, he goes to the cemetery to visit the tombs of missionaries. It is a gesture on the Church’s behalf for those who gave their lives in Amazonia. And then, with a little shrewdness, he says to the Pope: “May they not be forgotten. They deserved to be canonized”. For them and for all those who have given their lives and those who are still giving their lives, and with them, let us journey together.