Pope Francis: A bishop 'remains' with his flock with paternal affection and a sense of humor

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The Bishop "remains" in and with his flock , " 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".

Pope Francis returned to indicate tasks and lifestyle of the bishop again emphasizing, with strength, that he must "remain in the diocese", avoid becoming "airport bishops" in search of a "career." The occasion was the meeting this morning with the newly appointed bishops participating in the conference sponsored by the Congregation for Bishops and the Congregation for Eastern Churches.

Among them, Francis noted, were two Syrian bishops and this "leads us once again to appeal to God together for the gift of peace . Peace for Syria, peace for the Middle East, peace in the world".

The Pope, then returned to the subject of the role of the bishop : "We are called and constituted pastors not by ourselves, but by the Lord and not to serve ourselves, but the flock that was entrusted to us, to serve it to the point of laying down our lives, like Christ, the Good Shepherd", and, once again, he highlights three aspects . To tend the flock, Pope Francis said, means: to welcome with magnanimity, to journey with the flock, to remain with the flock.

"Welcome with magnanimity . May your heart be so great as to be able to welcome all the men and women you meet along your days and who you will go in search of when you take to the streets in your parishes and in every community. Your should already be asking yourselves: "When someone knocks at the door of your house, what do they find?" If the door is open, they will experience the paternity of God and understand how the Church is a good mother that always loves and welcomes them."

"Journeying with the flock . Welcoming all to journey with all. A bishop is on  a journey in and with his flock . This means setting out with your flock and with all those who will look to you , sharing in their joys and hopes, difficulties and sufferings, as brothers and friends, but even more as fathers, who are able to listen, understand, help , guide . Journeying together requires love, and ours is a service of love".

By "journeying" the Pope noted with "affection" for priest, whom bishops "must care for" to help them, especially in the most delicate and important moments of their ministry and their lives ."

Journeying also as a presence in the diocese . "Your presence 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".

" A Bishop who lives in the midst of his people whose ears are open to hear " what the Spirit says to the churches "(Rev 2:7) is the 'voice of the sheep ' , even through those diocesan bodies whose task is to advise Bishop , promoting a fair and constructive dialogue . "

 " And here I would add : the style of service to the flock is one of humility , austerity and I would say essential. We pastors are not men with the" psychology of princes", of ambitious men who are married to one Church, while waiting for another more beautiful, more important or richer one. Beware of giving into the spirit of careerism! Not just with words, but also with concrete proof of life that we are teachers and educators of our people. The proclamation of the faith demands we conform our lives to what we teach. Mission and life are inseparable (cf. John Paul II, Pastores Gregis, 31). Everyday we should ask ourselves the question do I live what I teach ? "

" The third and final element: remain with the flock. I am referring to stability , which has two specific aspects : "remaining" in the diocese , and staying in" this " diocese , without seeking changes or promotions. As pastors, if we do not remain in the diocese, we can not really know our flock, walk in front of it, between and behind it, care for it with our teaching, administer the sacraments and give our testimony of life. We are living in an age of travel, when we can move from one point to another with ease, a time when relationships are fast, the age of the internet . But the ancient law of the residence has not gone out of fashion! It is necessary for the good government of our ministry (Directory Successores Apostolorum , 161 .) of course there is concern for the other Churches and the universal one that lead one to be absent from his diocese, but it should be for as short a time as possible and should not become a habit.  Residency is not only required for good management, it is not a functional element, it has theological roots ! You are married to your community , deeply linked to it! I ask you, please , to remain in the midst of your people . Remain, remain ... avoid the scandal of being 'airport bishops" ! Be welcoming Pastors, 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: asianews.it (Sep. 19, 2013)

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