OF HIS HOLINESS
POPE JOHN PAUL II
ON THE BISHOP,
SERVANT OF THE GOSPEL
OF JESUS CHRIST
FOR THE HOPE OF THE WORLD
1. The shepherds of the Lord's flock know that they can count on a special
divine grace as they carry out their ministry as Bishops. In the Roman
Pontifical, during the solemn prayer of episcopal ordination, the principal
ordaining Bishop, after invoking the outpouring of the Holy Spirit who leads and
guides, repeats a phrase already found in the ancient text of the Apostolic
Tradition: “Grant, O Father, knower of all hearts, that this your servant,
whom you have chosen for the office of Bishop, may shepherd your holy flock. May
he fulfil before you without reproach the ministry of the High Priesthood.”.1
In this way there continues to be carried out the will of the Lord Jesus Christ,
the eternal Shepherd, who sent the Apostles even as he himself was sent by the
Father (cf. Jn 20:21), and who wishes that their successors, the Bishops,
should remain shepherds in his Church until the end of time.2
The image of the Good Shepherd, so dear also to ancient Christian iconography,
was very much present to the Bishops from throughout the world who gathered from
30 September to 27 October 2001 for the Tenth Ordinary General Assembly of the
Synod of Bishops. At the tomb of the Apostle Peter, they joined me in reflecting
on the figure of
The Bishop, Servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the
Hope of the World. We were all agreed that the figure of Jesus the Good
Shepherd represents the primary image to which we must constantly refer. No one,
in fact, can be considered a pastor worthy of the name, nisi per caritate
efficiatur unum cum Christo.3 This is the fundamental reason why
''the ideal figure of the Bishop, on which the Church continues to count, is
that of the pastor who, configured to Christ by his holiness of life, expends
himself generously for the Church entrusted to him, while at the same time
bearing in his heart a concern for all the Churches throughout the world (cf.
2 Cor 11:28)''.4
The Tenth Assembly of the Synod of Bishops
2. We give thanks to the Lord, then, for having granted us the gift of
celebrating once more an assembly of the Synod of Bishops and thus having a
truly profound experience of being Church. Held in the wake of the Great
Jubilee of the Year 2000, at the beginning of the third Christian millennium,
the Tenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops followed a long
series of assemblies: both the Special Assemblies, all of which were marked by a
concern for evangelization on the different continents – from Africa to America,
Asia, Oceania and Europe; and the Ordinary Assemblies, the last of which were
devoted to a reflection on the rich treasure which the Church possesses in the
variety of vocations raised up by the Holy Spirit among the People of God. In
this context, the attention devoted to the specific ministry of Bishops
completed the picture of that ecclesiology of communion and mission which must
always be our fundamental point of reference.
Consequently, the work of the Synod made constant reference to the teaching of
the Second Vatican Council on the episcopate and the ministry of Bishops,
especially as set forth in the third chapter of the Dogmatic Constitution on the
Lumen Gentium and in the Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops
Christus Dominus. Of this luminous teaching, which repeats and develops
traditional theological and juridical themes, my predecessor of venerable memory
Pope Paul VI, could rightly say: ''It seems to us that episcopal authority
emerges from the Council vindicated in its divine institution, confirmed in its
irreplaceable function, renewed in its pastoral powers of teaching, sanctifying
and governing, honoured in its extension to the universal Church by way of
collegial communion, more clearly identified in its hierarchical aspect,
strengthened in shared and fraternal responsibility with other Bishops for the
universal and particular needs of the Church, and more strongly associated in a
spirit of hierarchical union and joint cooperation with the head of the Church,
the constitutive centre of the College of Bishops''.5
At the same time, in keeping with the designated topic of the Synod, the Fathers
reviewed their ministry in the light of the theological virtue of hope. This
approach immediately appeared as especially pertinent to the mission of the
pastor who, in the Church, is first and foremost to bear witness to the Paschal
and eschatological mystery.
A hope founded on Christ
3. It is in fact the task of every Bishop to proclaim hope to the world, hope
based on the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ: a hope ''which not only
concerns penultimate matters but also and above all that eschatological hope
which awaits the riches of the glory of God (cf. Eph 1:18), which
surpasses anything that the human heart has ever conceived (cf. 1 Cor
2:9), and to which the sufferings of the present cannot be compared (cf. Rom
8:18)''.6 A stance of theological hope, together with faith and love,
must completely shape the Bishop's pastoral ministry.
The Bishop is called in a particular way to be a prophet, witness and servant of
hope. He has the duty of instilling confidence and proclaiming before all people
the basis of Christian hope (cf. 1 Pet 3:15). The Bishop is the prophet,
witness and servant of this hope, especially where a culture of ''the here and
now'' leaves no room for openness to transcendence. Where hope is absent, faith
itself is called into question. Love too is weakened by the loss of this virtue.
Especially in times of growing unbelief and indifference, hope is a stalwart
support for faith and an effective incentive for love. It draws its strength
from the certainty of God's desire for the salvation of all people (cf. 1 Tim
2:4) and from the constant presence of the Lord Jesus, the Emmanuel who
remains with us always, until the end of the world (cf. Mt 28:20).
Only by the light and consolation born of the Gospel can a Bishop succeed in
keeping his own hope alive (cf. Rom 15:4) and in nourishing the hope of
those entrusted to his pastoral care. He must therefore model himself on the
Virgin Mary, the Mother of Hope, who believed in the fulfilment of the Lord's
words (cf. Lk 1:45). Relying on the word of God and holding firmly to
hope, which like a sure and steadfast anchor reaches to the heavens (cf. Heb
6:18-20), the Bishop stands in the midst of the Church as a vigilant
sentinel, a courageous prophet, a credible witness and a faithful servant of
Christ, ''our hope of glory'' (cf. Col 1:27), thanks to whom ''death
shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying nor pain any
more'' (cf. Rev 21:4).
Hope, when hopes are dashed
4. Everyone will remember that the sessions of the Synod of Bishops took place
at a dramatic time. The terrible events of 11 September 2001 were intensely felt
by the Synod Fathers, with the dreadful fate of countless innocent victims and
for the appearance in our world of grave new situations of uncertainty and fear,
both for human civilization and the peaceful coexistence of nations. A new
spectre of war and death appeared, which, when added to the already existing
situations of conflict, made all the more evident the need to implore the Prince
of Peace that human hearts might open once more to reconciliation, solidarity
Together with its prayers, the Synodal assembly spoke out in condemnation of all
forms of violence and identified their ultimate source in human sin.
Acknowledging the failure of human hopes based on materialist, immanentist and
market ideologies which claim to measure everything in terms of efficiency,
relationships of power and market forces, the Synod Fathers reaffirmed their
conviction that only the light of the Risen One and the guidance of the Holy
Spirit can enable people to base their expectations on the hope that does not
disappoint. Thus, they proclaimed: ''We should not allow ourselves to be
intimidated by those doctrines which deny the existence of the living God and
which strive, more or less openly, to undermine, parody or deride Christian
hope. In the joy of the Spirit we profess: 'Christ is truly risen!' In
his glorified humanity he has opened up the prospect of eternal life for all
those who accept the grace of conversion''.8
The certainty of this profession of faith must be such that it daily strengthens
a Bishop's hope and makes him increasingly confident of the unfailing power of
God's merciful goodness to open up paths of salvation and propose them to the
freedom of each person. Hope encourages a Bishop to discern, wherever he
exercises his ministry, the signs of life which are able to uproot the seeds of
destruction and death. Hope sustains him as he transforms conflicts themselves
into an opportunity for growth and for reconciliation. Hope in Jesus the Good
Shepherd will fill his heart with compassion, prompting him to draw near to the
pain of every suffering man and woman and to soothe their wounds, ever confident
that every lost sheep will be found. The Bishop will thus be an ever more
luminous sign of Christ, the Shepherd and Spouse of the Church. Acting as
father, brother and friend to all, he will stand beside everyone as the living
image of Christ, our hope, in whom all God's promises are fulfilled and all the
expectations of creation are brought to completion.9
Servants of the Gospel for the hope of the world
5. In issuing this Apostolic Exhortation, I now take up the reflections which
developed during the Tenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops,
from the first Lineamenta to the Instrumentum Laboris, from the
interventions made in the Hall by the Synod Fathers to the two Relations that
introduced and summarized these interventions, from the theoretical and
practical pastoral insights that emerged from the small groups to the
Propositiones presented to me at the conclusion of the Synod to assist me in
preparing for the whole Church a document on the Synod's theme of
Servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the Hope of the World.10
In doing so, I send my fraternal greetings and the kiss of peace to all the
Bishops in communion with this See, first entrusted to Peter so that he might be
a guarantee of unity and, as is recognized by all, preside in love.11
To you, venerable and dear Brothers, I repeat the invitation that I addressed to
the whole Church at the beginning of the millennium: Duc in altum! It is
Christ himself who repeats these words to the Successors of those Apostles who
heard them from his lips and who, putting their trust in him, set forth on
mission along the byways of the world: Duc in altum (Lk 5:4). In
the light of this pressing command from the Lord, ''we may reread the triple
munus entrusted to us in the Church: munus docendi, sanctificandi et
regendi ... Duc in docendo! With the Apostle we will say: 'Preach the
word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke and exhort – be
unfailing in patience and in teaching' (2 Tim 4:2). Duc in
sanctificando! The 'nets' we are called upon to cast among men are, first of
all, the sacraments, of which we are the principal dispensers, moderators,
guardians and promoters. They form a sort of saving 'net,' which sets free from
evil and leads to the fullness of life. Duc in regendo! As pastors and
true fathers, assisted by the priests and other helpers, we have the task of
gathering together the family of the faithful and in it fostering charity and
brotherly communion. As arduous and laborious a mission as this may be, we must
not lose heart. With Peter and the first disciples we too with great confidence
renew our heartfelt profession of faith: Lord, 'at your word I will lower the
nets' (Lk 5:5)! At your word, O Christ, we wish to serve your Gospel for
the hope of the world!''.12
In this way, living as men of hope and reflecting in their ministry the
ecclesiology of communion and mission, Bishops will truly be a source of hope
for their flock. We know that the world needs the ''hope that does not
disappoint'' (cf. Rom 5:5). We know that this hope is Christ. We know it
and therefore we proclaim the hope that springs from the Cross.
Ave Crux, spes unica! May this acclamation, which echoed in the Synod Hall at the central moment of
the work of the Tenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, remain
ever on our lips, for the Cross is a mystery of life and death. The Cross has
become for the Church a ''tree of life''. For this reason we proclaim that life
has triumphed over death.
In making this Paschal proclamation we follow in the footsteps of a great
multitude of holy pastors who have been eloquent images of the Good Shepherd
in medio Ecclesiae. This prompts us always to praise and thank almighty and
eternal God, for, as we sing in the sacred Liturgy, he strengthens us by their
example, instructs us by their teaching and gives us protection through their
intercession.13 As I said at the conclusion of the Synod's work, the
face of each of these holy Bishops, from the beginning of the Church's life to
our own day, is like a tile placed in a sort of mystical mosaic forming the face
of Christ the Good Shepherd. It is he, then, that we contemplate, setting an
example for the flock entrusted to us by the Pastor of Pastors, so that we can
become ever more committed servants of the Gospel for the hope of the world.
As we gaze upon the face of our Master and Lord at that hour when he ''loved his
own to the end'', all of us, like the Apostle Peter, allow our feet to be washed
so that we might have a part in him (cf. Jn 13:1-9). And with the
strength that comes to us from him in the Church, in the presence of our priests
and deacons, before all men and women of the consecrated life and all our
beloved lay people, we repeat aloud: ''Whatever we may be, let not your hope be
placed in us: if we are good, we are your servants; if we are bad, we are still
your servants. But if we are good and faithful servants, it is then that we are
truly your servants''.14 Servants of the Gospel for the hope of
THE MYSTERY AND MINISTRY
OF THE BISHOP
''... and he chose from them Twelve'' (Lk 6:13)
6. The Lord Jesus, during his earthly pilgrimage, proclaimed the Gospel of the
Kingdom and inaugurated it in his own person, revealing its mystery to all
people.15 He called men and women to be his followers, and from his
disciples he chose Twelve ''to be with him'' (Mk 3:14). The Gospel of
Luke points out that Jesus made this choice after a night spent in prayer on the
mountain (cf. 6:12). The Gospel of Mark, for its part, appears to see in this
action of Jesus a sovereign act, a constitutive act which gives an identity to
those whom he chose: ''he appointed Twelve'' (3:14). The mystery of the
election of the Twelve is thus disclosed: it is an act of love, freely willed by
Jesus in intimate union with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
The mission entrusted by Jesus to the Apostles is to last until the end of time
(cf. Mt 28:20), since the Gospel which they have been charged to hand
down is the life of the Church in every age. It was precisely for this reason
that the Apostles were concerned to appoint for themselves successors, so that,
as Saint Irenaeus attests, the apostolic tradition might be manifested and
preserved down the centuries.16
The special outpouring of the Holy Spirit with which the Risen Lord filled the
Apostles (cf. Acts 1:5; 8; 2:4; Jn 20:22-23) was shared by them
through the gesture of laying hands upon their co-workers (cf. 1 Tim
4:14; 2 Tim 1:6-7). These in turn transmitted it by the same gesture to
others, and these to others still. In this way, the spiritual gift given in the
beginning has come down to our own day through the imposition of hands, in other
words, by episcopal consecration, which confers the fullness of the sacrament of
Orders, the high priesthood and the totality of the sacred ministry. Thus,
through the Bishops and the priests, their co-workers, the Lord Jesus Christ,
seated at the right hand of God the Father, remains present in the midst of
believers. In every time and place it is he who proclaims the word of God to all
peoples, administers the sacraments of faith to believers and guides the people
of the New Testament on their pilgrimage to eternal happiness. The Good Shepherd
does not abandon his flock but preserves and protects it always through those
who, by their ontological share in his life and mission, carry out in an eminent
and visible way the role of teacher, shepherd and priest, who act in his name in
exercising the functions associated with the pastoral ministry, and who are
constituted his vicars and ambassadors.17
The Trinitarian foundation of the episcopal ministry
7. The Christological dimension of the pastoral ministry, considered in depth,
leads to an understanding of the Trinitarian foundation of ministry itself.
Christ's life is Trinitarian. He is the eternal and only-begotten Son of the
Father and the anointed of the Holy Spirit, sent into the world; it is he who,
together with the Father, pours out the Spirit upon the Church. This Trinitarian
dimension, manifested in every aspect of Christ's life and activity, also shapes
the life and activity of the Bishop. Rightly, then, the Synod Fathers chose
explicitly to describe the life and ministry of the Bishop in the light of the
Trinitarian ecclesiology contained in the teaching of the Second Vatican
The tradition which sees the Bishop as an image of God the Father is quite
ancient. As Saint Ignatius of Antioch wrote, the Father is like an invisible
Bishop, the Bishop of all. Every Bishop, therefore, stands in the place of the
Father of Jesus Christ in such a way that, precisely because of this
representation, he is to be revered by all.18 Consonant with this
symbolism, the Bishop's chair, which especially in the tradition of the Eastern
Churches evokes God's paternal authority, can only be occupied by the Bishop.
This same symbolism is the source of every Bishop's duty to lead the holy people
of God as a devoted father and to guide them – together with his priests, his
co-workers in the episcopal ministry, and with his deacons – in the way of
salvation.19 Conversely, as an ancient text exhorts, the faithful are
to love their Bishops who are, after God, their fathers and mothers.20
For this reason, in accordance with a custom widespread in certain cultures, one
kisses the Bishop's hand as one would kiss the hand of the loving Father, the
giver of life.
Christ is the primordial icon of the Father and the manifestation of his
merciful presence among men and women. The Bishop, who acts in the person and in
the name of Christ himself, becomes in the Church entrusted to him a living sign
of the Lord Jesus, Shepherd and Spouse, Teacher and High Priest of the Church.21
Here we find the source of pastoral ministry, and the reason why, as the homily
outline in the Roman Pontifical suggests, the three functions of teaching,
sanctifying and governing the People of God are to be carried out in imitation
of the Good Shepherd: with charity, knowledge of the flock, concern for all,
mercy towards the poor, the stranger and those in need, and a willingness to
seek out the lost sheep and to bring them back to the one sheepfold.
Finally, the anointing of the Holy Spirit, by configuring the Bishop to Christ,
enables him to be a living continuation of the mystery of Christ for the Church.
Because of this Trinitarian shaping of his existence, every Bishop in his
ministry is committed to keeping watch over the whole flock with love, for he
has been placed in their midst by the Spirit to govern the Church of God: in the
name of the Father, whose image he represents; in the name of Jesus Christ his
Son, by whom he has been established as teacher, priest and shepherd; in the
name of the Holy Spirit, who gives life to the Church and by his power
strengthens us in our human weakness.22
The collegial nature of the episcopal ministry
8. ''And he appointed Twelve'' (Mk 3:14). The Dogmatic Constitution
Lumen Gentium employs this Gospel text to introduce its teaching on the
collegial nature of the group of the Twelve, formed ''after the manner of a
college or a fixed group, over which he placed Peter, chosen from among them''.23
Similarly, through the personal succession of the Bishop of Rome to Saint Peter
and the succession of all the Bishops as a group to the Apostles, the Roman
Pontiff and the Bishops are united among themselves as a College.24
The collegial union between the Bishops is based on both episcopal ordination
and hierarchical communion. It thus affects the inmost being of each Bishop and
belongs to the structure of the Church as willed by Jesus Christ. One attains to
the fullness of episcopal ministry by virtue of episcopal consecration and
through hierarchical communion with the Head of the College and with its
members, that is, with the College, which always includes its Head. This is how
one becomes a member of the College of Bishops,25 and the reason why
the three functions received in episcopal ordination – sanctifying, teaching and
governing – must be exercised in hierarchical communion, even though, given
their different immediate finalities, in a distinct way26.
This constitutes what is called ''the spirit of collegiality'' (affectus
collegialis), or ''affective'' collegiality, which is the basis of the
Bishops' concern for the other particular Churches and for the universal Church.27
Consequently, if we must say that a Bishop is never alone, inasmuch as he is
always united to the Father though the Son in the Holy Spirit, we must also add
that he is also never alone because he is always and continuously united with
his brothers in the episcopate and with the one whom the Lord has chosen as the
Successor of Peter.
The spirit of collegiality is realized and expressed in different degrees and in
various modalities, including institutional forms such as, for example, the
Synod of Bishops, Particular Councils, Episcopal Conferences, the Roman Curia,
ad Limina visits, missionary cooperation, etc. In its full sense,
however, the spirit of collegiality is realized and expressed only in collegial
action in the strict sense, that is, in the action of all the Bishops together
with their Head, with whom they exercise full and supreme power over the whole
This collegial nature of the apostolic ministry is willed by Christ himself.
Consequently, the spirit of collegiality, or affective collegiality (collegialitas
affectiva), is always present among the Bishops as communio episcoporum,
but only in certain acts does it find expression as effective collegiality (collegialitas
effectiva). The various ways in which affective collegiality comes to be
realized in effective collegiality belong to the human order, but in varying
degrees they concretize the divine requirement that the episcopate should
express itself in a collegial manner.29 The College's supreme
authority over the whole Church is solemnly exercised in Ecumenical Councils.30
The collegial dimension gives the episcopate its character of universality. A
parallelism can thus be established between the Church as one and universal, and
therefore indivisible, and the episcopacy as one and indivisible, and therefore
universal. The principle and foundation of this unity, be it that of the Church
or of the Bishops, is the Roman Pontiff. Indeed, as the Second Vatican Council
teaches, the College, ''insofar as it is composed of many, expresses the variety
and universality of the People of God, but insofar as it is assembled under one
head, it expresses the unity of the flock of Christ''.31 For this
reason, ''the unity of the episcopate is one of the constitutive elements of the
unity of the Church''.32
The universal Church is not the sum of the particular Churches, or a federation
of the latter, or even the result of their communion as such, since, in the
expression of the early Fathers and the liturgy, in her essential mystery the
Church precedes creation itself.33 In the light of this teaching, we
can add that the relationship of mutual interiority existing between the
universal Church and each particular Church, whereby the particular Churches are
''formed in the likeness of the universal Church, and in and from the particular
Churches there comes into being the one and only Catholic Church'',34
is reproduced in the relationship between the College of Bishops in its entirety
and each Bishop as an individual. For this reason, ''the College of Bishops is
not to be understood as the aggregate of the Bishops who govern the particular
Churches, nor as the result of their communion; rather, as an essential element
of the universal Church, it is a reality which precedes the office of being the
head of a particular Church''.35
We can better understand this parallelism between the universal Church and the
College of Bishops in light of the Council's statement that ''the Apostles were
the first members of the new Israel, and at the same time the beginning of the
sacred hierarchy''.36 In the Apostles, not considered individually
but as a College, there was already contained the structure of the Church –
which in them was established in her universality and unity – and the structure
of the College of Bishops, their successors, the sign of this universality and
It is thus that ''the power of the College of Bishops over the whole Church is
not the result of the sum of the powers of the individual Bishops over their
particular Churches; it is a pre-existing reality in which individual Bishops
participate. They have no competence to act over the whole Church except
collegially''.38 Bishops share as a body in the power of teaching and
governing, and they do so immediately by the very fact that they are members of
the College of Bishops, in which the Apostolic College truly continues in being.39
Just as the universal Church is one and indivisible, so too the College of
Bishops is one ''indivisible theological subject,'' and hence the supreme, full
and universal power possessed by the College, and by the Roman Pontiff
personally, is one and indivisible. Precisely because the College of Bishops is
a reality prior to the office of heading a particular Church, there are many
Bishops who, while carrying out tasks that are properly episcopal, are not heads
of particular Churches.40 Each Bishop, always in union with his
brothers in the episcopate and with the Roman Pontiff, represents Christ the
Head and Shepherd of the Church: he does this not only in a proper and specific
manner when he receives the office of pastor of a particular Church, but also
when he cooperates with the Diocesan Bishop in the governance of his Church
41 or when he shares in the Roman Pontiff's office of universal pastor in
the governance of the universal Church. In the course of her history the Church
has also recognized, in addition to the specific form of presidency over a
particular Church, other forms of exercising the episcopal ministry – such as
that of an Auxiliary Bishop or a representative of the Roman Pontiff in the
offices of the Holy See or in Papal Legations; today too, in accordance with the
norms of law, she admits these other forms when they are needed.42
The missionary character and the unitary nature
of the episcopal ministry
9. The Gospel of Luke (cf. 6:13) tells us that Jesus named the Twelve
''Apostles'', which literally means ''envoys'', ''those who are sent''. In the
Gospel of Mark we read that Jesus also appointed the Twelve ''to be sent out to
preach'' (3:14). This means that both the election and the establishment of the
Twelve as Apostles are directed towards mission. Their first sending (cf. Mt
10:5; Mk 6:7; Lk 9:1-2) comes to its fulfilment in the mission
that Jesus entrusts to them after the Resurrection, at the moment of his
Ascension into heaven. The Lord's words remain as timely as ever: ''All
authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make
disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the
Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded
you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age'' (Mt
28:18-20). This apostolic mission finds its solemn confirmation on the day of
Pentecost with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
In the text of the Gospel of Matthew just quoted, the entire pastoral ministry
can be seen as organized according to the threefold function of teaching,
sanctifying and governing. We see here a reflection of the threefold dimension
of Christ's service and mission. We, as Christians, and in a qualitatively new
manner as priests, participate in the mission of our Master, who is Prophet,
Priest and King, and we are called to bear special witness to him in the Church
and before the world.
These three functions (triplex munus) and the powers that derive from
them express on the level of action the pastoral ministry (munus pastorale)
that every Bishop receives with episcopal consecration. It is a share in
Christ's own love that is given in the consecration; this love is made concrete
in the proclamation of the Gospel of hope to all peoples (cf. Lk
4:16-19), in the administration of the sacraments to those who embrace salvation
and in the guidance of God's holy people towards eternal life. These three
functions are, in fact, deeply interconnected; they explain, influence and
clarify one another.43
For this reason, then, when the Bishop teaches, he also sanctifies and governs
the People of God; when he sanctifies, he also teaches and governs; when he
governs, he teaches and sanctifies. Saint Augustine defines the entirety of this
episcopal ministry as an office of love: amoris officium.44
This gives us the certainty that the pastoral charity of Jesus Christ will never
be lacking in the Church.
''He called to him those whom he desired'' (Mk 3:13-14)
10. A great crowd was following Jesus when he decided to go up the mountain and
call the Apostles. There were many disciples, but from them he chose Twelve
alone for the specific role of Apostles (cf. Mk 3:13-19). In the Synod
Hall the words of Saint Augustine were often heard: ''For you I am a Bishop and
with you I am a Christian''.45
As a gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church, the Bishop is above all else, like
every other Christian, a son and member of the Church. From this holy Mother he
has received the gift of divine life in the sacrament of Baptism and his first
instruction in the faith. Together with all the faithful he shares in the
incomparable dignity of the children of God, a dignity to be lived out in
communion and in a spirit of gratitude and fraternity. On the other hand, by
virtue of the fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders, the Bishop is also the
one who, before the faithful, is teacher, sanctifier and shepherd, charged with
acting in the name and in the person of Christ.
These are obviously two relationships which do not simply stand side-by-side but
are deeply interconnected; they are ordered to each other inasmuch as both draw
upon the richness of Christ, the one High Priest. The Bishop becomes a
''father'' precisely because he is fully a ''son'' of the Church. This brings up
once again the relationship between the common priesthood of the faithful and
the ministerial priesthood: two modes of participation in the one priesthood of
Christ, which involves two dimensions which unite in the supreme act of the
sacrifice of the Cross.
This is reflected in the relationship which exists in the Church between the
common priesthood and the ministerial priesthood. The fact that for all their
difference in essence each is ordered to the other 46 gives rise to
an interplay that harmoniously structures the life of the Church as the place
where the salvation brought about by Christ is made historically present. This
interplay is present in the very person of the Bishop, who is and remains a
baptized member of the Church, yet is incorporated into the high priesthood.
This deeper reality of the Bishop is the foundation of his ''being among'' the
other faithful and of his being placed ''before'' them.
The Second Vatican Council puts this nicely: ''If therefore everyone in the
Church does not walk along the same path, nevertheless all are called to
sanctity and have received an equal privilege of faith through the justice of
God (cf 2 Pet 1:1). And if by the will of Christ some are made teachers,
dispensers of mysteries, and shepherds on behalf of others, yet all share a true
equality with regard to the dignity and to the activity common to all the
faithful for the building up of the Body of Christ. For the distinction which
the Lord made between sacred ministers and the rest of the People of God entails
a unity, since pastors and the other faithful are bound to each other by a
common bond. The Church's pastors, following the example of the Lord, should
minister to one another and to the rest of the faithful. The faithful in their
turn should cooperate gladly with their pastors and teachers''.47
The pastoral ministry received in episcopal consecration, which sets the Bishop
''before'' the other faithful, finds expression in his ''being for'' the other
members of the faithful while not detracting from his ''being with'' them. This
is true with regard both to the Bishop's personal sanctification, which must be
pursued and realized in the exercise of his ministry, and to the ''style'' with
which he carries out this ministry in all its respective functions.
The interplay between the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial
priesthood, present in the episcopal ministry itself, is manifested in a kind of
''perichoresis'' between the two forms of priesthood: a perichoresis between the
common witness to the faith given by the faithful and the Bishop's authoritative
witness to the faith through his magisterial acts; a perichoresis between the
lived holiness of the faithful and the means of sanctification that the Bishop
offers them; and finally, a perichoresis between the personal responsibility of
the Bishop for the good of the Church entrusted to him and the shared
responsibility of all the faithful for that same Church.
THE SPIRITUAL LIFE OF THE BISHOP
''... he appointed Twelve that they might be with him'' (Mk 3, 14)
11. In the same act of love by which he freely established the Twelve as
Apostles, Jesus called them to share his own life. This sharing, which is a
communion of mind and heart with him, also appears as an inner demand of their
participation in Jesus' own mission. The functions of the Bishop must not be
reduced to those of administration alone. Precisely in order to avoid this risk,
both the preparatory documents of the Synod and many interventions by the
Fathers in the Synod Hall dwelt at length on what the reality of the episcopate
as the fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders – in its theological,
Christological and pneumatological foundations – entails for the personal life
of the Bishop and for the exercise of the ministry entrusted to him.
Objective sanctification, which by Christ's work is present in the sacrament
through the communication of the Holy Spirit, needs to coincide with subjective
sanctification, in which the Bishop, by the help of grace, must continuously
progress through the exercise of his ministry. The ontological transformation
brought about by episcopal consecration, as a configuration to Christ, demands a
lifestyle that manifests a ''being with him''. Consequently, during the Synod
sessions, emphasis was laid on pastoral charity as being the fruit of the
character bestowed by the sacrament and of its particular grace. Charity, it was
said, is in a sense the heart of the ministry of the Bishop, who is drawn into a
dynamic pastoral pro-existence whereby he is impelled to live, like
Christ the Good Shepherd, for the Father and for others, in the daily gift of
It is above all in exercising his own ministry, inspired by imitation of the
charity of the Good Shepherd, that the Bishop is called to be sanctified and to
sanctify, taking as his unifying principle contemplation of the face of Christ
and the proclamation of the Gospel of salvation.48 His spirituality,
therefore, draws direction and nourishment not only from the sacraments of
Baptism and Confirmation but also from his episcopal ordination, which commits
him to living out in faith, hope and charity his ministry of evangelization,
liturgical presidency and leadership in the community. The Bishop's spirituality
will therefore be an ecclesial spirituality, since everything in his life
is directed towards the building up of the Church in love.
This requires of the Bishop an attitude of service marked by personal strength,
apostolic courage and trusting abandonment to the inner working of the Spirit.
He will therefore strive to adopt a lifestyle which imitates the kenosis
of Christ, the poor and humble servant, so that the exercise of his pastoral
ministry will be a consistent reflection of Jesus, the Servant of God, and will
help him to become, like Jesus, close to everyone, from the greatest to the
least. Again, by a form of reciprocal interplay, the faithful and loving
exercise of his ministry sanctifies the Bishop and on the subjective level
configures him ever more closely to the ontological richness of sanctity which
the sacrament has bestowed upon him.
The Bishop's personal holiness, however, is never limited to the purely
subjective level, since in its efficacy it always proves beneficial to the
faithful entrusted to his pastoral care. In the practice of charity, as the
content of the pastoral ministry he has received, the Bishop becomes a sign of
Christ and acquires that moral authority needed for the effective exercise of
his juridical authority. Unless the episcopal office is based on the witness of
a holiness manifested in pastoral charity, humility and simplicity of life, it
ends up being reduced to a solely functional role and, tragically, it loses
credibility before the clergy and the faithful.
The call to holiness in the Church in our time
12. There is a particularly apt Biblical image to describe the figure of the
Bishop as the friend of God and the pastor and guide of his people. It is the
figure of Moses. Looking to him, the Bishop can find inspiration for his life
and activity as a pastor, for Moses was chosen and sent by the Lord, courageous
in leading his people toward the Promised Land, a faithful interpreter of the
word and law of the living God, a mediator of the Covenant, ardent and confident
in his prayer on behalf of his people. Like Moses, who after his dialogue with
the Lord on the holy mountain returned among his people with his face radiant
(cf. Ex 34:29-30), so the Bishop will be able to show his brothers and
sisters that he is their father, brother and friend only if he has entered the
dark yet luminous cloud of the mystery of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Radiant with the light of the Trinity, he will be a sign of the merciful
goodness of the Father, a living image of the love of the Son, and transparently
a man of the Spirit, consecrated and sent forth to lead the People of God along
the paths of history on their pilgrimage to eternity.
The Synod Fathers stressed the importance of spiritual commitment in the life,
ministry and growth of the Bishop. I myself have spoken of its priority in
conformity with the requirements of the Church's life and the call of the Holy
Spirit, who in these years has made evident to everyone the primacy of grace,
the widespread desire for spirituality and the urgent need for a witness of
The call for spirituality arises from a consideration of the work of the Holy
Spirit in salvation history, where his presence is active and dynamic, prophetic
and missionary. The gift of the fullness of the Holy Spirit, which the Bishop
receives at his episcopal ordination, is a precious and urgent call to cooperate
with the Spirit's activity in ecclesial communion and in universal mission.
Held in the wake of the Great Jubilee of 2000, the Synodal Assembly made its own
from the beginning the call to holiness of life which I set before the whole
Church: ''All pastoral initiatives must be set in relation to holiness ... Once
the Jubilee is over, we resume our normal path, but knowing that, stressing
holiness remains more than ever an urgent pastoral task''.49 An
enthusiastic acceptance of my appeal to give first place to the call to holiness
was the atmosphere in which the synodal labours took place and the environment
which, in a certain sense, unified the Fathers' interventions and reflections.
In their hearts they heard resound Saint Gregory Nazianzen's admonition: ''First
be purified and then purify others, first allow yourself to be instructed by
wisdom and then instruct others, first become light and then enlighten others,
first draw close to God and then guide others to him, first be holy yourself and
then make others holy''.50
For this reason frequent appeals were heard during the Synodal Assembly for a
clearer specification of the properly ''episcopal'' character of the Bishop's
path to holiness. This will always be a holiness lived with his people and for
his people, in a communion which becomes a stimulus to and a mutual building up
in charity. These are not secondary or marginal demands. It is precisely the
Bishop's own spiritual life which favours the fruitfulness of his pastoral
activity. Is not the ultimate basis of all pastoral effectiveness constant
meditation on the mystery of Christ, passionate contemplation of his Face and
generous imitation of the life of the Good Shepherd? If ours is indeed a time of
continual movement and even at times of frenzied ''doing for the sake of
doing'', then the Bishop must be the first to show by the example of his own
life the need to re-establish the primacy of ''being'' over ''doing'' and, more
importantly, the primacy of grace, which, in the Christian vision of
life, remains the essential principle for any ''planning'' of pastoral ministry.51
The Bishop's spiritual journey
13. A Bishop can be considered a genuine minister of communion and hope for
God's holy people only when he walks in the presence of the Lord. It is not
possible to be a servant of others unless one is first a ''servant of God''. And
one can only be a servant of God if one is a ''man of God''. For this reason I
stated in my homily at the beginning of the Synod: ''The pastor must be a man of
God; his existence and his ministry are entirely under his divine glory and from
the supereminent mystery of God they derive their light and vigour''.52
For Bishops the call to holiness is inherent in the sacramental event that
stands at the origin of their ministry, that is, their episcopal ordination. The
ancient Euchology of Serapion formulates the ritual invocation of the
consecration thus: ''God of truth, make thy servant a living Bishop, a holy
Bishop in the succession of the holy Apostles''.53 Since episcopal
ordination does not infuse the perfection of the virtues, ''the Bishop is called
to pursue his path of perfection with greater intensity so as to attain to the
stature of Christ, the perfect Man''.54
The Christological and Trinitarian character of his mystery and ministry demands
of the Bishop a journey of holiness which consists in a progressive advance
towards an ever more profound spiritual and apostolic maturity marked by the
primacy of pastoral charity. This journey is obviously experienced together with
his people, along a path which is at once personal and communitarian, like the
life of the Church itself. Along this path, however, the Bishop becomes, in
intimate communion with Christ and attentive docility to the Holy Spirit, a
witness, a model, and a source of encouragement and help. This same idea is
expressed by canon law: ''Mindful that he is bound to give an example of
holiness, charity, humility and simplicity of life, the Diocesan Bishop is to
seek in every way to promote the holiness of Christ's faithful according to the
special vocation of each. Since he is the principal dispenser of the mysteries
of God, he is to strive constantly that the faithful entrusted to his care may
grow in grace through the celebration of the sacraments, and may know and live
the Paschal mystery''.55
The spiritual journey of the Bishop, like that of every Christian, is rooted in
the sacramental grace of Baptism and Confirmation. He shares this grace in
common with all the faithful since, as the Second Vatican Council notes, ''all
the faithful of whatever condition or rank are called to the fullness of
Christian life and to the perfection of charity''.56 Here the
celebrated expression of Saint Augustine, with its rich realism and supernatural
wisdom, proves especially true: ''If I am in fear because I am for you, I am
consoled to be with you. Because for you I am a Bishop, with you I am a
Christian. The first name is one of responsibility, the second, one of grace.
The former is the name of a danger, the latter of salvation''.57
Thanks to pastoral charity, however, responsibility becomes a form of service
and peril is transformed into an opportunity for growth and maturation. The
episcopal ministry is not only a source of holiness for others, but is already a
cause of sanctification for one who allows the charity of God to pass through
his own heart and life.
The Synod Fathers presented in synthesis some of the demands of this journey.
Above all they stressed the character given in Baptism and Confirmation, which
from the beginning of our lives as Christians, through the theological virtues,
makes us capable of believing in God, hoping in him and loving him. The Holy
Spirit, in turn, infuses his gifts and fosters our growth in goodness through
the exercise of the moral virtues that concretize, also on the human level, our
spiritual life.58 By means of the Baptism he has received, the Bishop
shares, like every Christian, in that spirituality which is rooted in
incorporation in Christ and is manifested in following Christ in accordance with
the Gospel. For this reason the Bishop shares the call to holiness proper to all
the faithful. He must therefore cultivate a life of prayer and profound faith,
and put all his trust in God, offering his witness to the Gospel in docile
obedience to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, and maintaining a particular
filial devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the perfect teacher of the spiritual
The spirituality of the Bishop will thus be a spirituality of communion, lived
in harmony with the other baptized faithful who with him are children of one
Father in heaven and one Mother on earth, Holy Church. Like all believers in
Christ, he needs to nourish his spiritual life with the living and effective
word of the Gospel and with the living bread of the Holy Eucharist, the food of
eternal life. Because of his human frailty the Bishop is also called to have
frequent and regular recourse to the sacrament of Penance, in order to obtain
the gift of that mercy of which he himself has been made a minister. Mindful,
therefore, of his human weaknesses and sins, each Bishop, along with his
priests, personally experiences the sacrament of Reconciliation as a profound
need and as a grace to be received ever anew, and thus renews his own commitment
to holiness in the exercise of his ministry. In this way he also gives visible
expression to the mystery of a Church which is constitutively holy, yet also
made up of sinners in need of forgiveness.
Like all priests and, obviously, in special communion with the priests of his
diocesan presbyterate, the Bishop will strive to progress along a specific path
of holiness. He is also called to holiness by a new title arising from Holy
Orders. The Bishop thus lives by faith, hope and love, inasmuch as he is a
minister of the Lord's word and of the sanctification and spiritual advancement
of the People of God. He must be holy because he must serve the Church as
teacher, sanctifier and guide. As such, he must also love the Church deeply and
fervently. Each Bishop is configured to Christ in order to love the Church with
the love of Christ the Bridegroom, and in order to be in the Church a minister
of her unity, enabling her to become ''a people gathered by the unity of the
Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit''.60
The specific spirituality of the Bishop, as the Synod Fathers repeatedly
emphasized, is further enriched by the bestowal of that grace inherent in the
fullness of the priesthood which is given to him at the moment of his
ordination. As a pastor of the flock and servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ
in hope, the Bishop must become as it were a transparent reflection of the very
person of Christ, the Supreme Pastor. In the Roman Pontifical this requirement
is explicitly mentioned: ''Receive the miter, and may the splendour of holiness
shine forth in you, so that when the Chief Shepherd appears, you may deserve to
receive from him an unfading crown of glory''.61
Hence, the Bishop constantly needs the grace of God that strengthens and
perfects his human nature. He can say with the Apostle Paul: ''Our sole credit
is from God who has made us qualified ministers of a new covenant'' (2 Cor
3:5-6). It needs to be emphasized that the apostolic ministry is a source of
spirituality for the Bishop, who should derive from it all the spiritual
resources which will make him grow in holiness and enable him to discover the
workings of the Holy Spirit in the People of God entrusted to his pastoral care.62
The spiritual journey of the Bishop coincides, from this perspective, with that
pastoral charity which must rightly be considered the soul of his apostolate, as
it is of the apostolate of priests and deacons. Here it is not only a matter of
an existentia but indeed of a pro-existentia, that is to say, of a
way of living inspired by the supreme model of Christ the Lord and which is
spent totally in worship of the Father and in service of neighbour. The Second
Vatican Council rightly states that pastors, in the image of Christ, must carry
out their ministry with holiness and zeal, with humility and fortitude, ''which,
fulfilled in this way, will be for them an excellent means of sanctification''.63
No Bishop can fail to realize that the summit of Christian holiness is the
crucified Christ in his supreme self-oblation to the Father and to his brothers
and sisters in the Holy Spirit. For this reason configuration to Christ and a
share in his sufferings (cf. 1 Pet 4:15) becomes the royal road of the
Bishop's holiness in the midst of his people.
Mary, Mother of Hope and teacher of the spiritual life
14. The Bishop will also find support for his spiritual life in the maternal
presence of the Virgin Mary, Mater spei et spes nostra, as the Church
invokes her. The Bishop will therefore nourish an authentic and filial devotion
to Mary, and feel himself called to make her fiat his own,
re-experiencing and re-appropriating each day Jesus' entrusting of Mary at the
foot of the Cross to the Beloved Disciple, and of the Beloved Disciple to Mary
(cf. Jn 19:26-27). The Bishop is also called to reflect the unanimous and
persevering prayer of Christ's disciples and Apostles with his Mother in
preparation for Pentecost. This icon of the nascent Church manifests the
indissoluble bond uniting Mary and the successors of the Apostles (cf. Acts
The holy Mother of God will consequently be the Bishop's teacher in listening to
the word of God and promptly putting it into practice, as a faithful disciple of
the one Teacher, in firm faith, confident hope and ardent charity. As Mary was
the ''memory'' of the incarnation of the Word in the first Christian community,
so the Bishop must preserve and pass on the living Tradition of the Church, in
communion with all the other Bishops, in union with, and under the authority of,
the Successor of Peter.
The Bishop's solid Marian devotion will be constantly related to the liturgy,
where the Blessed Virgin is particularly present in the celebration of the
mysteries of salvation and serves as a model of docility and prayer, of
spiritual oblation and motherhood for the whole Church. Indeed, it will be the
Bishop's responsibility to ensure that the liturgy always appears ''as an
'exemplary form', a source of inspiration, a constant point of reference and the
ultimate goal'' for the Marian piety of the People of God.64 While
holding to this principle, the Bishop will also nourish his personal and
communitarian Marian devotion by devotional practices approved and recommended
by the Church, especially by the recitation of that compendium of the Gospel
which is the Holy Rosary. Being himself completely familiar with this prayer,
completely centred as it is on the contemplation of the saving events of
Christ's life with which his holy Mother was closely associated, every Bishop is
also called to promote diligently its recitation.65
Entrusting oneself to the word
15. The assembly of the Synod of Bishops indicated several indispensable means
for the sustenance and progress of the spiritual life.66 First among
these is reading and meditating on the word of God. Every Bishop should always
commend himself and feel commended ''to the Lord and to the word of his grace,
which is able to build up and give the inheritance among all those who are
sanctified'' (cf. Acts 20:32). Before becoming one who hands on the word,
the Bishop, together with his priests and indeed like every member of the
faithful and like the Church herself,67 must be a hearer of the word.
He should live ''within'' the word and allow himself to be protected and
nourished by it, as if by a mother's womb. With Saint Ignatius of Antioch the
Bishop must say: ''I commend myself to the Gospel as to the flesh of Christ''.68
Each Bishop will thus take to heart the well-known admonition of Saint Jerome
quoted by the Second Vatican Council: ''Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance
of Christ''.69 There can be no primacy of holiness without attentive
listening to the Word of God, which is the guide and nourishment of all
To commend oneself to the word of God and to keep it, like the Virgin Mary,
Virgo audiens,70 requires the practice of certain aids constantly
proposed by the Church's tradition and spiritual experience. These include,
first of all, frequent personal reading and regular study of Sacred Scripture. A
Bishop would try in vain to preach the word to others if he did not first listen
to it within himself.71 Without frequent contact with Sacred
Scripture a Bishop would hardly be a credible minister of hope, since, as Saint
Paul reminds us, it is ''from the lessons of patience and the words of
encouragement in the Scriptures that we can derive hope'' (cf. Rom 15:4).
The words of Origen remain ever applicable: ''These are the two activities of
the Bishop: learning from God by reading the divine Scriptures and meditating on
them frequently, and teaching the people. But let him teach the things that he
himself has learned from God''.72
The Synod recalled the importance of reading (lectio) and meditation (meditatio)
on the word of God in the life of pastors and in their ministry of service to
the community. As I wrote in my Apostolic Letter
Novo Millennio Ineunte,
''it is especially necessary that listening to the word of God should become a
life-giving encounter, in the ancient and ever valid tradition of lectio
divina, which draws from the biblical text the living word which questions,
directs and shapes our lives''.73 In the realm of meditation and
lectio, the heart which has already received the word opens itself to the
contemplation of God's work and, consequently, to a conversion of thoughts and
life to him, accompanied by a heartfelt request for his forgiveness and grace.
Drawing nourishment from the Eucharist
16. Just as the Paschal Mystery stands at the centre of the life and mission of
the Good Shepherd, so too the Eucharist stands at the centre of the life and
mission of the Bishop, as of every priest.
At the daily celebration of Holy Mass, the Bishop offers himself together with
Christ. When this celebration takes place in the cathedral or in other churches,
especially parish churches, with the presence and the active participation of
the faithful, the Bishop stands before all as Sacerdos et Pontifex, since
he acts in the person of Christ and in the power of his Spirit, and as
hiereus, the holy priest, devoted to enacting the sacred mysteries of the
altar, which he proclaims and explains by his preaching.74
The Bishop's love of the Holy Eucharist is also expressed when in the course of
the day he devotes a fair part of his time to adoration before the tabernacle.
Here the Bishop opens his heart to the Lord, allowing it to be filled and shaped
by the love poured forth from the Cross by the great Shepherd of the sheep, who
shed his blood and gave his life for them. To him the Bishop raises his prayer
in constant intercession for the sheep entrusted to his care.
Prayer and the Liturgy of the Hours
17. A second means (for the advancement of the Bishop's spiritual life)
mentioned by the Synod Fathers is prayer, especially the prayer raised to the
Lord in the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours, which remains the
distinctive prayer of the Christian community, carried out in the name of Christ
and under the guidance of the Spirit.
Prayer is itself a particular duty for a Bishop, and for all those who ''have
received the gift of a vocation to the specially consecrated life: of its
nature, their consecration makes them more open to the experience of
contemplation''.75 The Bishop himself cannot forget that he is a
successor of those Apostles who were appointed by Christ above all ''to be with
him'' (Mk 3:14), and who at the beginning of their mission made a solemn
declaration which is a programme of life: ''We will devote ourselves to prayer
and to the ministry of the word'' (Acts 6:4). The Bishop will be a true
teacher of prayer for the faithful only if he can draw upon his own personal
experience of dialogue with God. He must be able to turn to God continually with
the words of the Psalmist: ''I hope in your word'' (Ps 119:114). From
prayer he will gain that hope which he must in turn pass on to the faithful.
Prayer is the privileged forum where hope finds expression and nourishment,
since it is, in the words of Saint Thomas Aquinas, the ''interpreter of hope''.76
The Bishop's personal prayer will be particularly and typically ''apostolic,''
in the sense that it is presented to the Father as intercession for all the
needs of the people entrusted to his care. In the Roman Pontifical this is the
final commitment demanded of the candidate elected to the episcopacy before the
rite of the imposition of hands: ''Are you resolved to pray without ceasing for
the People of God, and to carry out the office of high priest without
reproach?''.77 The Bishop prays in a very special way for the
holiness of his priests, for vocations to the ordained ministry and the
consecrated life, so that missionary and apostolic commitment will be all the
more ardent in the Church..
With regard to the Liturgy of the Hours, which is meant to consecrate and
guide the course of the entire day through the praise of God, we cannot fail to
recall the impressive statement of the Second Vatican Council: ''When this
wonderful song of praise is worthily rendered by priests and others who are
deputed for this purpose by Church ordinance, or by the faithful praying
together with the priest in an approved form, then it is truly the voice of the
Bride addressing her Bridegroom; it is the very prayer which Christ himself,
together with his Body, addresses to the Father. Hence, all who perform this
service are not only fulfilling a duty of the Church, but also are sharing in
the greatest honour accorded to Christ's Spouse, for by offering these praises
to God they are standing before God's throne in the name of the Church, their
Mother''.78 Writing on the prayer of the Divine Office, my
predecessor of venerable memory Pope Paul VI, called it ''the prayer of the
local Church'', which expresses ''the true nature of the praying Church''.79
The consecratio temporis, effected by the Liturgy of the Hours,
brings about that laus perennis which is an anticipation and
prefiguration of the heavenly liturgy and a bond of union with the angels and
saints who glorify God's name throughout eternity. The Bishop will become, and
will appear, as a man of hope to the extent that he enters into the
eschatological dynamism of praying the Psalter. The Psalms resound with the
voice of the Bride (vox sponsae) as she calls upon her Bridegroom.
Every Bishop therefore prays with his people and for his people. He himself is
supported and assisted by the prayer of his faithful: priests, deacons,
consecrated persons and the lay people of all ages. In their midst the Bishop is
a teacher and a promoter of prayer. He not only hands down what he himself has
contemplated, but he opens to Christians the way of contemplation itself. The
well-known motto contemplata aliis tradere thus becomes
contemplationem aliis tradere.
The way of the evangelical counsels and the Beatitudes
18. To all his disciples, and especially to those who while still on this earth
wish to follow him more closely like the Apostles, the Lord proposes the way of
the evangelical counsels. In addition to being a gift of the Holy Trinity to the
Church, the counsels are a reflection of the life of the Trinity in each
believer.80 This is especially the case in the Bishop, who, as a
successor of the Apostles, is called to follow Christ along the path leading to
the perfection of charity. For this reason he is consecrated, even as Jesus was
consecrated. The Bishop's life is radically dependent on Christ and a completely
transparent image of Christ before the Church and the world. The life of the
Bishop must radiate the life of Christ and consequently Christ's own obedience
to the Father, even unto death, death on a Cross (cf. Phil 2:8), his
chaste and virginal love, and his poverty which is absolute detachment from all
In this way the Bishops can lead by their example not only those members of the
Church who are called to follow Christ in the consecrated life but also priests,
to whom the radicalism of holiness in accordance with the spirit of the
evangelical counsels is also proposed. Indeed, this radicalism is incumbent on
all the faithful, including lay people, for it is ''a fundamental, undeniable
demand flowing from the call of Christ to follow and imitate him by virtue of
the intimate communion of life with him brought about by the Spirit''.81
The faithful ought to be able to contemplate on the face of their Bishop the
grace-given qualities which in the various Beatitudes make up the self-portrait
of Christ: the face of poverty, meekness and the thirst for righteousness; the
merciful face of the Father and of the peaceful and peacegiving man; the pure
face of one who constantly looks to God alone. The faithful should also be able
to see in their Bishop the face of one who relives Jesus' own compassion for the
afflicted and, today as much as in the past, the face filled with strength and
interior joy of one persecuted for the truth of the Gospel.
The virtue of obedience
19. By taking on these very human features of Jesus, the Bishop also becomes the
model and promoter of a spirituality of communion, carefully and vigilantly
working to build up the Church, so that all that he says and does will reflect a
common filial submission in Christ and in the Spirit to the loving plan of the
Father. As a teacher of holiness and minister of the sanctification of his
people, the Bishop is called to carry out faithfully the will of the Father. The
Bishop's obedience must be lived according to the example – for it could hardly
be otherwise – of the obedience of Christ himself, who said that he came down
from heaven not to do his own will, but rather the will of the One who sent him
(cf. Jn 6:38; 8:29; Phil 2:7-8).
Walking in the footsteps of Christ, the Bishop is obedient to the Gospel and the
Church's Tradition; he is able to read the signs of the times and to recognize
the voice of the Holy Spirit in the Petrine ministry and in episcopal
collegiality. In my Apostolic Exhortation
Pastores Dabo Vobis I stressed
the apostolic, communitarian and pastoral character of priestly obedience.82
These hallmarks naturally appear even more markedly in the obedience of the
Bishop. The fullness of the Sacrament of Holy Orders which he has received puts
him in a special relationship with the Successor of Peter, with the members of
the College of Bishops and with his own particular Church. He must feel
committed to living intensely this relationship with the Pope and his brother
Bishops in a close bond of unity and cooperation, and thus conforming to the
divine plan which willed to unite the Apostles inseparably around Peter. This
hierarchical communion of the Bishop with the Supreme Pontiff strengthens his
ability to make present, by virtue of the Order he has received, Jesus Christ,
the invisible Head of the whole Church.
The apostolic aspect of obedience is necessarily linked also to its
communitarian aspect, since the episcopate is by its nature ''one and
indivisible”.83 As a result of this communal dimension, the Bishop is
called to live out his obedience by overcoming all temptations to individualism
and by taking upon himself, within the wider context of the mission of the
College of Bishops, concern for the good of the whole Church.
As a model of attentive listening, the Bishop will also strive to understand,
through prayer and discernment, the will of God in what the Spirit is saying to
the Church. Through the evangelical exercise of his authority, he will be ready
to dialogue with his co-workers and the faithful in order to build effective
mutual understanding.84 This will enable him to show a pastoral
appreciation of the dignity and responsibility of each member of the People of
God, fostering in a balanced and serene way their spirit of initiative. The
faithful should be helped to grow towards a responsible obedience which will
enable them to be actively engaged on the pastoral plane.85 Here the
exhortation which Saint Ignatius of Antioch addressed to Polycarp remains
timely: ''Let nothing be done without your consent, but do nothing yourself
without the consent of God''.86
The spirit and practice of poverty in Bishops
20. The Synod Fathers, as a sign of collegial unity, responded to the appeal
which I made at the opening Mass of the Synod that the evangelical Beatitude of
poverty should be considered an indispensable condition for a fruitful episcopal
ministry in present-day circumstances. Here too, amid the assembly of Bishops
there stood out the figure of Christ the Lord, ''who carried out the work of
redemption in poverty and under oppression'', and who invites the Church, and
above all her pastors, ''to follow the same path in communicating to humanity
the fruits of salvation''.87
Consequently, the Bishop who wishes to be an authentic witness and minister of
the Gospel of hope must be a vir pauper. This is demanded by the witness
he is called to bear to Christ, who was himself poor. It is also demanded by the
Church's concern for the poor, who must be the object of a preferential option.
The Bishop's decision to carry out his ministry in poverty contributes
decisively to making the Church the ''home of the poor''.
This decision also provides the Bishop with inner freedom in the exercise of his
ministry and enables him to communicate effectively the fruits of salvation.
Episcopal authority must be exercised with untiring generosity and inexhaustible
liberality. On the Bishop's part, this calls for complete trust in the
providence of the heavenly Father, an open-hearted communion of goods, an
austere way of life and continuous personal conversion. Only in this way will he
be able to share in the struggles and sufferings of the People of God, whom he
is called not only to lead and nourish but with whom he must show fraternal
solidarity, sharing their problems and helping to build their hope.
He will carry out this service effectively if his own life is simple, sober and
at the same time active and generous, and if it places those considered least
important in our society not on the fringes but rather at the centre of the
Christian community.88 Almost without realizing it, he will foster a
''creativity in charity'' which will bear fruit not simply in the efficiency of
the assistance offered but also in an ability to live in a spirit of fraternal
sharing. In the Church of the Apostles, as the Book of Acts clearly witnesses,
the poverty of some members of the community called forth the solidarity of
others, with the amazing result that ''there was not a needy person among them''
(4:34). The Church needs to bear witness to this prophecy before a world
assailed by the problems of hunger and inequality between peoples. In this
perspective of sharing and of simplicity of life, the Bishop will administer the
goods of the Church like the ''good head of a household'', and be careful to
ensure that they are used for the Church's own specific ends: the worship of
God, the support of her ministers, the works of the apostolate and initiatives
of charity towards the poor.
The title procurator pauperum has always been applied to the Church's
pastors. This must also be the case today, so that the Gospel of Jesus Christ
can become present and be heard as a source of hope for all, but especially for
those who can expect from God alone a more dignified life and a better future.
Encouraged by the example of their pastors, the Church and the Churches must
practise that ''preferential option for the poor'' which I have indicated as
programmatic for the third millennium.89
With chastity at the service of a Church which reflects the purity of Christ
21. ''Receive this ring, the seal of fidelity: adorned with undefiled faith,
preserve unblemished the Bride of God, the holy Church''. These words of the
Roman Pontifical 90 urge the Bishop to realize that he is committed
to mirroring the virginal love of Christ for all his faithful ones. He is called
above all to foster relationships inspired by the respect and esteem befitting a
family where love flourishes, in accordance with the exhortation of the Apostle
Peter: ''Love one another deeply, from the heart, for you have been born again,
not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word
of God (1 Pet 1:22-23)''.
While exhorting Christians by his example and words to offer their bodies as a
living and holy sacrifice pleasing to God (cf. Rom 12:1), the Bishop must
remind everyone that ''the form of this world is passing away'' (1 Cor
7:31), and that it is our duty to ''wait in joyful hope'' for Christ's return in
glory (cf. Tit 2:13). In his pastoral concern he should be especially
close with paternal affection to all who have embraced the religious life in the
profession of the evangelical counsels and who offer their valuable service to
the Church. He will support and encourage priests, who, called by God's grace,
have freely assumed the commitment of celibacy for the Kingdom of Heaven, and
remind himself and them of the evangelical and spiritual grounds of this choice,
so important for the service of the People of God. In the reality of the Church
and the world today, the witness of chaste love is, on the one hand, a form of
spiritual therapy for humanity and, on the other, a form of protest against the
idolatry of instinct.
In the present social context, the Bishop needs to remain particularly close to
his flock and above all to his priests, showing a father's concern for their
ascetic and spiritual difficulties, and providing them with appropriate support
to encourage them in fidelity to their vocation and to the requirements of an
exemplary life in the exercise of the ministry. In cases of grave lapses, and
even more of crimes which do damage to the very witness of the Gospel,
especially when these involve the Church's ministers, the Bishop must be firm
and decisive, just and impartial. He is bound to intervene in a timely manner,
according to the established canonical norms, for the correction and spiritual
good of the sacred minister, for the reparation of scandal and the restoration
of justice, and for all that is required for the protection and assistance of
By his words and example, and in his vigilance and paternal intervention, the
Bishop fulfils his duty to offer the world the reality of a Church which is holy
and chaste, in her ministers and in her faithful. When he does so, he walks as a
pastor at the head of his flock, as did Christ the Bridegroom, who gave his life
for us and who left to all the example of a love which is transparent and
virginal, and therefore fruitful and universal.
The proponent of a spirituality of communion and mission
22. In my Apostolic Letter
Novo Millennio Ineunte I pointed out the need
to ''make the Church the home and the school of communion''.91 This
remark had a vast resonance and was taken up by the Synodal Assembly. Obviously
the Bishop, in his own spiritual journey, has the primary duty of promoting and
encouraging a spirituality of communion, and tirelessly working to make it a
basic educational principle wherever human and Christian formation takes place:
in parishes, Catholic associations, ecclesial movements, Catholic schools and
youth groups. The Bishop will be particularly concerned to ensure that the
spirituality of communion takes root and grows wherever future priests are
trained, that is to say, in seminaries and in religious novitiates, in religious
houses, in institutes and faculties of theology.
In that same Apostolic Letter I indicated the broad outlines of this promotion
of a spirituality of communion. Here it will suffice to add that a Bishop must
encourage this spirituality especially among his presbyterate, as well as among
deacons and men and women religious. He will do so in personal dialogue and
encounters, but also in community meetings. To this end he will make an effort
to provide in his own particular Church special occasions which facilitate
listening, especially to the Spirit ''who speaks to the Churches'' (Acts
2:7, 11 et al.). Examples of the latter would be retreats, spiritual exercises
and days of spirituality, and also a prudent use of new communications media,
should this prove useful and effective.
For a Bishop, fostering a spirituality of communion also means nurturing his
communion with the Roman Pontiff and with his brother Bishops, especially within
the same Episcopal Conference and Ecclesiastical Province. Here too, as an
important means of overcoming the risk of a sense of isolation and
discouragement in the face of the immensity of the problems and the time spent
in dealing with them, the Bishop, in addition to prayer, should readily avail
himself of the friendship and fraternal communion of his brother Bishops.
Communion, in its Trinitarian source and model, is always expressed in mission.
Mission is the fruit and the logical consequence of communion. The dynamic
process of communion is favoured by openness to the horizons and demands of
mission, always ensuring the witness of unity so that the world may believe and
making ever greater room for love, so that all people may attain to the
Trinitarian unity from which they have come forth and to which they are
destined. The more intense communion is, the more mission is fostered,
especially when it is lived out in the poverty of love, which is the ability to
go forth to meet any person or group or culture with the power of the Cross, our
spes unica and the supreme witness to the love of God, which is also
manifested as a universal love of our brothers and sisters.
A journey undertaken in everyday life
23. Spiritual realism enables us to see that the Bishop is called to live out
his vocation to holiness in a context of difficulties within and without, amid
his own weaknesses and those of others, in daily contingencies and personal and
institutional problems. This is a constant feature of the life of pastors, as
Saint Gregory the Great acknowledged when he admitted with regret: ''After
having laid upon my heart the burden of the pastoral office, my spirit has
become incapable of frequent recollection, because it remains divided among many
things. I am obliged to judge the cases of Churches and monasteries; often I am
called to involve myself in the lives and actions of individuals ... And so with
my mind pulled and torn, forced to think of so many things, when can it
recollect itself and concentrate totally on preaching, without withdrawing from
the ministry of proclaiming the word? ... The life of the watchman must always
be on high and on guard''.92
In order to counterbalance the centrifugal impulses which would disperse his
inner unity, the Bishop needs to cultivate a serene lifestyle capable of
ensuring his mental, emotional and affective equilibrium and enabling him to be
open to individuals and communities, and to their needs, as one who truly shares
in their different situations, their joys and their sorrows. Caring for one's
own health in its various aspects is also for the Bishop an act of love for his
faithful and a pledge of greater openness and docility to the prompting of the
Spirit. Hence, the advice which Saint Charles Borromeo, himself an outstanding
pastor, proposed in the last of his Synods: ''Do you have the care of souls? Do
not on this account neglect the care of yourself, and do not give yourself to
others in such a way that nothing of you remains for yourself. You must
certainly keep in mind the souls of which you are pastor, but do not forget
The Bishop will therefore be concerned to have a balanced approach to his many
commitments, maintaining a harmony between them: the celebration of the divine
mysteries and personal prayer, private study and pastoral planning, recollection
and necessary rest. Supported by these aids to the spiritual life, he will find
peace of heart and experience profound communion with the Holy Trinity who chose
and consecrated him. With God's unfailing grace, he will carry out his daily
ministry as a witness to hope, attentive to the needs of the Church and the
The permanent formation of Bishops
24. The Bishop's untiring commitment to the pursuit of holiness through a
Christocentric and ecclesial spirituality was closely linked in the Synodal
Assembly to his urgent need for permanent formation. As was stressed in previous
Synods and reaffirmed in the successive Apostolic Exhortations
Laici, Pastores Dabo Vobis and
Vita Consecrata, permanent
formation is necessary for all the faithful and should be considered
particularly necessary for the Bishop, who bears personal responsibility for the
harmonious progress of all in the Church.
For the Bishop, as for priests and religious, permanent formation is an
intrinsic requirement of his vocation and mission. Through permanent formation
he is able to discern the new calls by which God clarifies the initial call and
applies it to different situations. The Apostle Peter, after hearing the words
''follow me'' at his first meeting with Christ (cf. Mt 4:19), heard this
command again from the Risen One, who before leaving the earth foretold to him
the trials and tribulations of his future ministry and then added: ''You follow
me'' (cf. Jn 21:22). ''Consequently, there is a 'follow me' which
accompanies the Apostle's whole life and mission. It is a 'follow me' in line
with the call and the demand of faithfulness unto death, a 'follow me' which can
signify a sequela Christi to the point of total self-giving in
martyrdom''.94 Clearly it is not simply a matter of setting up
adequate programmes of continuing education aimed at providing a realistic
acquaintance with the situation of the Church and the world, which would then
enable pastors to deal with contemporary issues with an open mind and a
compassionate heart. This is in itself a good reason for permanent formation,
but there are also anthropological reasons, based on the fact that life itself
is a continuing journey towards maturity, as well as theological reasons, deeply
connected to the sacrament once received: the Bishop in fact must ''safeguard
with vigilant love the 'mystery' which he bears within his heart for the good of
the Church and mankind''.95
Periodic updating, especially on certain more important subjects, calls for
longer periods for listening, fellowship and dialogue with experts – Bishops,
priests, religious men and women, and lay people – in an exchange of pastoral
experiences, sound doctrine and spiritual resources which will ensure genuine
personal enrichment. To this end the Synod Fathers emphasized the usefulness of
special courses of formation for Bishops, like the annual sessions sponsored by
the Congregation for Bishops or by the Congregation for the Evangelization of
Peoples for recently ordained Bishops. Likewise, there was a call to make
available short courses of formation or days of study and updating, as well as
programmes of spiritual exercises for Bishops, organized by Patriarchal Synods,
Episcopal Conferences at the regional and national levels and also by the
continental Assemblies of Bishops.
It would also be appropriate for the Officers of the Episcopal Conference to
take on the responsibility of providing for the preparation and implementation
of such programmes of permanent formation, and to encourage Bishops to take part
in these courses, so as to build greater communion among them and to ensure more
effective pastoral care in the individual Dioceses.96
It is in any case evident that, like the life of the Church itself, pastoral
styles and initiatives and forms of episcopal ministry are evolving. For this
reason too, updating is needed, in conformity with the norms of the Code of
Canon Law and in view of the new challenges and commitments of the Church in
society. In this context the Synodal Assembly proposed a revision of the
Directory Ecclesiae Imago, issued by the Congregation for Bishops on 22
February 1973, and its adaptation to the needs of the times and the changes
which have taken place in the Church and pastoral life.97
The example of sainted Bishops
25. In their life and ministry, in their spiritual journey and their efforts to
carry out their pastoral activity, Bishops have always found encouragement in
the lives of the saints who were themselves pastors. In my homily at the
concluding Eucharistic celebration of the Synod, I held up the example of the
holy pastors canonized during the last century as a testimony to a grace of the
Holy Spirit which has never been lacking and will never be lacking in the
Throughout the history of the Church, from the Apostles onwards, there has been
an extraordinary number of pastors whose teaching and holiness are capable of
giving light and direction for the spiritual journey of Bishops in the third
millennium. The glorious witness of the great pastors of the early centuries of
the Church, of the founders of particular Churches, of the confessors and
martyrs who in times of persecution gave their life for Christ, remains as a
beacon to which the Bishops of our time can refer and from which they can derive
guidance and encouragement in their service to the Gospel.
Many of those Bishops were exemplary in the practice of the virtue of hope, when
in difficult times they revived the spirits of their people, rebuilt churches
after times of persecution or calamity, constructed hospices for pilgrims and
the poor, and opened hospitals to care for the sick and the elderly. Many others
were enlightened leaders who blazed new trails for their people. In times of
difficulty, with their gaze firmly fixed on the crucified and risen Christ, our
hope, they reacted positively and creatively to the challenges of the moment. At
the beginning of the third millennium, some of those pastors are still among us,
and they have a story to tell, a story of faith firmly anchored to the Cross.
They are pastors who have a sense of people's aspirations and can take them up,
purify them and interpret them in the light of the Gospel, and for this reason
they too have a future to build, together with the people entrusted to their
Consequently, each particular Church should be concerned to celebrate its own
saints who were Bishops and also to remember those pastors who by virtue of
their holy lives and enlightened teachings handed down to their people a
particular legacy of admiration and affection. They are the spiritual sentinels
who from heaven guide the way of the pilgrim Church through time. In order to
keep ever alive the memory of those faithful Bishops who were outstanding in the
exercise of their ministry, the Synodal Assembly recommended that particular
Churches or, when suitable, the Bishops' Conferences, should make the lives of
these Bishops known to the faithful through updated biographies and, when the
case warrants, consider the possibility of introducing their cause for
Today too, the testimony of a fully realized spiritual and apostolic life
remains the greatest proof of the power of the Gospel to transform individuals
and communities, thus enabling God's own holiness to break into the world and
history. Here we find yet another reason for hope, especially for the younger
generation, which looks to the Church for exciting ideas and a vision capable of
inspiring their efforts to renew in Christ the society of our time.
TEACHER OF THE FAITH
AND HERALD OF THE WORD
''Go into all the world and preach the Gospel...”
(Mk 16, 15)
26. The risen Jesus entrusted to his Apostles the mission of ''making
disciples'' of all nations, teaching them to observe all that he himself had
commanded. The task of proclaiming the Gospel to the whole world has thus been
solemnly entrusted to the Church, the community of the disciples of the
crucified and risen Lord. It is a task which will continue until the end of
time. From the beginning, this mission of evangelization has been an integral
part of the Church's identity. The Apostle Paul was well aware of this when he
wrote: ''If I preach the Gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For
necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel! (1 Cor
If the duty of proclaiming the Gospel is incumbent upon the whole Church and
each of her children, it is particularly so upon Bishops, who on the day of
their sacred ordination, which places them in apostolic succession, assume as
one of their principal responsibilities the proclamation of the Gospel; ''with
the courage imparted by the Spirit, they are to call people to faith and
strengthen them in living faith''.100
The Bishop's work of evangelization, aimed at leading men and women to faith or
to strengthening the faith within them, is an outstanding manifestation of his
spiritual fatherhood. He can thus repeat with Paul: ''Though you have countless
guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in
Christ Jesus through the Gospel'' (1 Cor 4:15). Precisely because of this
constant process of begetting new life in the Spirit, the episcopal ministry
appears in the world as a sign of hope for every individual and people.
The Synod Fathers rightly stated that the proclamation of Christ always takes
first place and that the Bishop is the first preacher of the Gospel by his words
and by the witness of his life. He must be aware of the challenges of the
present hour and have the courage to face them. All Bishops, as ministers of
truth, will carry out this task with strength and trust.101
Christ at the heart of the Gospel and of humanity
27. The proclamation of the Gospel emerged as a prominent theme in the
interventions of the Synod Fathers, who on several occasions and in a wide
variety of ways stated that the living centre of the preaching of the Gospel is
Christ, crucified and risen for the salvation of all peoples.102
Christ is in fact the heart of evangelization and, as I myself have often
insisted, is the very programme of the new evangelization, which ''ultimately
has its centre in Christ himself, who is to be known, loved and imitated, so
that in him we may live the life of the Trinity, and with him transform history
until its fulfilment in the heavenly Jerusalem. This is a programme which does
not change with shifts of times and cultures, even though it takes account of
time and culture for the sake of true dialogue and effective communication. This
programme for all times is our programme for the Third Millennium''.103
From Christ, the heart of the Gospel, all the other truths of faith are derived,
and hope shines forth for all humanity. Christ is the light which enlightens
everyone, and all those reborn in him receive the first fruits of the Spirit,
which enable them to fulfil the new law of love.104
By virtue of his apostolic mission the Bishop is enabled to lead his people to
the heart of the mystery of faith, where they will be able to encounter the
living person of Jesus Christ. In this way they will come to understand that all
Christian experience has its source and its unfailing point of reference in the
Paschal mystery of Jesus, the victor over sin and death.105
The proclamation of the Lord's death and Resurrection thus includes ''the
prophetic proclamation of a hereafter, which is man's deepest and definitive
calling, in continuity and discontinuity with his present situation: beyond time
and history, beyond the reality of this world, which is passing away ...
Evangelization thus includes the preaching of hope in the promises made by God
in the new Covenant in Jesus Christ''.106
The Bishop, hearer and guardian of the word
28. The Second Vatican Council, advancing along the path indicated by the
Church's tradition, explains that the mission of teaching proper to Bishops
consists in reverently safeguarding and courageously proclaiming the faith.107
Here we see all the rich meaning of the gesture found in the Roman rite of
episcopal ordination, when the open Book of the Gospels is placed on the head of
the Bishop-elect. This gesture indicates, on the one hand, that the word
embraces and watches over the Bishop's ministry and, on the other, that the
Bishop's life is to be completely submitted to the word of God in his daily
commitment of preaching the Gospel in all patience and sound doctrine (cf. 2
Tim 4). The Synod Fathers often stated that the Bishop is one who keeps the
word of God with love and courageously defends it as he testifies to its message
of salvation. The meaning of the episcopal munus docendi is rooted in the
very nature of what must be preserved, that is, the deposit of faith.
Christ our Lord in the sacred Scripture of the Old and New Testaments and in
Tradition has entrusted to his Church the one deposit of divine revelation,
which is like a mirror in which the Church during her pilgrim journey here on
earth ''contemplates God, from whom she receives everything, until such time as
she is brought home to see him face to face as he really is''.108
This has happened down the centuries until our own day: the different
communities, in welcoming the word, ever new and effective in the course of
time, have listened with docility to the voice of the Holy Spirit, pledging
themselves to make it alive, applicable and effective in different times of
history. In this way the word handed down – Tradition – has become ever more
consciously a word of life, and at the same time the task of proclaiming and
preserving it has progressively continued under the guidance and assistance of
the Spirit of Truth, as a continuous passing on of all that the Church herself
is and all that she believes.109
This Tradition, which comes from the Apostles, makes progress in the life of the
Church, as the Second Vatican Council has taught. There is likewise growth and
development in the understanding of the realities and words handed down, so that
in holding, practising and professing the faith that has been handed on, there
comes about a unique harmony between the Bishops and the faithful.110
In striving to remain faithful to the Spirit who speaks within the Church, the
faithful and the Bishops converge and create those profound bonds of faith which
represent as it were the first stage of the sensus fidei. Here it is
helpful to listen once more to the words of the Council: ''The whole body of the
faithful, who have an anointing that comes from the Holy Spirit (cf. 1 Jn
2:20,27), cannot err in matters of belief. This characteristic is shown in the
supernatural sense of the faith (sensus fidei) of the whole people, when,
'from the bishops to the last of the faithful' they manifest a universal consent
in matters of faith and morals''.111
Consequently, for every Bishop the life of the Church and life in the Church is
the condition for exercising his mission to teach. A Bishop finds his identity
and place amid the community of the Lord's disciples where he received the gift
of divine life and his first instruction in the faith. Every Bishop, especially
when he is seated in his cathedral before the faithful and exercising his role
as a teacher in the Church, must be able to repeat with Saint Augustine: ''With
respect to the place which we occupy, we are your teachers; with respect to the
one Master, we are fellow disciples with you in the same school''.112
In the Church, the school of the living God, Bishops and the faithful are all
fellow disciples, and all need to be taught by the Spirit.
Many indeed are the places from which the Spirit imparts his inner teaching:
first of all, in the heart of every person, and then in the life of the various
particular Churches, where the various needs of individuals and the various
ecclesial communities emerge and make themselves heard, not only in languages
that are known but also in those that are new and different.
The Spirit also makes himself heard as he awakens in the Church different forms
of charisms and services. For this reason too, there were frequent calls during
the Synod for Bishops to have direct and personal contact with the faithful
living in the communities entrusted to their pastoral care, following the
example of the Good Shepherd who knows his sheep and calls each by name. Indeed,
frequent meetings of the Bishop with his priests, in the first place, and then
with the deacons, consecrated persons and their communities, and with the laity,
individually and in their various forms of association, are of great importance
for the exercise of effective ministry among the People of God.
Authentic and authoritative service of the word
29. At his episcopal ordination, each Bishop received the fundamental mission of
authoritatively proclaiming the word of God. Indeed, every Bishop, by virtue of
sacred ordination, is an authentic teacher who preaches to the people entrusted
to his care the faith to be believed and to be put into practice in the moral
life. This means that Bishops are endowed with the authority of Christ himself,
and for this fundamental reason when they ''teach in communion with the Roman
Pontiff they are to be revered by all as witnesses of divine and catholic truth;
the faithful, for their part, are obliged to submit to their Bishop's decision,
made in the name of Christ, in matters of faith and morals, and to adhere to it
with a religious assent of the mind''.113 In this service of the
truth, every Bishop is placed before the community, inasmuch as he is
for the community, which is the object of his proper pastoral concern and
for which he insistently lifts up his prayer to God.
That which every Bishop has heard and received from the heart of the Church he
must then give back to his brothers and sisters, whom he must care for like the
Good Shepherd. In him the sensus fidei attains completeness. As the
Second Vatican Council teaches: ''By the sense of the faith, which is aroused
and sustained by the Spirit of truth, the People of God, under the guidance of
the magisterium to which it is faithfully obedient, receives no longer the words
of men, but truly the word of God (cf. 1 Th 2:13), it adheres
'indefectibly to the faith once for all delivered to the saints' (Jude
3). It penetrates more deeply into that same faith through right judgment, and
applies it more fully to life''.114 The word of the Bishop is thus,
within the community and before it, no longer simply his private word, but
rather the word of a pastor who strengthens the community in faith, gathers it
around the mystery of God and gives it life.
The faithful need the word of their Bishop, they need to have their faith
confirmed and purified. The Synodal Assembly for its part emphasized this need
and drew attention to several specific areas in which it is particularly felt.
One of these areas is that of the initial proclamation of the word, the
kerygma, which is always needed for bringing about the obedience of faith,
but is all the more urgent today, in times marked by indifference and by
religious ignorance on the part of many Christians.115 In the area of
catechesis too, the Bishop is clearly the pre-eminent catechist of his people.
The decisive role in this area played by so many great and saintly Bishops,
whose catechetical writings are still read with profit today, makes it clear
that it remains the Bishop's duty to be ultimately in charge of the catechesis
imparted in his Diocese. In carrying out this duty he will not fail to refer to
the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
The words which I addressed to Bishops in my Apostolic Exhortation
Tradendae remain valid: ''You have a special mission within your Churches,
you are before all others the ones primarily responsible for catechesis''.116
It is therefore the duty of every Bishop to give real priority in his particular
Church to active and effective catechesis. He must demonstrate his personal
concern through direct interventions aimed at promoting and preserving an
authentic passion for catechesis.117
Conscious, then, of his responsibility in the area of transmitting and teaching
the faith, every Bishop must ensure that a corresponding concern is shown by all
those who by their vocation and mission are called to hand down the faith. This
means priests and deacons, the faithful who have embraced the consecrated life,
fathers and mothers of families, pastoral workers and in a special way
catechists, as well as teachers of theology and teachers of the ecclesiastical
sciences and religious education.118 The Bishop will thus take care
to provide them with both initial and ongoing training.
In carrying out this duty Bishops will derive particular benefit from open
dialogue and cooperation with theologians, whose task it is to employ an
appropriate methodology in the quest for deeper knowledge of the unfathomable
richness of the mystery of Christ. Bishops will not fail to encourage and
support them and the schools or academic institutions where they work, so that
they can carry out their service to the People of God in fidelity to Tradition
and with attentiveness to changing historical circumstances.119
Whenever appropriate, Bishops must firmly defend the unity and integrity of the
faith, judging with authority what is or is not in conformity with the word of
The Synod Fathers also called the Bishops' attention to their magisterial
responsibilities in the area of morality. The rules that the Church sets forth
reflect the divine commandments, which find their crown and synthesis in the
Gospel command of love. The end to which every divine rule tends is the greater
good of human beings. The exhortation of the Book of Deuteronomy is still valid
today: ''Walk in all the way which the Lord your God has commanded you, that you
may live, and that it may go well with you'' (5:33). Nor must we forget that the
Ten Commandments have a firm foundation in human nature itself, and thus the
values which they defend have universal validity. This is particularly true of
values such as human life, which must be defended from conception until its end
in natural death; the freedom of individuals and of nations, social justice and
the structures needed to achieve it.121
Episcopal ministry for the inculturation of the Gospel
30. The evangelization of culture and the inculturation of the Gospel are an
integral part of the new evangelization and thus a specific concern of the
episcopal office. Echoing in this regard several of my own statements, the Synod
repeated: ''A faith which does not become culture is not a faith which is fully
accepted, integrated and faithfully translated into life''.122
This is, in fact, a task which is ancient yet ever new, a task which has its
origin in the mystery of the Incarnation itself and its motivation in the innate
ability of the Gospel to take root in every culture, shaping and developing it,
purifying it and opening it to the fullness of truth and life which is realized
in Jesus Christ. Great attention was paid to this theme in the course of the
continental Synods and many valuable insights emerged. I myself have dealt with
this subject on a number of occasions.
Consequently, every Bishop, taking into consideration the cultural values
present in the territory of his particular Church, should strive to ensure that
the Gospel is proclaimed in its integrity, so as to shape the hearts of men and
women and the customs of peoples. In this work of evangelization a valuable
contribution can be made by theologians and those expert in drawing upon the
cultural, artistic and historical patrimony of the Diocese: this is true for
both first evangelization and the new evangelization, and represents an
effective pastoral tool.123
Of equal importance for the proclamation of the Gospel in ''new Areopagi'' and
for the handing down of the faith are the communications media. In considering
these media the Synod Fathers encouraged Bishops to promote greater cooperation
between Episcopal Conferences, on both the national and international levels, in
order to ensure a high level of quality in the work being carried out in this
sensitive and important area of social life.124
Where the preaching of the Gospel is concerned, care must not only be shown for
the orthodoxy of its presentation but also for its incisiveness and its ability
to be heard and accepted. This, obviously, involves a commitment to setting
aside, especially in seminaries, sufficient time for training candidates to the
priesthood in the use of the communications media, so that evangelizers will be
good proclaimers and good communicators.
Preaching by word and example
31. No full treatment of the ministry of the Bishop, as the preacher of the
Gospel and guardian of the faith among the People of God, can fail to mention
the duty of personal integrity: the Bishop's teaching is prolonged in his
witness and his example of an authentic life of faith. He teaches with an
authority exercised in the name of Jesus Christ 125 the word which is
heard in the community; were he not to live what he teaches, he would be giving
the community a contradictory message.
It is clear, then, that all the activities of the Bishop must be directed
towards the proclamation of the Gospel, ''the power of God for salvation to
everyone who has faith'' (Rom 1:16). His essential task is to help the
People of God to give to the word of revelation the obedience of faith (cf.
Rom 1:5) and to embrace fully the teachings of Christ. One could say that,
in a Bishop, mission and life are united in such a way that they can no longer
be thought of as two separate things: we Bishops are our mission. If we
do not carry out that mission, we will no longer be ourselves. It is in the
transmission of our faith that our lives become a visible sign of Christ's
presence in our communities.
The witness of his life becomes for a Bishop a new basis for authority alongside
the objective basis received in episcopal consecration. ''Authority'' is thus
joined by ''authoritativeness''. Both are necessary. The former, in fact, gives
rise to the objective requirement that the faithful should assent to the
authentic teaching of the Bishop; the latter helps them to put their trust in
his message. Here I would like to quote the words of a great Bishop of the
ancient Church, Saint Hilary of Poitiers: ''The blessed Apostle Paul, wishing to
describe the ideal Bishop and to form by his teachings a completely new man of
the Church, explained what was, so to speak, his highest perfection. He stated
that a Bishop must profess sure doctrine, in accordance with what has been
taught, and thus be able to exhort others to sound doctrine and to refute those
who contradict it ... On the one hand, a minister of irreproachable life, if he
is not learned, will only manage to help himself; on the other, a learned
minister will lose the authority which comes from his learning, unless his life
Once again it is the Apostle Paul who defines in these words our rule of
conduct: ''Show yourself in all respects a model of good deeds, and in your
teaching show integrity, gravity and sound speech that cannot be censured, so
that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say of us'' (Tit
MINISTER OF THE GRACE
OF THE HIGH PRIESTHOOD
''Sanctified in Jesus Christ, called to be saints''
(1 Cor 1:2)
32. As I prepare to deal with one of the prime and fundamental functions of the
Bishop, the ministry of sanctification, my thoughts turn to the words addressed
by the Apostle Paul to the faithful of Corinth, to remind them of the mystery of
their vocation: ''sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with
all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ'' (1
Cor 1:2). The sanctification of the Christian takes place in the waters of
Baptism, is consolidated by the sacraments of Confirmation and Reconciliation,
and is nourished by the Eucharist, the Church's greatest treasure, the sacrament
by which the Church is constantly built up as the People of God, the Body of
Christ and the temple of the Holy Spirit.127
This sanctification permeates the whole life of the Church, and the Bishop is
its minister, above all through the sacred liturgy. The liturgy, and the
Eucharistic celebration in particular, has been called ''the source and summit
of the Church's life''.128 This statement is in a way reflected in
the Bishop's own liturgical ministry, which is the centre of his activity aimed
at the sanctification of the People of God.
Hence the importance of liturgical life in the particular Church, where the
Bishop exercises his ministry of sanctification, proclaiming and preaching the
word of God, guiding prayer for his people and with his people,
and presiding over the celebration of the sacraments. For this reason the
Lumen Gentium gives the Bishop a striking title,
taken from the prayer of episcopal consecration in the Byzantine rite: he is the
''steward of the grace of the high priesthood, especially in the
Eucharist, which he offers himself or which he ensures is offered, and by which
the Church continually lives and grows''.129
Between the ministry of sanctification and the other two ministries of teaching
and governance there is a profound and close correspondence. Preaching is in
fact ordered to our sharing in the divine life, which we receive from the double
table of the word and the Eucharist. This life develops and is made manifest in
the daily life of the faithful, since all are called to express in their lives
what they have received in faith.130 The ministry of governance, like
that of Jesus the Good Shepherd, is also expressed in functions and activities
aimed at developing in the community of the faithful the fullness of life in
charity, to the glory of the Holy Trinity and in testimony to its loving
presence in the world.
Consequently, each Bishop, in exercising his ministry of sanctification (munus
sanctificandi), effectively brings about all that his ministry of teaching (munus
docendi) aims to achieve, while at the same time receiving grace for his
ministry of governance (munus regendi) as he shapes his way of thinking
according to the image of Christ the High Priest, so that all is ordered to the
building up of the Church and to the glory of the Holy Trinity.
The source and summit of the life of the particular Church
33. The Bishop carries out his ministry of sanctification by celebrating the
Eucharist and the other sacraments, by praising God in the Liturgy of the Hours,
by presiding over the other sacred rites and by promoting liturgical life and
authentic popular piety. Of all the celebrations at which the Bishop presides,
special importance attaches to those which manifest the specific nature of the
episcopal ministry as the fullness of the priesthood. These include especially
the administration of the sacrament of Confirmation, sacred ordinations, the
solemn celebration of the Eucharist at which the Bishop is surrounded by his
presbyterate and the other ministers – as for example in the Mass of Chrism –
the dedication of churches and altars, the consecration of virgins and other
rites of importance for the life of the particular Church. In these
celebrations, the Bishop visibly appears as the father and the pastor of the
faithful, the ''great priest'' of his people (cf. Heb 10:21), the one who
prays and serves as a model of prayer, the one who intercedes for his brothers
and sisters and in the assembly beseeches and gives thanks to the Lord, making
manifest God's primacy and glory.
In these various moments there springs up, as if from a fountain, the divine
grace which permeates the whole life of the children of God during their earthly
pilgrimage and which guides that life towards its culmination and fullness in
the heavenly homeland. The ministry of sanctification is thus a fundamental
moment in the building of Christian hope. By preaching the word, the Bishop not
only proclaims God's promises and opens up paths for the future, but he also
encourages the People of God on their earthly pilgrimage; and in the celebration
of the sacraments, the pledge of future glory, he gives them a foretaste of
their final destiny in communion with the Virgin Mary and the saints, in the
unwavering certainty of Christ's definitive victory over sin and death and of
his coming in glory.
The importance of the Cathedral Church
34. The Bishop, while carrying out his ministry of sanctification in the whole
Diocese, has as his focal point the Cathedral Church, which is as it were the
Mother Church and the centre of convergence for the particular Church.
The Cathedral is the place where the Bishop has his Chair, from which he teaches
his people and helps them to grow through his preaching, and from which he
presides at the principal celebrations of the liturgical year and in the
celebration of the sacraments. Precisely when he occupies his Chair, the Bishop
is seen by the assembly of the faithful as the one who presides in loco Dei
Patris; and it is for this reason, as I mentioned earlier, that, according
to an ancient tradition of both East and West, only the Bishop may sit on the
episcopal Chair. It is the presence of this Chair which in fact makes the
Cathederal Church the physical and spiritual centre of unity and communion for
the diocesan presbyterate and for all the holy People of God.
In this regard, we should recall the teaching of the Second Vatican Council that
''everyone should regard the liturgical life of the diocese centring on the
Bishop, above all in the Cathedral Church, as of the highest importance.
They should be convinced that the Church is displayed with special clarity when
the holy People of God, all of them, are actively and lawfully sharing in the
same liturgical celebrations – especially when it is the same Eucharist –
sharing one prayer at one altar at which the Bishop is presiding, surrounded by
his presbyterate and his ministers''.131 Consequently, the Cathedral,
where the supreme moment of the Church's life takes place, is also the setting
for the most exalted and sacred act of the Bishop's munus sanctificandi,
which involves, like the very liturgy at which he presides, both the
sanctification of the people and the worship and glorification of God.
The special occasions for this manifestation of the mystery of the Church
include certain particular celebrations. Among these, I would mention the annual
liturgy of the Chrism Mass, which must be considered ''one of the principal
expressions of the fullness of the Bishop's priesthood and signifies the close
unity of the priests with him''.132 At this celebration, there is the
blessing of the Oil of the Sick and the Oil of Catechumens, and the blessing of
the sacred Chrism, the sacramental sign of salvation and perfect life for all
those reborn of water and the Holy Spirit. The most solemn liturgies must
certainly include those for conferring of Holy Orders: these rites properly and
normally take place in the Cathedral church.133 Other occasions can
be added, such as the celebration of the anniversary of the dedication of the
Cathedral and the feasts of the patron saints of the Diocese.
These and other occasions, in accordance with the liturgical calendar of each
Diocese, are valuable occasions for strengthening the bonds of communion with
the presbyters, consecrated persons and the lay faithful, and for encouraging a
commitment to mission in all the members of the particular Church. For this
reason the Caeremoniale Episcoporum highlights the importance of the
Cathedral Church and of the celebrations held therein, as a source of enrichment
and an example to the whole particular Church.134
The Bishop, moderator of the liturgy
as a paedagogy of faith
35. The Synod Fathers wished in the present circumstances to call attention to
the importance of the ministry of sanctification exercised in the liturgy, which
must be celebrated in such a way as to enhance its didactic and educational
effectiveness.135 This calls for making liturgical celebrations truly
an epiphany of the mystery. They should thus express with clarity the
nature of divine worship, reflecting the genuine sense of the Church which prays
and which celebrates the divine mysteries. If liturgical celebrations allow for
the suitable participation of all in accordance with their various ministries,
they will not fail to be resplendent in their dignity and beauty.
I myself, in the exercise of my ministry, have sought to give priority to
liturgical celebrations, both in Rome itself and in my Pastoral Visits to the
various continents and nations. By making the beauty and the dignity of the
Christian liturgy shine forth in all its expressions, I have tried to promote
the genuine meaning of the sanctification of God's name in order to form the
religious sentiment of the faithful and open it to the transcendent.
I therefore encourage my Brother Bishops, who are teachers of the faith and
sharers in Christ's supreme priesthood, to work tirelessly for the authentic
promotion of the liturgy. In the manner of its celebration the liturgy demands
that revealed truth be clearly proclaimed, the divine life be faithfully handed
down, and the genuine nature of the Church be unambiguously expressed. Everyone
should be conscious of the importance of the sacred celebrations of the
mysteries of the Catholic faith. The truth of the faith and of Christian life is
not handed down by words alone, but also by sacramental signs and the liturgical
rites as a whole. Well known in this regard is the ancient dictum which closely
links the lex credendi to the lex orandi.136
Every Bishop should therefore be exemplary in the art of presiding, conscious
that he is called to tractare mysteria. His life should be profoundly
shaped by the theological virtues, which will inspire his conduct in all his
dealings with God's holy people. He should be capable of transmitting the
supernatural meaning of the words, prayers and rites, in a way that enables
everyone to share in the sacred mysteries. Through the practical and suitable
promotion of the liturgical apostolate in the Diocese, the Bishop should also
ensure that the ministers and the people gain an authentic understanding and
experience of the liturgy, so that the faithful can attain that full, conscious,
active and fruitful participation in the holy mysteries called for by the Second
In this way liturgical celebrations, especially those celebrated by the Bishop
in his Cathedral, will be clear proclamations of the Church's faith, privileged
occasions when the pastor presents the mystery of Christ to the faithful and
helps them to enter progressively into it, experiencing it with joy and then
testifying to it by works of charity (cf. Gal 5:6).
Given the importance of the proper transmission of the faith in the Church's
sacred liturgy, the Bishop will not fail to be vigilant and careful, for the
good of the faithful, to ensure that existing liturgical norms are observed
always and everywhere. This also calls for the firm and timely correction of
abuses and the elimination of arbitrary liturgical changes. The Bishop himself
should also be attentive, to the extent that it depends on him, in cooperation
with the Episcopal Conferences and their respective liturgical commissions, to
ensure that the dignity and authenticity of liturgical celebrations are
maintained in radio and television broadcasts.
The centrality of the Lord's Day and the liturgical year
36. The Bishop's life and ministry must be permeated by the presence of the Lord
in his mystery. The growth throughout the Diocese of a conviction of the
spiritual, catechetical and pastoral centrality of the liturgy greatly depends
on the example of the Bishop.
At the centre of this ministry is the celebration of the Paschal Mystery of
Christ held on Sunday, the Lord's Day. As I have often repeated, including
recently, in order to give a strong sign of Christian identity in our time it is
necessary to restore the centrality of the celebration of the Lord's Day and, on
that day, of the celebration of the Eucharist. Sunday is a day which should be
experienced as ''a special day of faith, the day of the Risen Lord and of the
gift of the Spirit, the true weekly Easter''.138
The presence of the Bishop, who on Sunday – which is also the Church's Day –
presides at the Eucharist in his Cathedral or in the parishes of the Diocese,
can be an exemplary sign of fidelity to the mystery of the Resurrection and a
reason for hope for God's People as they make their pilgrim way, Sunday after
Sunday, towards the unending eighth day of the eternal Easter.139
In the course of the liturgical year the Church relives the whole Christian
mystery, from the Lord's Incarnation and Nativity to his Ascension, to the day
of Pentecost and the hope-filled expectation of his glorious return.140
The Bishop will naturally devote particular attention to the preparation and
celebration of the Paschal Triduum, the heart of the whole liturgical year, with
the solemn Easter Vigil and its prolongation in the fifty-day Easter season.
The liturgical year with its cycle of celebrations can suitably serve as the
basis for the pastoral planning of the life of the Diocese around the mystery of
Christ. In this journey of faith, the Church is sustained by the “memory of the
Virgin Mary, who, already glorified in body and soul in heaven... shines forth
as a sign of sure hope and comfort for the pilgrim People of God''.141
It is a hope which is likewise nourished by the commemoration of the martyrs and
the other saints, who, ''having attained perfection through the manifold grace
of God and now possess eternal salvation, sing perfect praise to God in heaven
and make intercession for us''.142
The Bishop as minister of the Eucharistic celebration
37. At the heart of the Bishop's munus sanctificandi is the Eucharist,
which he himself offers or which he ensures is offered, and which particularly
manifests his office as steward or minister of the grace of the supreme
It is above all by presiding at the Eucharistic assembly that the Bishop
contributes to the building up of the Church as a mystery of communion and
mission. For the Eucharist is the essential principle of the life not only of
the simple faithful but of the community itself in Christ. The faithful,
gathered by the preaching of the Gospel, form communities in which the Church of
Christ is truly present, and this becomes especially clear in the celebration of
the Eucharistic Sacrifice.144 Well-known is the teaching of the
Council in this regard: ''In any community of the altar, under the sacred
ministry of the Bishop, there is made manifest the symbol of that charity and
'unity of the mystical body without which there can be no salvation'. In these
communities, though often small and poor, or scattered, Christ is present and by
his power the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church is gathered together. For
'sharing in the body and blood of Christ has no other effect than to make us
become what we consume' ''.145
The Eucharistic celebration, then, which is the ''source and summit of all
evangelization'',146 is also the source of the Church's whole
missionary commitment, which is aimed at manifesting to others, through the
witness of our lives, the mystery which we live in faith.
Among all the responsibilities of the Bishop's pastoral ministry, that of
celebrating the Eucharist is the most compelling and important. The Bishop also
has the duty, as one of his principal tasks, of ensuring that the faithful are
able to approach the Lord's table, especially on Sunday, which, as I just
mentioned, is the day on which the Church, the community and family of the
children of God, rediscovers her specific Christian identity around her own
It can happen, however, that in certain places, whether due to a lack of priests
or to other grave and persistent reasons, it is not possible to ensure the
celebration of the Eucharist on a regular basis. This increases the duty of the
Bishop, as the father of the family and minister of grace, to be constantly
attentive to discerning real needs and the seriousness of different situations.
It will be necessary to ensure a prudent distribution of the members of the
presbyterate, so that, also in other emergencies, the community is not deprived
of the Eucharistic celebration for long periods.
In cases where the celebration of Holy Mass cannot be provided for, the Bishop
will ensure that the community, while continuing to await the encounter with
Christ in the celebration of his Paschal Mystery, will be able to have, at least
on Sundays and feast days, a special celebration. In this case the faithful, led
by responsible ministers, will be able to benefit from the gift of the word
proclaimed and from communion in the Eucharist, thanks to the proper planning of
Sunday gatherings in the absence of a priest.148
The Bishop's responsibility for Christian initiation
38. In the present circumstances of the Church and the world, both in the young
Churches and in the countries where Christianity has been established for
centuries, the restoration, especially for adults, of the great tradition of the
discipline of Christian initiation has proved providential. This was a
far-sighted decision of the Second Vatican Council,149 which wished
in this way to provide the means for an encounter with Christ and the Church to
the many men and women touched by the grace of the Spirit and wishing to enter
into communion with the mystery of salvation in Christ who died and rose for us.
Through the process of Christian initiation, catechumens are gradually
introduced into knowledge of the mystery of Christ and the Church by analogy
with the origin, development and growth of natural life. The faithful, reborn in
Baptism and made sharers in the royal priesthood, are strengthened in
Confirmation, of which the Bishop is the original minister, and thus receive a
special outpouring of the gifts of the Spirit. Then by sharing in the Eucharist
they are nourished with the food of eternal life and made full members of the
Church, Christ's Mystical Body. In this way, the faithful, ''by the effects of
these sacraments of Christian initiation, are enabled to taste ever more fully
and better the treasures of the divine life and to progress to the attainment of
the perfection of charity''.150
With due regard for present-day circumstances, Bishops will observe the
prescriptions of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. They will
see to it that every Diocese has the structures and the pastoral workers
necessary to ensure in the most dignified and effective way the implementation
of the regulations and of the liturgical, catechetical and pastoral discipline
of Christian initiation, duly adapted to the needs of our times.
By its very nature as a progressive insertion into the mystery of Christ and the
Church, a mystery alive and at work in each particular Church, the itinerary of
Christian initiation demands the presence and ministry of the Diocesan Bishop,
especially at the culminating phase of the journey, namely, in the
administration of the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist,
which ordinarily takes place at the Easter Vigil.
It is also the Bishop's task to regulate, in accordance with Church law, all
matters involving the Christian initiation of children and young people, and to
lay down norms concerning their proper catechetical preparation and gradual
involvement in the life of the community. The Bishop should also be vigilant
that programmes for the catechumenate, or for the continuance or renewal of the
process of Christian initiation, or for reaching out to members of the faithful
who have fallen away from the normal and community life of faith, operate in
accordance with the Church's laws and in full harmony with the life of parish
communities in the Diocese.
Finally, with regard to Confirmation, the Bishop, as the ordinary minister of
this sacrament, will ensure that he himself is its usual celebrant. His presence
in the midst of the parish community which, by virtue of the baptismal font and
the table of the Eucharist, is the natural and normal place for the process of
Christian initiation, effectively evokes the mystery of Pentecost and proves
most beneficial in consolidating the bonds of ecclesial communion between the
pastor and the faithful.
The Bishop's responsibilities in the discipline of Penance
39. The Synod Fathers in their interventions paid particular attention to the
Church's penitential discipline; they stressed its importance and recalled the
special care which, as successors of the Apostles, Bishops must show for the
pastoral practice and the discipline of the sacrament of Penance. I was glad to
hear them reaffirm my own profound conviction that the greatest pastoral concern
must be shown for this sacrament of the Church, the source of reconciliation, of
peace and of joy for all of us who stand in need of the Lord's mercy and of
healing from the wounds of sin.
The Bishop, as the one primarily responsible for penitential discipline in his
particular Church, is particularly charged with offering a kerygmatic
invitation to conversion and penance. It is his duty to proclaim with
evangelical freedom the sad and destructive presence of sin in the lives of
individuals and in the history of communities. At the same time, he must
proclaim the boundless mystery of the mercy which God has bestowed on us in the
Cross and Resurrection of his Son Jesus Christ, and in the outpouring of the
Spirit for the forgiveness of sins. This proclamation, which is also an
invitation to reconciliation and a call to hope, is the very heart of the
Gospel. It was the first thing which the Apostles proclaimed on the day of
Pentecost, a proclamation which reveals the very meaning of the grace of
salvation communicated in the sacraments.
The Bishop should be, in suitable ways, an exemplary minister of the sacrament
of Penance, and he himself will have regular and faithful recourse to that
sacrament. He will not cease to exhort his priests to hold in high esteem the
ministry of reconciliation which they received at their priestly ordination, and
he should encourage them to exercise that ministry with generosity and
supernatural tact, in imitation of the Father who welcomes those who have come
home, and of Christ, the Good Shepherd, who carries on his shoulders the lost
The Bishop's responsibility extends also to the duty of exercising vigilance
that recourse to general absolution does not take place outside the norms of
law. In this regard, in my Apostolic Letter
Misericordia Dei I stressed
that Bishops have the duty to enforce the existing discipline whereby individual
and integral confession and absolution constitute the only ordinary means by
which members of the faithful conscious of grave sin are reconciled with God and
with the Church. Only physical or moral impossibility dispenses from this
ordinary means, in which case reconciliation can be obtained by other means. The
Bishop will not fail to remind all those who by virtue of office are charged
with the care of souls that they have the duty to provide the faithful with the
opportunity of making an individual confession.152 He himself will
make certain that the faithful are in fact being assisted in every way possible
to make their confession.
When one considers in the light of Tradition and the Church's Magisterium the
close connection between the sacrament of Reconciliation and participation in
the Eucharist, one sees how necessary it is today to form the consciences of the
faithful so that they may partake worthily and fruitfully of the Eucharistic
Banquet, and approach it in a state of grace.153
It is also useful to mention that it is the Bishop's responsibility to regulate
in a suitable way and through the careful choice of suitable ministers the
discipline governing the practice of exorcism and the celebration of prayers to
obtain healings, with due respect for recent documents of the Holy See.154
Attention to popular piety
40. The Synod Fathers reaffirmed the importance of popular piety in the handing
on and the growth of faith. As my predecessor of venerable memory Pope Paul VI
once said, popular piety is rich in values both in reference to God and to our
brothers and sisters,155 and thus constitutes an authentic treasury
of spirituality in the life of the Christian community.
In our time too, marked as it is by a widespread yearning for spirituality which
often draws many to follow religious sects or other forms of vague spiritualism,
Bishops are called to discern and to foster the values and forms of true popular
The words of the Apostolic Exhortation
Evangelii Nuntiandi remain timely:
''Pastoral charity must dictate to all those whom the Lord has placed as leaders
of the ecclesial communities the proper attitude in regard to this reality,
which is at the same time so rich and so vulnerable. Above all one must be
sensitive to it, know how to perceive its interior dimensions and undeniable
values, be ready to help it to overcome its risks of deviation. When it is well
oriented, this popular religiosity can be more and more for multitudes of our
people a true encounter with God in Jesus Christ''.156
The forms in which popular piety is expressed should be shaped and, when
necessary, purified in accordance with the principles of Christian faith and
life. The faithful, through popular piety, should be led to a personal encounter
with Christ and to fellowship with the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints,
especially through hearing the word of God, recourse to prayer, participation in
the Church's sacramental life, and the witness of charity and the works of
For a fuller consideration of this matter and for a valuable series of
theological, pastoral and spiritual suggestions, I am pleased to refer to the
documents issued by this Apostolic See, which state that all manifestations of
popular piety fall under the responsibility of the Bishop in his Diocese. It is
the Bishop's duty to regulate them, to encourage them as an aid to the faithful
for Christian living, to purify them where necessary and to evangelize them.158
Promoting holiness for all the faithful
41. The holiness of the People of God, to which the Bishop's ministry of
sanctification is ordered, is a gift of divine grace and a manifestation of the
primacy of God in the life of the Church. In his ministry, then, the Bishop must
tirelessly promote a genuine pastoral and educational programme of holiness, in
order to carry out the one set forth in the fifth chapter of the Constitution
Lumen Gentium on the universal call to holiness.
I myself wished to propose this programme to the whole Church at the beginning
of the third millennium, as a pastoral priority and as a fruit of the Great
Jubilee of the Incarnation.159 Today too, holiness is a sign of the
times and a proof of the truth of Christianity as it shines forth in its noblest
representatives, both those who have been enrolled among the saints and the even
greater numbers of those who have quietly enriched and continue to enrich human
history with the humble and joyful holiness of daily life. Our own time too is
not lacking in the precious witness of forms of holiness, personal and communal,
which are a sign of hope to all, including the younger generation.
As a means of highlighting the witness of holiness, I urge my Brother Bishops to
recognize and to call attention to the signs of holiness and heroic virtue which
are also appearing in our own days, especially where these concern members of
the lay faithful in their own Dioceses, above all Christian married couples. In
appropriate cases, I encourage them to promote the relative processes of
canonization.160 This will prove a sign of hope for everyone and a
source of encouragement for the pilgrim People of God in its witness before the
world to the permanent presence of grace in the fabric of human history.
THE PASTORAL GOVERNANCE OF THE BISHOP
“I have given you an example” (Jn 13:15).
42. In its treatment of the duty of governing the family of God and accepting
the habitual and daily care of the Lord Jesus' flock, the Second Vatican Council
explains that Bishops, in the exercise of their ministry as fathers and
shepherds in the midst of their faithful, must act as ''those who serve'',
keeping always before their eyes the example of the Good Shepherd who came not
to be served but to serve and to give his life for the sheep (cf. Mt
20:28; Mk 10:45; Lk 22:26-27; Jn 10:11).161
This image of Jesus, the supreme model of the Bishop, finds one of its most
eloquent expressions in the act of the washing of the feet, as recounted in the
Gospel according to John: ''Before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew
that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved
his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. And during supper... he
rose from the table, laid aside his garments, and girded himself with a towel.
Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciple's feet, and to
wipe them with the towel with which he was girded. When he had washed their
feet, and taken his garments, and resumed his place, he said to them: 'I have
given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you' ''
Let us then contemplate Jesus as he performs this gesture that seems to provide
us with a key for understanding his very being and mission, his life and death.
Let us contemplate also the love of Jesus, which translates into action, into
concrete acts. Let us contemplate Jesus who takes on completely, in an
absolutely radical way, the form of a servant (cf. Phil 2:7). He, our
Teacher and Lord, who received everything from the hands of the Father, loved us
to the end, to the point of putting himself totally in the hands of men and
accepting all that they would do to him. Jesus' gesture is an act of love
carried out in the context of the institution of the Eucharist and in the clear
prospect of his Passion and Death. It is a gesture which reveals the meaning of
the Incarnation but, even more, that of the very being of God. God is love, and
for this reason he took on the form of a servant: God put himself at the service
of mankind in order to bring mankind into full communion with himself.
If such is our Teacher and Lord, then the meaning of the ministry and the very
being of those who, like the Twelve, are called to draw most closely to Jesus
can only consist in complete and unconditional availability to others, both to
those who are already part of the fold and to those who are not yet members (cf.
The Bishop's authority as pastoral service
43. The Bishop is sent in Christ's name as a pastor for the care of a particular
portion of the People of God. Through the Gospel and the Eucharist, he is to
help his people to grow as a reality of communion in the Holy Spirit.162
This is the source of the Bishop's role of representing the Church entrusted to
him and of governing it by the power needed for the exercise of the pastoral
ministry sacramentally received (munus pastorale) as a sharing in the
consecration and mission of Christ himself.163 As a consequence,
Bishops ''govern the particular Churches entrusted to them as the vicars and
ambassadors of Christ. This they do by their counsel, exhortation and example,
as well, indeed, as by their authority and sacred power. This power they use
only for the edification of their flock in truth and holiness, remembering that
he who is greater should become as the lesser and he who is the more
distinguished, as the servant (cf. Lk 22:26- 27)''.164
This text of the Council is a marvellous synthesis of Catholic doctrine on the
pastoral governance of the Bishop and is echoed in the Rite of Episcopal
Ordination: ''The title of Bishop is one of service, not of honour, and
therefore a Bishop should strive to benefit others rather than to lord it over
them. Such is the precept of the Master''.165 Here we find the
fundamental principle that, as Saint Paul states, authority in the Church is
meant for the building up of the People of God, not for their destruction (cf.
2 Cor 10:8). The building up of the flock of Christ in truth and in
holiness demands of the Bishop, as was repeatedly stated in the Synod Hall,
certain characteristics which include an exemplary life, the ability to enter
into authentic and constructive relationships with others, an aptitude for
encouraging and developing cooperation, an innate goodness and patience, an
understanding of and compassion for those suffering in body and spirit, a spirit
of tolerance and forgiveness. What is needed is in fact an ability to emulate as
well as possible the supreme model, which is Jesus the Good Shepherd.
The power of the Bishop is true power, but a power which radiates the light of
the Good Shepherd and is modelled after him. Exercised in the name of Christ, it
is ''proper, ordinary and immediate, although its exercise is ultimately
regulated by the supreme authority of the Church, and can be circumscribed by
certain limits, for the advantage of the Church or of the faithful. In virtue of
this power, Bishops have the sacred right and the duty before the Lord to make
laws for their subjects, to pass judgment on them, and to moderate everything
pertaining to the ordering of worship and the apostolate''.166 The
Bishop, by virtue of the office that he has received, is thus invested with an
objective juridical power meant to be expressed in authoritative acts whereby he
carries out the ministry of governance (munus pastorale) received in the
The Bishop's governance, nonetheless, will be pastorally effective – once again
this must be recalled – only if it rests on a moral authority bestowed by his
life of holiness. This is what will dispose hearts to accept the Gospel that the
Bishop proclaims in his Church, as well as the rules which he lays down for the
good of the People of God. Hence Saint Ambrose's admonishment: ''Let nothing
vulgar be sought in priests, nothing in common with the desires, the habits, the
customs of the vulgar crowd. The priestly dignity demands a gravity which keeps
apart from tumults, an austere life and a singular authority''.167
The exercise of authority in the Church cannot be understood as something
impersonal or bureaucratic, precisely because it is an authority born of
witness. All that the Bishop says and does must reveal the authority of Christ's
word and his way of acting. Without the authoritativeness of his lived holiness
– his personal witness of faith, hope and love – only with difficulty could a
Bishop's governance be accepted by the People of God as a manifestation of the
active presence of Christ in his Church.
As ministers by the Lord's will of the Church's apostolicity, endowed with the
power of the Holy Spirit who leads and guides (Spiritus principalis),
Bishops are successors of the Apostles not only in authority and sacred power
but also in the form of apostolic life, in apostolic sufferings endured for the
proclamation and spread of the Gospel, in their gentle and merciful care of the
faithful entrusted to them, in their defence of the weak, and in their
unremitting concern for the People of God.
In the Synod Hall it was observed that since the Second Vatican Council the
exercise of authority in the Church has often proved taxing. Even though some of
the more acute difficulties seem to have been overcome, this continues to be the
case. The problem is therefore how the necessary service of authority can better
be understood, accepted and carried out. A preliminary answer derives from the
very nature of ecclesial authority: it is – and needs to be perceived as such in
the clearest possible terms – a participation in the mission of Christ, to be
lived and exercised in humility, dedication and service.
A renewed appreciation of the Bishop's authority will not find expression in
outward signs but in a deeper understanding of the theological, spiritual and
moral significance of his ministry, founded on the charism of apostolicity. All
that was said in the Synod Hall about the image of the washing of feet, and the
connection made in that context between the figure of the servant and that of
the shepherd, helps us to understand that the episcopacy is truly an honour when
it is a form of service. Every Bishop must apply to himself the words of Jesus:
''You know that those who are supposed to rule over the gentiles lord it over
them, and their great men exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so
among you: whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever
would be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man also came not
to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many'' (Mk
10:42-45). Mindful of these words of the Lord, the Bishop governs with the heart
of a humble servant and a caring shepherd, who guides his flock as he seeks the
glory of God and the salvation of souls (cf. Lk 22:26-27). When exercised
in this way, the Bishop's manner of governance is completely unique.
We have already mentioned the text of
Lumen Gentium which states that
Bishops rule the particular Churches entrusted to their care as vicars and
legates of Christ, ''by their counsel, exhortations and example''.168
There is no contradiction here with the words that follow, when the Council adds
that the Bishops do in fact govern ''by counsel, exhortations and example, but
also by their authority and sacred power''.169 This ''sacred power''
is one which is rooted in the moral authority which the Bishop enjoys by virtue
of his holiness of life. It is this which facilitates the acceptance of his
every act of governance and makes it effective.
Pastoral style of governance and diocesan communion
44. A lived ecclesial communion will lead the Bishop to a pastoral style which
is ever more open to collaboration with all. There is a type of reciprocal
interplay between what a Bishop is called to decide with personal responsibility
for the good of the Church entrusted to his care and the contribution that the
faithful can offer him through consultative bodies such as the Diocesan Synod,
the Presbyteral Council, the Episcopal Council and the Pastoral Council.170
The Synod Fathers made clear reference to these means by which episcopal
governance is exercised and through which the pastoral care of the Diocese is
organized.171 The particular Church involves not only the threefold
episcopal ministry (munus episcopale), but also the threefold prophetic,
priestly and kingly function of the entire People of God. All the faithful, by
virtue of their Baptism, share in a proper way in the threefold munus of
Christ. Their real equality in dignity and in acting is such that all are called
to cooperate in the building up of the Body of Christ, and thus to carry out the
mission which God has entrusted to the Church in the world, each according to
his or her respective state and duties.172
Every sort of differentiation between the faithful, based on the variety of
their charisms, functions and ministries, is ordered to the service of the other
members of the People of God. The ontological and functional differentiation
that sets the Bishop before the other faithful based on his reception of
the fullness of the Sacrament of Orders, is a manner of being for the
other members of faithful which in no ways removes him from being with
The Church is an organically structured community which finds expression in the
coordination of different charisms, ministries and services for the sake of
attaining the common end, which is salvation. The Bishop is responsible for
bringing about this unity in diversity by promoting, as was stated in the
Synodal Assembly, a collaborative effort which makes it possible for all to
journey together along the common path of faith and mission.173
This said, however, it must be added that the ministry of the Bishop absolutely
cannot be reduced to the function of a simple coordinator. By its very nature,
the munus episcopale entails a clear and unequivocal right and duty of
governance, which also includes the element of jurisdiction. Pastors are public
witnesses, and their potestas testandi fidem attains its fullness in the
potestas iudicandi: the Bishop is not only called to bear witness to the
faith, but also to evaluate and discipline its outward expression by the
believers entrusted to his pastoral care. In carrying out this task he will do
everything possible to win the consent of his faithful, but in the end he will
have to take personal responsibility for decisions which he as their pastor
considers in conscience to be necessary, concerned as he is above all for the
future judgment of God.
Ecclesial communion in its organic structure calls for personal responsibility
on the part of the Bishop, but it also presupposes the participation of every
category of the faithful, inasmuch as they share responsibility for the good of
the particular Church which they themselves form. What guarantees the
authenticity of this organic communion is the working of the Spirit, who is at
work both in the Bishop's personal responsibility and in the sharing of the
faithful in that responsibility. It is the Spirit who, as the basis of both the
baptismal equality of all the faithful and the diversity in charism and mission
of each believer, is capable of effectively bringing about communion. These are
the principles which govern Diocesan Synods, whose canonical profile, laid down
in canons 460-468 of the Code of Canon Law, was specified by the
Interdicasterial Instruction of 19 March 1997.174 These norms
must also be substantially followed by other Diocesan assemblies at which the
Bishop presides; he may never abdicate his specific responsibility.
Although every Christian receives the love of God in the outpouring of the Holy
Spirit in Baptism, the Bishop – as the Synodal Assembly appropriately recalled –
receives in his heart through the sacrament of Holy Orders the pastoral charity
of Christ. The purpose of this pastoral charity is to create communion.175
Before translating this love-communion into plans of action, the Bishop must
commit himself to making it present in his own heart and in the heart of the
Church by means of an authentically spiritual life.
If communion expresses the Church's essence, then it is normal that the
spirituality of communion will tend to manifest itself in both the personal and
community spheres, awakening ever new forms of participation and shared
responsibility in the faithful of every category. Consequently, the Bishop will
make every effort to develop, within his particular Church, structures of
communion and participation which make it possible to listen to the Spirit who
lives and speaks in the faithful, in order to guide them in carrying out
whatever the same Spirit suggests for the true good of the Church.
The elements of the particular Church
45. Many of the interventions of the Synod Fathers referred to various aspects
and moments of Diocesan life. Due attention was thus given to the Diocesan Curia
as the structure employed by the Bishop to express his pastoral charity in its
different aspects.176 Particular mention was made of the
appropriateness of entrusting the financial administration of the Diocese to
individuals who are competent as well as honest, so that it can become an
example of transparency for other similar Church institutions. If a spirituality
of communion is lived out in the Diocese, special concern will certainly be
shown for poorer parishes and communities, and every possible effort will be
made to set aside a part of the Diocese's financial resources for the needier
Churches, especially those in mission lands and areas affected by migration.177
It was upon the parish, however, that the Synod Fathers felt it proper to focus
their attention, realizing that it is this community, pre-eminent among all the
other communities present in his Diocese, for which the Bishop has primary
responsibility: it is with the parishes above all that he must be concerned.178
The parish, it was frequently stated, remains the fundamental unit in the daily
life of the Diocese.
The Pastoral Visit
46. It is precisely in this perspective that the importance of Pastoral Visits
can be seen. These are an authentic time of grace and a special, indeed unique,
moment for encounter and dialogue between the Bishop and the faithful.179
Bishop Bartolomeu dos Mártires, whom I beatified a few days after the conclusion
of the Synod, in his classic work Stimulus Pastorum, a work greatly
esteemed by Saint Charles Borromeo, defines the Pastoral Visit as quasi anima
episcopalis regiminis and describes it effectively as an extension of the
spiritual presence of the Bishop among his people.180
In making his Pastoral Visit to the parish, the Bishop should delegate to others
the study of administrative questions and give first place to personal meetings,
beginning with the parish priest and the other priests. This is the time when he
is closest to his people in carrying out the ministry of the word, of
sanctification and of pastoral leadership, when he most directly encounters
their anxieties and cares, their joys and their expectations, and is able to
address to all an invitation to hope. Here above all the Bishop comes into
direct contact with the poor, the elderly and the infirm. When it is carried out
in this way, the Pastoral Visit appears for what is truly is: a sign of the
presence of the Lord who visits his people in peace.
The Bishop with his presbyterate
47. With good reason the conciliar Decree
Christus Dominus, in describing
the particular Church, defines it as a community of faithful entrusted to the
pastoral care of a Bishop cum cooperatione presbyterii.181
Indeed, between the Bishop and his presbyters there exists a communio
sacramentalis by virtue of the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood, which
is a participation in the one priesthood of Christ, and consequently, albeit in
a different degree, in virtue of the one ordained ministry and the one apostolic
The presbyters, and among them parish priests in particular, are therefore the
closest cooperators in the Bishop's ministry. The Synod Fathers renewed the
recommendations and exhortations already present in the Council documents and
reiterated more recently by the Apostolic Exhortation
Pastores Dabo Vobis
182 about the special quality of the relationship between the Bishop
and his presbyters. The Bishop will always strive to relate to his priests as a
father and brother who loves them, listens to them, welcomes them, corrects
them, supports them, seeks their cooperation and, as much as possible, is
concerned for their human, spiritual, ministerial and financial well-being.183
The Bishop's special affection for his priests is demonstrated by his
accompanying them as a father and brother in the fundamental stages of their
ministerial life, starting with their first steps in the pastoral ministry. The
permanent formation of priests remains essential and represents for all a kind
of ''vocation within a vocation'', since in its different and complementary
aspects it is aimed at helping priests to live and minister after the example of
Each Diocesan Bishop has as one of his primary duties the spiritual care of his
presbyterate: ''The action of the priest who places his hands in the hands of
the Bishop on the day of his priestly ordination, as he professes to him 'filial
respect and obedience', can at first sight seem a one-way gesture. In reality,
the gesture commits them both: priest and Bishop. The young presbyter chooses to
entrust himself to the Bishop and the Bishop for his part obliges himself to
look after those hands''.184
In two other moments, I would like to add, the presbyter can rightly expect his
Bishop to show a particular closeness to him. The first is when the Bishop
entrusts him with a pastoral mission, either for the first time, as in the case
of a recently-ordained priest, or later for a change of assignment or the
conferring of a new pastoral mandate. For the Bishop himself, conferring a
pastoral mission is a significant moment of paternal responsibility towards one
of his priests. The words of Saint Jerome are quite applicable to this
circumstance: ''We know that the same relationship that Aaron had with his sons
is also present in a Bishop and his priests. One alone is the Lord, one is the
temple: let there also be oneness in the ministry... Is not the glory of a
father a wise son? Let the Bishop congratulate himself for having wisely chosen
such priests for Christ''.185
The other moment is when a priest, because of advanced age, resigns the actual
pastoral leadership of a community or other positions of direct responsibility.
In these and similar circumstances, the Bishop has the duty of ensuring that the
priest is made aware both of the gratitude of the particular Church for his past
apostolic labours and of the new role which he now plays within the Diocesan
presbyterate: he still contributes, and can now contribute even more fully, to
the building up of the Church by his exemplary witness of assiduous prayer and
his willingness to share his past experience as a way of helping his younger
confreres. The Bishop will also show his fraternal closeness to priests in a
similar situation because of grave illness or some other form of persistent
disability, helping them to keep alive the conviction that ''they continue to be
active members for the building up of the Church, especially by virtue of their
union with the suffering Christ and with so many other brothers and sisters in
the Church who are sharing in the Lord's Passion''.186
The Bishop will also follow with prayer and genuine compassion priests who for
whatever reason are questioning their vocation and their fidelity to the Lord's
call and have in some way failed in the performance of their duties.187
Finally, he will not fail to examine the possible evidence of heroic virtue
shown by diocesan priests and, when he deems it appropriate, to proceed to their
public recognition, taking the required steps for the opening of a cause of
The formation of candidates for the priesthood
48. Reflecting more deeply on the theme of priestly ministry, the Synod Fathers
paid particular attention to the training of candidates for the priesthood which
takes place in the seminary.189 Since it involves much prayer,
commitment and effort, the training of priests is one of the primary concerns of
the Bishop. In this regard, the Synod Fathers, fully conscious that the seminary
is one of the most precious treasures of any Diocese, gave it careful attention
and reaffirmed the undeniable need of major seminaries, without however
neglecting the significance of minor seminaries, for handing on Christian values
directed to the following of Christ.190
Consequently, each Bishop will show his concern above all by selecting with
great care those charged with the training of future priests and by establishing
the most suitable and appropriate means of preparing them to exercise their
ministry in a setting so fundamental for the life of the Christian community.
The Bishop will not fail to visit the seminary frequently, even when particular
circumstances have caused him to join other Bishops in making the at times
necessary and even preferable choice of an interdiocesan seminary.191
A genuine personal knowledge of the candidates for the priesthood in his
particular Church is indispensable for the Bishop. On the basis of these direct
contacts he will ensure that the seminaries form mature and balanced
personalities, men capable of establishing sound human and pastoral
relationships, knowledgeable in theology, solid in the spiritual life, and in
love with the Church. Similarly he will make every effort to provide financial
support and assistance for young candidates for the priesthood.
It is clear, nonetheless, that the force which inspires and forms vocations is
primarily prayer. Vocations need a vast network of people who pray fervently to
''the Lord of the harvest''. The more the problem of vocations is confronted in
the context of prayer, the more prayer will help those whom God has called to
hear his voice.
When the time comes to confer Holy Orders, each Bishop will carry out the
necessary investigation.192 In this regard, conscious of his grave
responsibility for the conferring of priestly Orders, only after careful inquiry
and ample consultation according to the norms of law will the Bishop receive
into his Diocese candidates coming from other Dioceses or from a Religious
The Bishop and permanent deacons
49. As ministers of Holy Orders, Bishops also have direct responsibility for
permanent deacons, in whom the Synodal Assembly saw authentic gifts of God for
proclaiming the Gospel, instructing Christian communities and promoting the
service of charity within God's family.194
Each Bishop will therefore show great care for these vocations, for the
discernment and formation of which he is ultimately responsible. Although he
must normally exercise this responsibility through trusted collaborators
committed to acting in conformity with the prescriptions of the Holy See,195
the Bishop will seek in every way possible to know personally all the candidates
for the diaconate. After their ordination he will continue to be a true father
for them, encouraging them to love the Body and Blood of Christ whose ministers
they are, and Holy Church which they have committed themselves to serve; he will
also exhort married deacons to lead an exemplary family life.
The Bishop's concern for persons of consecrated life
50. The Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation
Vita Consecrata emphasized the
importance of the consecrated life in the ministry of the Bishop. Appealing to
that text during this last Synod, the Fathers stated that in the Church as
communion the Bishop must esteem and promote the specific vocation and mission
of the consecrated life, which belongs stably and solidly to the Church's life
and sanctity.196 In the particular Churches too, the consecrated life
fulfils its duty of exemplary presence and charismatic mission. The Bishop will
therefore examine carefully whether, among the consecrated persons who have
lived in the Diocese, there were testimonies of a heroic exercise of the virtues
and then, if he considers it appropriate, take steps to begin the process of
In his careful concern for all forms of consecrated life, a concern which finds
expression in both encouragement and vigilance, the Bishop should reserve a
special place for the contemplative life. Consecrated persons, for their part,
will heartily welcome the pastoral directions of the Bishop and strive for full
communion in the life and mission of the particular Church in which they live.
The Bishop is in fact the one responsible for apostolic activity in the Diocese:
consecrated men and women must cooperate with him so as to enrich ecclesial
communion by their presence and ministry. In this regard, due attention must be
paid to the document Mutuae Relationes and all that concerns existing
A special concern was recommended for Institutes of diocesan right, and
especially for those experiencing serious difficulties: the Bishop will show a
special fatherly care for them. Finally, in the process of approving new
Institutes founded in his Diocese the Bishop will take care to act in accordance
with the indications and prescriptions found in the Exhortation
Vita Consecrata and in the other instructions issued by the competent offices of
the Holy See.197
The lay faithful in the pastoral care of the Bishop
51. In the lay faithful, who are the majority of the People of God, the
missionary power of Baptism must be clearly evident. To this end, lay people
need the support, encouragement and help of their Bishops, who can guide them in
developing their apostolate in accordance with their specific secular character,
drawing on the grace of the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. It will
consequently be necessary to set in place specific programmes of formation which
will enable the laity to take on responsibilities in the Church within diocesan
and parochial participatory structures, as well as in the different services of
liturgical planning, catechesis, the teaching of the Catholic religion in
The laity have special responsibility – and here they need encouragement – for
evangelizing culture, making the power of the Gospel part of the life of the
family, the workplace, the mass media, sports and leisure, and for promoting
Christian values in society and public life, both national and international. By
the fact that they are in the world, the lay faithful are in a position to
exercise great influence on their environment and to offer great numbers of men
and women broader horizons of hope. On the other hand, committed as they are by
their vocation to living amid temporal realities, the lay faithful are called,
in accordance with their specific secular character, to give an account of their
hope (cf. 1 Pet 3:15) wherever they work and to cultivate in their hearts
''the expectation of a new earth''.198 Bishops, for their part,
should be close to the lay faithful who, since they are immersed in the complex
problems of today's world, are particularly exposed to bewilderment and
suffering; they should help them to be Christians of firm hope, solidly anchored
in the certitude that the Lord is ever at his children's side.
Consideration must also be given to the lay apostolate in the form
of associations, both the more traditional groupings and those
represented by the new ecclesial movements. All these forms of
association enrich the Church, yet they are always in need of the
service of discernment proper to the Bishops. It is part of the
Bishop's pastoral mission to foster complementarity between movements
of diverse inspiration and to exercise vigilance over their
development, the theological and spiritual formation of their leaders,
and their adaptation to diocesan and parochial communities, from which
they must not be separated.199 The Bishop will also seek to ensure
that associations of the laity support the pastoral work of promoting vocations
in the Dioceses and foster an acceptance of all vocations, especially those to
the ordained ministry, the consecrated life and missionary work.200
The Bishop's concern for the family
52. The Synod Fathers frequently spoke up in favour of the family, which is
rightly called a ''domestic Church'', a space open to the presence of the Lord
Jesus and a sanctuary of life. Founded on the sacrament of Matrimony, the family
is seen to be a community of primary importance, since in the family both the
spouses and their children live out their proper vocation and are perfected in
charity. The Christian family – as was emphasized in the Synod – is an apostolic
community open to mission.201
It is the Bishop's particular task to ensure that within civil society the
values of marriage are supported and defended by means of correct political and
economic decisions. Within the Christian community he will not fail to encourage
the preparation of engaged couples for marriage, the pastoral accompaniment of
young couples and the formation of groups of families who can support the family
apostolate and, not least, be in a position to assist families in trouble. The
closeness of the Bishop to married couples and their children, expressed also by
various initiatives on the Diocesan level, will prove a source of encouragement
In considering the family's responsibilities in the area of education, the Synod
Fathers unanimously acknowledged the value of Catholic schools for the integral
formation of the younger generation, for the inculturation of the faith and for
dialogue between different cultures. Bishops need to support and enhance the
work of Catholic schools, seeking to establish them where they do not yet exist
and, to the extent of his ability, calling upon civil institutions to favour
effective freedom of instruction within the country.202
Young people, a pastoral priority for the future
53. The Bishop, as pastor and father of the Christian community, will be
particularly concerned for the evangelization and spiritual accompaniment of
young people. A minister of hope can hardly fail to build the future together
with those to whom the future is entrusted, that is, with young people. Like
''sentinels of the morning'', young people are awaiting the dawn of a new world.
The experience of the World Youth Days, which the Bishops heartily encourage,
shows how many young people are ready to commit themselves in the Church and in
the world, if only they are offered real responsibility and an integral
Here, voicing the thought of the Synod Fathers, I make a special appeal to
persons of consecrated life from the many Institutes engaged in the area of
educating and training children, adolescents and young people. They should not
yield to discouragement because of the difficulties of the moment or give up
their commendable work, but rather intensify their efforts and aim at ever
Young people, through personal relationships with their pastors and teachers,
must be encouraged to grow in charity and be trained for a life of generosity
and availability for the service of others, especially the needy and the infirm.
In this way it will be easier to speak with them about the other Christian
virtues, especially chastity. By taking this path they will come to know that
life is ''something beautiful'' when it is given to others, following the
example of Jesus. Thus, they will be able to make responsible and binding
decisions, whether about marriage, the sacred ministry or the consecrated life.
The promotion of vocations
54. It is essential to promote a vocational culture in the broadest sense: young
people, in other words, need to be helped to discover that life itself is a
vocation. The Bishop would do well, then, to appeal to families, parish
communities and educational institutes to assist boys and girls in discovering
God's plan in their lives and in embracing the call to holiness which God from
the beginning addresses to each person.204
It is very important in this regard to reinforce the vocational dimension of all
pastoral activity. The Bishop must ensure that the pastoral care of young people
and the promotion of vocations is entrusted to priests and to persons capable of
passing on their love for Jesus by their enthusiasm and the example of their
lives. It will be their responsibility to accompany young people personally, by
their friendship and, when possible, by spiritual direction, in order to help
them to grasp the signs of God's call and to discover the strength to respond to
it in the grace of the sacraments and in the life of prayer, which is above all
an attentive listening to God who speaks.
These are a few of the spheres in which every Bishop exercises his ministry of
governance and manifests to the portion of the People of God entrusted to his
care the pastoral charity which impels him. One of the characteristic forms of
this charity is compassion, like that of Christ, our High Priest, who was
able to sympathize with our human weaknesses because he himself, like us, was
tempted in every respect yet, unlike us, without sin (cf. Heb 4:15). This
compassion is always linked to the responsibility which the Bishop has accepted
before God and the Church. It is in this way that he fulfils the promises and
carries out the commitments made on the day of his episcopal ordination, when he
freely assented to the Church's charge to care for the holy People of God as a
devoted father and to guide them in the way of salvation; to be always welcoming
and merciful, in the name of the Lord, to the poor, the sick and all those in
need of comfort and help; and, like a good shepherd, to go in search of the
sheep who stray, in order to bring them back to the fold of Christ.205
IN THE COMMUNION
OF THE CHURCHES
“Anxiety for all the Churches” (2 Cor 11:28)
55. Writing to the Christians of Corinth, the Apostle Paul recalls everything he
suffered for the Gospel: ''frequent journeys, danger from rivers, danger from
robbers, danger from my own people, danger from the Gentiles, danger in the
city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brethren, in
toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often
without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the
daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the Churches'' (2 Cor
11:26-28). Paul concludes with an impassioned question: ''Who is weak, and I am
not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?'' (2 Cor 11:29).
This same question is asked of the conscience of every Bishop, as a member of
the College of Bishops.
The Second Vatican Council mentions this expressly when it states that all
Bishops, as members of the College of Bishops and legitimate successors of the
Apostles by Christ's institution and command, are obliged to extend their
concern to the entire Church. ''All the Bishops, in fact, have a duty to promote
and defend the unity of faith and discipline common to the whole Church, to
instruct the faithful in the love of the whole mystical body of Christ –
especially those members who are poor and suffering and those who are undergoing
persecution for righteousness' sake (cf. Mt 5:10) – and finally to promote
every activity that is common to the whole Church, especially that which is
aimed at the spread of the faith and the rising of the light of full truth over
all people. For the rest, it is a holy truth that by governing well their own
Church as a portion of the universal Church, they themselves make an effective
contribution to the whole mystical body, which is also a body of Churches''.206
As a consequence, each Bishop is simultaneously in relation with his particular
Church and with the universal Church. The Bishop, who himself is the visible
principle and foundation of unity in his own particular Church, is also the
visible bond of ecclesiastical communion between his particular Church and the
universal Church. All the Bishops, residing in their particular Churches
throughout the world, yet always preserving hierarchical communion with the Head
of the College of Bishops and the College itself, thus give consistency and
expression to the Church's catholicity, while at the same time conferring this
mark of catholicity upon their own particular Church. Each Bishop is
consequently a kind of meeting-point between his particular Church and the
universal Church, and a visible witness of the presence of the one Church of
Christ within his particular Church. In the communion of the Churches the Bishop
thus represents his particular Church and in it he represents the communion of
the Churches. Through the episcopal ministry the portiones Ecclesiae
participate in the totality of the Una Sancta, while the latter, again
through their ministry, is made present in each individual Ecclesiae portio.207
The universal dimension of the episcopal ministry is fully manifested and
realized when all the Bishops, in hierarchical communion with the Roman Pontiff,
act as a College. Solemnly gathered in Ecumenical Council or dispersed
throughout the world yet always in hierarchical communion with the Roman
Pontiff, they are the continuation of the College of the Apostles.208
In other forms too, all the Bishops cooperate among themselves and with the
Roman Pontiff in bonum totius Ecclesiae; this happens primarily so that
the Gospel will be proclaimed to all the world and also to confront the various
problems faced by the different particular Churches. At the same time, the
exercise of the ministry of the Successor of Peter for the good of the whole
Church and of every particular Church, and the action of the College as such,
help greatly to ensure that the unity of faith and discipline common to the
entire Church will be preserved in the particular Churches entrusted to the
pastoral care of individual Diocesan Bishops. In the Chair of Peter the Bishops,
both as individuals and united among themselves as a College, find the perpetual
and visible principle and foundation of unity in faith and of communion.209
The Diocesan Bishop in relation
to the Church's supreme authority
56. The Second Vatican Council teaches that, ''as successors of the Apostles,
the Bishops in the Dioceses entrusted to them possess per se all
ordinary, proper and immediate power needed for the exercise of their pastoral
office (munus pastorale), with no prejudice whatsoever to the power
which, by virtue of his office, the Roman Pontiff possesses of reserving cases
to himself or to some other authority''.210
In the Synod Hall the question was raised whether the relationship between the
Bishop and the Church's supreme authority could be treated in the light of the
principle of subsidiarity, especially with regard to relations between
individual Bishops and the Roman Curia. Hope was expressed that this
relationship, in accordance with an ecclesiology of communion, could be
characterized by respect for the competence of each and thus contribute to a
greater decentralization. It was also asked that a study be made of the
possibility of applying this principle to the life of the Church, without
prejudice however to the fact that a constitutive principle for the exercise of
episcopal authority is the hierarchical communion of the individual Bishops with
the Roman Pontiff and the College of Bishops.
As we know, the principle of subsidiarity was formulated by my venerable
predecessor Pope Pius XI with reference to civil society.211 The
Second Vatican Council, while never employing the term ''subsidiarity'', did
encourage a sharing between Church structures and opened the way for new
reflection on the theology of the episcopate, and this is bearing fruit in the
concrete application of the principle of collegiality to ecclesial communion.
All the same, the Synod Fathers considered that, as far as the exercise of
episcopal authority is concerned, the concept of subsidiarity has proved
ambiguous, and they called for a deeper theological investigation of the nature
of episcopal authority in the light of the principle of communion.212
In the Synodal Assembly there was considerable discussion of the principle of
communion.213 This is an organic communion inspired by the image of
the Body of Christ which the Apostle Paul uses in order to emphasize the
functions of complementarity and mutual help between the different members of
the one body (cf. 1 Cor 12:12-31).
If recourse to the principle of communion is to be made correctly and
effectively, certain points of reference must always be kept in mind. Account
will first have to be made of the fact that within his particular Church the
Diocesan Bishop possesses all ordinary, proper and immediate power needed for
carrying out his pastoral ministry. He therefore has a proper sphere for the
independent exercise of this authority, a sphere recognized and protected by
universal law.214 On the other hand, the Bishop's power coexists with
the supreme power of the Roman Pontiff, which is itself episcopal, ordinary and
immediate over all the individual Churches and their groupings, and over all the
pastors and faithful.215
Another firmly established point to be kept in mind is that the unity of the
Church is grounded in the unity of the episcopate, which, in order to be one,
requires that there be a Head of the College. Analogously, the Church, in order
to be one, calls for a Church that is Head of the Churches, the Church of Rome,
whose Bishop, the Successor of Peter, is the Head of the College.216
Consequently, ''for each particular Church to be fully Church, that is, the
particular presence of the universal Church, with all its essential elements,
and hence constituted after the model of the universal Church, there must be
present in it, as a proper element, the supreme authority of the Church [...]
The primacy of the Bishop of Rome and the Episcopal College are proper elements
of the universal Church that are 'not derived from the particularity of the
Churches', but are nevertheless interior to each particular Church [...] The
ministry of the Successor of Peter as something interior to each particular
Church is a necessary expression of that fundamental mutual interiority between
universal Church and particular Church''.217
The Church of Christ, in her mark of catholicity, is fully realized in each
particular Church, which receives all the natural and supernatural means needed
to carry out the mission which God has entrusted to the Church to accomplish in
the world. Among these means there is also the ordinary, proper and immediate
power of the Bishop, required for the exercise of his pastoral ministry (munus
pastorale), but whose exercise is subject to universal laws and to cases
established by law or by a decree of the Supreme Pontiff where it is reserved to
the supreme authority or to some other ecclesiastical authority.218
The capacity of proper governance, including the exercise of the authentic
magisterium,219 which of its nature pertains to the Bishop in his
Diocese, is an inherent part of the mysterious reality of the Church, whereby
the universal Church is immanent within the particular Church together with her
supreme authority, that is, the Roman Pontiff and the College of Bishops, who
possess supreme, full, ordinary and immediate power over all the faithful and
In accordance with the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, it must be stated
that the functions of teaching (munus docendi) and governing (munus
regendi) – and hence the corresponding power of magisterium and of
governance – are by their nature to be exercised in the particular Church by
each Diocesan Bishop in hierarchical communion with the Head of the College and
the College itself.221 This does not weaken episcopal authority, but
reinforces it, for the bonds of hierarchical communion linking the Bishops to
the Apostolic See necessarily demand a coordination of responsibilities on the
part of Diocesan Bishops and the supreme authority which is dictated by the
nature of the Church herself. It is the same divine law which limits the
exercise of both. Consequently, the power of Bishops ''is not diminished by the
supreme and universal power, but on the contrary it is affirmed, strengthened
and vindicated by it, since the Holy Spirit unfailingly preserves the form of
government established in his Church by Christ the Lord”.222
Pope Paul VI expressed this well at the opening of the third session of the
Second Vatican Council: ''Just as you, venerable Brothers in the episcopate,
spread throughout the world, in order to bring about and demonstrate the
Church's true catholicity, have need of a center, of a principle of unity in
faith and communion, such as you find in this Chair of Peter; so too We need you
to be closely associated with Us, in order to enable the Apostolic See always to
reflect its eminence and its human and historical significance, and, indeed, so
that its faith will be harmoniously preserved, its duties carried out in
exemplary manner and comfort given to it in its tribulations''.223
The reality of communion, which is the basis of all intraecclesial relationships
224 and which was also emphasized in the Synod discussions, is a
relation of reciprocity between the Roman Pontiff and the Bishops. Indeed, if on
the one hand the Bishop, in order to express fully his own office and to
establish the catholicity of his Church, must exercise the power of governance
proper to him (munus regendi) in hierarchical communion with the Roman
Pontiff and with the College of Bishops, on the other hand the Roman Pontiff,
the Head of the College, in the exercise of his ministry as Supreme Pastor of
the Church (munus supremi Ecclesiae pastoris) must always act in
communion with all the other Bishops and indeed with the whole Church.225
Consequently, in the communion of the Church, just as the Bishop is never alone
but always related to the College and its Head and sustained by them, so also
the Roman Pontiff is never alone but is always related to the Bishops and
sustained by them. This is yet another reason why the exercise of the supreme
power of the Roman Pontiff does not destroy, but affirms, strengthens and
vindicates the ordinary, proper and immediate power of each Bishop in his
Visits ''ad Limina Apostolorum''
57. A manifestation and means of communion between the Bishops and the Chair of
Peter is the visit ad Limina Apostolorum.226 This event has
three principal moments, each with its own proper meaning.227 The
first is the pilgrimage to the tombs of the Princes of the Apostles Peter and
Paul, which evokes that one faith to which they bore witness in Rome by their
Closely linked to this moment is the meeting with the Successor of Peter. On the
occasion of their visit ad Limina, the Bishops gather round him and bring
about, in accordance with the principle of catholicity, a sharing of gifts
between all those goods which the Spirit makes present in the Church on both the
particular and local level and on the universal level.228 What then
takes place is not simply an exchange of information but primarily the
affirmation and the consolidation of collegiality (collegialis confirmatio)
in the body of the Church, which gives rise to unity in diversity and generates
a kind of ''perichoresis'' between the universal Church and the particular
Churches which can be compared to the movement whereby the blood sets out from
the heart for the extremities of the body and from them returns to the heart.229
The vital lymph which comes from Christ unites all the parts like the sap of the
vine which goes out to the branches (cf. Jn 15:5). This is made
particularly clear in the Eucharist which the Bishops celebrate with the Pope.
Every Eucharist is celebrated in communion with one's own Bishop, with the Roman
Pontiff and with the College of Bishops, and through them with the faithful of
the particular Church and of the whole Church, so that the universal Church is
present in the particular Church and the particular Church becomes part,
together with the other particular Churches, of the communion of the universal
From the earliest centuries the ultimate reference of communion is to the Church
of Rome, where Peter and Paul gave their testimony of faith. Indeed, by virtue
of her pre-eminent position, every Church has to agree with this Church, for she
is the ultimate guarantee of the integrity of the tradition handed down by the
Apostles.230 The Church of Rome presides over the universal communion
of charity,231 safeguards legitimate differences and yet is vigilant
to ensure that particularity not only does not harm unity but serves it.232
All this involves the need for communion on the part of the various Churches
with the Church of Rome, so that all may remain in the integrity of the
Apostolic Tradition and in the unity of canonical discipline for the
safeguarding of the faith, the sacraments and the concrete life of holiness.
This communion of the Churches is expressed by the hierarchical communion of the
individual Bishops and the Roman Pontiff.233 From the communion
cum Petro et sub Petro of all the Bishops, brought about in charity, there emerges the duty for
all to cooperate with the Successor of Peter for the good of the whole Church
and therefore of every particular Church. The visit ad Limina is directed
precisely to this end.
The third moment of the visit ad Limina is the meeting with those in
charge of the offices of the Roman Curia: in these discussions the Bishops have
direct access to the individual offices responsible for handling certain issues
and problems, and thus are introduced to various aspects of common pastoral
concern. In this regard, the Synod Fathers asked that, as a sign of mutual
knowledge and trust, there be more frequent contacts between the Bishops,
individually or assembled in Episcopal Conferences, and the offices of the Roman
Curia,234 so that the latter, by being directly informed about the
concrete problems of the Churches, will be better able to carry out their
It cannot be doubted that the visits ad Limina, together with the
quinquennial report on the state of the Dioceses,235 are an effective
way of meeting the need for shared knowledge which is part of the reality of
communion between the Bishops and the Roman Pontiff. The presence of Bishops in
Rome for this visit can be a fitting occasion for them to obtain a quick reply
to questions which they have presented to the various offices and, on the other
hand, in response to a desire which they themselves have expressed, an
opportunity for an individual or collective consultation about the preparation
of documents of general importance. On occasion the Bishops can be appropriately
informed, prior to publication, of documents which the Holy See intends to issue
for the Church as a whole or specifically for their particular Churches.
The Synod of Bishops
58. In accordance with a now consolidated experience, every General Assembly of
the Synod of Bishops, which is in some way expressive of the episcopate,
demonstrates in a particular manner the spirit of communion uniting the Bishops with the Roman Pontiff, and
the Bishops among themselves, by making a solid ecclesial judgment, through the
working of the Spirit, concerning various problems affecting the life of the
As we know, during the Second Vatican Council the need was felt for the Bishops
to be able to assist the Roman Pontiff more effectively in the exercise of his
office. It was precisely in view of this that my venerable predecessor Pope Paul
VI instituted the Synod of Bishops.237 Through this body concrete
expression is given to the spirit of collegiality and the solicitude of the
Bishops for the good of the whole Church.
The passage of the years has demonstrated how the Bishops, in union of faith and
charity, can by their counsel offer significant assistance to the Roman Pontiff
in the exercise of his apostolic ministry, both for the preservation of faith
and morals and for the observance of ecclesiastical discipline. The exchange of
information about particular Churches, also by facilitating a convergence of
judgments on questions of doctrine, is a valuable means of reinforcing
Every General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops is a powerful ecclesial
experience, even if some of its practical procedures can always be perfected.239
The Bishops assembled in Synod represent in the first place their own Churches,
but they are also attentive to the contributions of the Episcopal Conferences
which selected them and whose views about questions under discussion they then
communicate. They thus express the recommendation of the entire hierarchical
body of the Church and finally, in a certain sense, the whole Christian people,
whose pastors they are.
The Synod is an event which makes it particularly evident that the Successor of
Peter, in carrying out his office, is always closely joined in communion with
the other Bishops and with the whole Church.240 In this regard, the
Code of Canon Law states: ''It is the role of the Synod of Bishops to discuss
the questions on their agenda and to express their desires about them but not to
resolve them or issue decrees about them, unless the Roman Pontiff in certain
cases has endowed the Synod with deliberative power, and, in this event, it is
his role to ratify its decision''.241 The fact that the Synod
ordinarily has only a consultative role does not diminish its importance. In the
Church the purpose of any collegial body, whether consultative or deliberative,
is always the search for truth or the good of the Church. When it is therefore a
question involving the faith itself, the consensus ecclesiae is not
determined by the tallying of votes, but is the outcome of the working of the
Spirit, the soul of the one Church of Christ.
Precisely because the Synod is at the service of truth and the
Church, as an expression of true co-responsibility by the whole
episcopate in union with its Head for the good of the Church, when the
Bishops give their vote, be it consultative or deliberative, together
with the other members of the Synod who are not Bishops, they express
their participation in the governance of the universal Church. Like my
venerable predecessor Paul VI, I have always valued the proposals and
views expressed by the Synod Fathers, and have included them in the
process of drawing up the document which presents the results of the
Synod and which, precisely for this reason, I like to describe as
Communion between the Bishops and the Churches
at the local level
59. In addition to the universal level, there are many different forms which can
and do express episcopal communion and therefore solicitude for all the sister
Churches. The relationships of exchange between Bishops thus go well beyond
their institutional meetings. A lively awareness of the collegial dimension of
the ministry bestowed on them should impel them to bring about among themselves,
especially within the same Episcopal Conference, on both the provincial and
regional levels, a variety of expressions of sacramental fraternity, ranging
from mutual acceptance and esteem to the various manifestations of charity and
As I have written, ''Much has been done since the Second Vatican Council for the
reform of the Roman Curia, the organization of Synods and the functioning of
Episcopal Conferences. But there is certainly much more to be done, in order to
realize all the potential of these instruments of communion, which are
especially appropriate today in view of the need to respond promptly and
effectively to the issues which the Church must face in these rapidly changing
times''.242 The new century must find us more committed than ever to
improving and developing ways and means of ensuring and guaranteeing communion
between the Bishops and between the Churches.
Every action of the Bishop carried out in the exercise of his proper pastoral
ministry is always an action carried out in the College. Whether it is an
exercise of the ministry of the word or of governance in his particular Church,
or a decision made with his brother Bishops regarding other particular Churches
within the same Episcopal Conference in the area of the province or region, it
always remains an action in the College, since it is carried out while
preserving communion with other Bishops and with the Head of the College, as
well as engaging the Bishop's own pastoral responsibility. All this takes place
not just for the sake of humanly convenient coordination, but rather out of a
concern for the other Churches, based on the fact that each Bishop is part of
and assembled in a Body or College. Every Bishop is at once responsible, albeit
in different ways, for his particular Church, the neighbouring sister Churches
and the universal Church.
The Synod Fathers rightly reaffirmed that: ''Living in episcopal communion, the
individual Bishops should sense as their own the difficulties and sufferings of
their brother Bishops. In order to reinforce and strengthen this episcopal
communion, individual Bishops and individual Episcopal Conferences should
carefully consider the means that their own Churches have for helping their
poorer counterparts''.243 We know that such poverty can consist in a
severe shortage of priests or other pastoral workers, or in a serious lack of
material resources. In both cases it is the proclamation of the Gospel which
suffers. For this reason, following the exhortation of the Second Vatican
Council,244 I endorse the thinking of the Synod Fathers, who
expressed the hope that relations of fraternal solidarity will be promoted
between the Churches of ancient evangelization and the so-called ''young
Churches'', also by setting up forms of ''twinning'' which find concrete
expression in the sharing of experiences and pastoral workers, and financial
aid. This will confirm the image of the Church as ''God's family,'' in which the
stronger support the weaker for the benefit of all.245
In this way the communion of the Bishops finds embodiment within the communion
of the Church. Their communion is also expressed in loving concern for those
pastors who, more than their brother Bishops, and for reasons primarily linked
to local situations, have endured or sadly continue to endure sufferings, most
often in union with the sufferings of their faithful. One category of pastors
worthy of particular attention, due to the growing numbers of its members, is
that of Bishops Emeritus. To them, in the concluding liturgy of the Tenth
Ordinary General Assembly, together with the Synod Fathers, I often turned my
thoughts. The whole Church has great respect for these our dear Brothers who are
still important members of the College of Bishops, and is grateful for the
pastoral service which they rendered and continue to render by putting their
wisdom and experience at the disposal of the community. Competent authority will
not fail to make good use of their personal spiritual patrimony, which also
includes a valuable part of the historical memory of the Churches which they led
for many years. It is our duty to see that they are ensured conditions of
spiritual and financial security in the humane conditions which they reasonably
desire. Study should also be given to the possibility of continuing to make use
of their skills in the various agencies of the Episcopal Conferences.246
The Eastern Catholic Churches
60. In the same context of communion between the Bishops and the Churches, the
Synod Fathers paid particular attention to the Eastern Catholic Churches, and
once again considered the richness of their venerable and ancient traditions,
which constitute a living treasure which coexists with comparable expressions in
the Latin Church. Together they shed greater light on the Catholic unity of
God's holy people.247
There can be no doubt that the Catholic Churches of the East, due to their
spiritual, historical, theological, liturgical and disciplinary closeness to the
Orthodox Churches and the other Eastern Churches not yet fully in communion with
the Catholic Church, are especially entitled to contribute to the promotion of
Christian unity, especially in the East. Like all the Churches, they are called
to do this through prayer and an exemplary Christian life; moreover, as their
own specific contribution, they are called to unite their religious fidelity to
the ancient Eastern traditions.248
The Patriarchal Churches and their Synods
61. Among the institutions characteristic of the Eastern Catholic Churches are
the Patriarchal Churches. These belong to those groupings of Churches which, as
the Second Vatican Council states,249 by God's Providence, were
organically constituted with the passage of time and enjoy both proper
discipline and liturgical usages, and a common theological and spiritual
heritage, even as they continue to preserve the unity of faith and the one
divine constitution of the universal Church. Their particular dignity comes from
the fact that they, somewhat like mothers of faith, have given birth to other
Churches which are in some sense their daughters, and have remained linked to
them by a close bond of charity in the sacramental life and in mutual respect
for rights and duties.
In the Church the institution of the Patriarchate is truly ancient. Already
attested to at the first Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, it was recognized by the
first ecumenical Councils and remains the traditional form of governance in the
Eastern Churches.250 In its origin and particular structure, however,
it is of ecclesiastical institution. For this reason the Second Vatican
Ecumenical Council expresses the desire that: ''Where there is a need, new
patriarchates [are] to be set up. This is reserved to an ecumenical council or
to the Roman Pontiff ''.251 Those in the Eastern Church who exercise
supra-episcopal and supralocal power – such as the Patriarchs and the Synod of
Bishops of the Patriarchal Churches – participate in the Church's supreme
authority which the Successor of Peter has over the entire Church and they
exercise this power with respect not only to that of the primacy of the Roman
Pontiff,252 but also to that of the office of the individual Bishops,
without intruding into their areas of competence or limiting the free exercise
of the functions proper to them.
Relations between the Bishops of a Patriarchal Church and the Patriarch, who for
his part is Bishop of the Patriarchal Eparchy, develop on the foundation already
laid down in antiquity in the Canons of the Apostles: ''The Bishops of each
nation should know who among them is the first and should consider him as their
head and do nothing of importance without his assent. Each should be concerned
only with what regards his own district and its dependent territories; but at
the same time he should do nothing without the assent of all. In this way
concord will reign and God will be glorified through Christ in the Holy
Spirit''.253 This canon expresses the Eastern Churches' ancient
practice of synodality, while presenting its theological basis and its
doxological significance, for it clearly affirms that the synodal action of the
Bishops in concord gives worship and glory to the Triune God.
The synodal life of the Patriarchal Churches must therefore be acknowledged as
an effective implementation of the collegial dimension of the episcopal
ministry. All legitimately consecrated Bishops take part in the Synod of their
Patriarchal Church as the pastors of a portion of the People of God.
Nonetheless, the role of the ''primus,'' that is, the Patriarch, is
acknowledged as an element which in its own way is constitutive of the collegial
action. There can be no collegial action without a ''primus'' who is
recognized as such. Synodality does not destroy or diminish the legitimate
autonomy of each Bishop in the governance of his own Church; rather it affirms
the spirit of collegiality of the Bishops who are co-responsible for all the
particular Churches within the Patriarchate.
The Patriarchal Synod is recognized as possessing true power of governance. It
elects the Patriarch and the Bishops for offices within the territory of the
Patriarchal Church, and chooses candidates for the episcopacy for offices beyond
the confines of the Patriarchal Church who are then proposed to the Roman
Pontiff for appointment.254 In addition to the consent or
consultation needed for the validity of determined acts within the competence of
the Patriarch, the Synod can also issue laws which are binding within – and in
the case of liturgical laws even beyond – the confines of the Patriarchal
Church.255 The Synod is also, without prejudice to the competence of
the Apostolic See, the superior tribunal within the confines of the Patriarchal
Church.256 For the handling of more important affairs, especially
those regarding the updating of the forms and modalities of the apostolate and
ecclesiastical discipline, the Patriarch and the Patriarchal Synod will make use
of the consultative collaboration of the Patriarchal Assembly, which the
Patriarch convenes at least once every five years.257
The organization of the Metropolitan
See and of Ecclesiastical Provinces
62. One concrete way of fostering communion between the Bishops and solidarity
between Churches is to restore vitality to the ancient institution of
Ecclesiastical Provinces, in which the Metropolitan is an instrument and sign
both of fraternity between the Bishops of the Province and of their communion
with the Roman Pontiff.258 Given the similarity of the problems
encountered by individual Bishops and the fact that their limited number can
enable greater understanding, common pastoral undertakings will certainly be
better planned in meetings of Bishops from the same Province and especially in
Wherever it is considered appropriate for the common good to erect
Ecclesiastical Regions, a similar function can be carried out by meetings of
Bishops of the same Region or by Plenary Councils. Here it is necessary to
reaffirm what was stated by the Second Vatican Council: ''The venerable
institutions of Synods and Councils should flourish with renewed vigour, so that
by this means more suitable and effective provision may be made for the increase
of faith and the maintenance of discipline in the different Churches as required
by the circumstances of the times''.259 In these assemblies the
Bishops will be able to act in expressing their communion not only with one
another but with all the components of that portion of the People of God
entrusted to them; in Councils these components are represented by the norm of
Particular Councils, precisely because they involve the participation of
priests, deacons, men and women religious and lay persons, albeit with a
consultative vote only, are an immediate expression not only of communion
between the Bishops but also of communion between the Churches. As a solemn
ecclesial occasion, Particular Councils also demand careful thought in their
preparation, which involves all the categories of the faithful, so that they can
be a fitting place for decisions of greater importance, especially regarding the
faith. The place of Particular Councils cannot therefore be taken by Episcopal
Conferences, as the Second Vatican Council made clear when it expressed the hope
that Particular Councils would take on renewed vigour. Episcopal Conferences can
however be most helpful for the preparation of Plenary Councils.260
63. The foregoing is in no way meant to play down the importance and usefulness
of Conferences of Bishops, which were given an institutional configuration by
the Council and more precisely determined by the Code of Canon Law and the
recent Motu Proprio
Apostolos Suos.261 In the Eastern Catholic
Churches, comparable institutions are the assemblies of hierarchs of the
different Churches sui iuris provided for by the Code of Canons of the
Eastern Churches. In these assemblies, ''by sharing the insights of wisdom born
of experience and by the exchange of views, the pooling of resources is achieved
for the common good of the Churches, so that unity of action is fostered, common
works are facilitated, the good of religion is more readily promoted and
ecclesiastical discipline is preserved more effectively''.262
Today, as the Synod Fathers observed, these assemblies of are a valuable means
for giving expression and practical implementation to the Bishops' collegial
spirit. Episcopal Conferences should therefore be used to their full potential.263
Indeed, ''they have developed significantly and have become the preferred means
for the Bishops of a country or a specific territory to exchange views, consult
with one another and cooperate in promoting the common good of the Church; 'in
recent years they have become a concrete, living and efficient reality
throughout the world.' Their importance is seen in the fact that they contribute
effectively to unity between the Bishops, and thus to the unity of the Church,
since they are a most helpful means of strengthening ecclesial communion''.264
Since membership in Episcopal Conferences is limited to Bishops and all those
equivalent in law to Diocesan Bishops, even if not possessing the episcopal
character,265 the immediate theological foundation of Episcopal
Conferences, unlike that of Particular Councils, is the collegial dimension of
responsibility for episcopal governance. Only indirectly is it communion between
In any event, since Episcopal Conferences are permanent bodies which meet
periodically, they will be effective if their role is considered auxiliary
vis-à-vis the role which the individual Bishops carry out by divine law in their
Church. On the level of the individual Church, the Diocesan Bishop, in the
Lord's name, shepherds the flock entrusted to him as a proper, ordinary and
immediate pastor, and his acts are strictly personal, not collegial, albeit
prompted by a spirit of communion. Consequently, on the level of groupings of
particular Churches by geographical areas (nations, regions, etc.), the Bishops
set over the individual Churches do not jointly exercise their pastoral care
through collegial acts comparable to those of the College of Bishops, which as a
theological subject is indivisible.266 The Bishops of the same
Episcopal Conference, assembled at their meetings, exercise jointly, for the
good of their faithful and within the limits of the areas of competence granted
them by law or by mandate of the Apostolic See, only some of the functions
deriving from their pastoral ministry (munus pastorale).267
Certainly the more numerous Episcopal Conferences, in order to carry out their
service to the individual Bishops who are members, and consequently to the
individual Churches, require a complex organization. Even so, ''an excessively
bureaucratic development of offices and commissions operating between plenary
sessions'' 268 is to be avoided. ''Episcopal Conferences with their
commissions and offices exist to be of help to the Bishops and not to substitute
for them'',269 and even less to create an intermediate structure
between the Apostolic See and individual Bishops. Episcopal Conferences can
provide valuable assistance to the Apostolic See by expressing their views with
regard to specific problems of a more general nature.270
Episcopal Conferences also express and encourage the collegial spirit of union
between Bishops and, consequently, communion between the different Churches;
they establish between Churches, especially neighbouring ones, close relations
in the pursuit of a greater good.271 This can be done in various
ways, through councils, symposia and federations. Of particular importance are
continental Bishops' meetings, which nonetheless never assume the areas of
competence belonging to Episcopal Conferences. Such meetings are of great help
in fostering between the Episcopal Conferences of different nations that
cooperation which in this time of ''globalization'' is particularly necessary
for meeting challenges and for bringing about a true ''globalization of
The Church's unity and ecumenical dialogue
64. The Lord Jesus' prayer for unity between his disciples (ut unum sint: Jn
17:21) is for every Bishop a pressing summons to a specific apostolic duty. This
unity is not to be looked for as the fruit of our own efforts; it is first and
foremost a gift of the Holy Trinity to the Church. This however does not
dispense Christians from making every effort, beginning with prayer itself, to
hasten the journey towards full unity. In response to the Lord's prayers and his
will and to the offering he made on the Cross in order to gather together the
scattered children of God (cf. Jn 11:52), the Catholic Church is
irrevocably committed to the ecumenical dialogue, which is crucial for the
effectiveness of her witness before the world. It is essential to persevere on
the path of the dialogue of truth and love.
Many Synod Fathers mentioned the specific vocation of each Bishop to promote
this dialogue in his Diocese and develop it in veritate et caritate (cf.
Eph 4:15). The scandal of division between Christians is felt by all to
be a sign which contradicts Christian hope. The practical means for promoting
ecumenical dialogue have been shown to consist in a better mutual understanding
between the Catholic Church and the other Churches and Ecclesial Communities
which are not in full communion with her, in suitable meetings and initiatives,
and above all in the witness of charity. Indeed, there exists an ecumenism of
daily life, made up of mutual acceptance, listening and cooperation, the last of
which is singularly effective.
On the other hand, the Synod Fathers also noted the danger of ill-considered
gestures, signs of an ''impatient ecumenism'' which can do harm to the journey
being made towards full unity. For this reason it is most important that the
correct principles of ecumenical dialogue be accepted and practised by all, and
emphasized in the seminary training of candidates for the sacred ministry, in
parishes and in other ecclesial structures. The inner life of the Church must
offer a witness of unity in respect and a greater openness to the acceptance and
growth of the great treasure represented by the different theological,
spiritual, liturgical and disciplinary traditions.273
Missionary spirit in the episcopal ministry
65. As members of the Episcopal College, Bishops are consecrated not just for a
single Diocese but for the salvation of all mankind.274 This teaching
of the Second Vatican Council was recalled by the Synod Fathers in order to
emphasize the fact that each Bishop needs to be conscious of the missionary
character of his pastoral ministry. All his pastoral activity should be marked
by a missionary spirit capable of awakening and maintaining among the faithful a
zeal for the spread of the Gospel. It is the duty of the Bishop to bring about,
promote and direct missionary activities and initiatives in his Diocese,
including the provision of financial support.275
As was stated in the Synod Hall, it is no less important for him to encourage
the missionary dimension in his own particular Church by promoting, in
accordance with different situations, fundamental values such as the
acknowledgement of one's neighbour, respect for cultural diversity and a healthy
interaction between different cultures. On the other hand, the increasingly
multicultural character of cities and societies, especially as a result of
international migration, is creating new situations which present a particular
During the Synod there were also interventions which raised certain issues about
the relationship between Diocesan Bishops and missionary Religious
Congregations, and which stressed the need for deeper reflection in this regard.
At the same time, there was an acknowledgement of the wealth of experience which
a particular Church can receive from Congregations of consecrated life, as a
means of keeping the missionary dimension alive among the faithful.
In his zeal for mission, the Bishop should be seen as the servant and witness of
hope. Mission is the sure index of our faith in Christ and his love for us:
276 men and women of all times are thereby inspired to a new life
motivated by hope. In proclaiming the Risen Lord, Christians present the One who
inaugurates a new era of history and announce to the world the good news of a
complete and universal salvation which contains in itself the pledge of a new
world in which pain and injustice will give way to joy and beauty. At the
beginning of a new millennium marked by a clearer awareness of the universality
of salvation and a realization that the Gospel daily needs to be proclaimed
anew, the Synodal Assembly raised an appeal that our commitment to mission
should not be lessened but rather expanded, through ever more profound
THE BISHOP BEFORE
THE CHALLENGES OF THE PRESENT
''Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world!''
66. In sacred Scripture the Church is compared to a flock ''which God himself
foretold that he would shepherd, and whose sheep, even though governed by human
shepherds, are continuously led and nourished by Christ himself, the Good
Shepherd and the Prince of Shepherds''.277 Does not Jesus himself
call his disciples a pusillus grex and exhort them not to fear but to
have hope (cf. Lk 12:32)? Jesus often repeated this exhortation to his
disciples: ''In the world you will have fear; but be of good cheer, I have
overcome the world!'' (Jn 16:33). As he was about to return to the
Father, he washed the feet of the Apostles and said to them: ''Let not your
hearts be troubled,'' and added: ''I am the way... No one comes to the Father,
but by me'' (cf. Jn 14:1-6). On this “way” which is Christ, the little
flock, the Church, has set out, and is led by him, the Good Shepherd, who,
''when he has brought out all his own, goes before them, and the sheep follow
him, for they know his voice'' (Jn 10:4).
In the image of Jesus Christ, and following in his footsteps, the Bishop also
goes forth to proclaim him before the world as the Saviour of mankind, the
Saviour of every man and woman. As a missionary of the Gospel, he acts in the
name of the Church, which is an expert in humanity and close to the men and
women of our time. Consequently, the Bishop, with the strength which comes from
the radicalism of the Gospel, also has the duty to unmask false conceptions of
man, to defend values being threatened by ideological movements and to discern
the truth. With the Apostle he can repeat: ''We toil and strive, because we have
our hope set on the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, especially of
those who believe'' (1 Tim 4:10).
The Bishop's activity should thus be marked by that parrhesía which is
the fruit of the working of the Spirit (cf. Acts 4:31). Leaving behind
his very self in order to proclaim Jesus Christ, the Bishop takes up his mission
with confidence and courage, factus pontifex, becoming in truth a
''bridge'' which leads to every man and women. With the burning love of a
shepherd he goes out in search of the sheep, following in the footsteps of Jesus
who says: ''I have other sheep that are not of this fold; I must bring them also
and they will hear my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd'' (Jn
The Bishop, promoter of justice and peace
67. Within this missionary context, the Synod Fathers described the Bishop as a
prophet of justice. The war of the powerful against the weak has, today more
than ever before, created profound divisions between rich and poor. The poor are
legion! Within an unjust economic system marked by significant structural
inequities, the situation of the marginalized is daily becoming worse. Today, in
many parts of the world, people are starving, while in other places there is
opulence. It is above all the poor, the young and refugees who are the victims
of these dramatic cases of inequality. In addition, women in many places are
demeaned in their dignity as persons, victims of a hedonistic and materialistic
In the face of, and often in the midst of these situations of injustice which
inevitably open the door to conflicts and death, the Bishop is the defender of
human rights, the rights of human beings made in the image and likeness of God.
He proclaims the Church's moral teaching by defending life from conception to
its natural end. He likewise proclaims the Church's social teaching, based on
the Gospel, and he shows profound concern for the defence of all who are poor,
raising his voice on behalf of the voiceless in order to defend their rights.
The Church's social teaching is able to offer hope even in the worst of
situations, because, if there is no hope for the poor, there will be no hope for
anyone, not even for the so-called rich.
The Bishops vigorously condemned terrorism and genocide, and raised their voice
on behalf of those who cry out because of injustice, those who are being
persecuted and those who are unemployed, as well as children who are being
abused in various and increasingly serious ways. Like holy Church herself, which
is in the world the sacrament of intimate union with God and of the unity of the
whole human race,278 the Bishop is the defender and the father of the
poor, concerned for justice and human rights, and one who brings hope.279
The words of the Synod Fathers, and my own, were explicit and forceful. ''During
this Synod, we could not close our eyes to many other collective tragedies... A
drastic moral change is needed... Some endemic evils, when they are too long
ignored, can produce despair in entire populations. How can we keep silent when
confronted by the enduring drama of hunger and extreme poverty, in an age where
humanity, more than ever, has the capacity for a just sharing of resources? We
must also express our solidarity with the flood of refugees and immigrants, who,
because of war, political oppression or economic discrimination, are forced to
flee their homeland in search of employment or in the hope of finding peace. The
ravages of malaria, the spread of AIDS, illiteracy, the hopelessness of so many
children and youth abandoned to life on the streets, the exploitation of women,
pornography, intolerance and the unacceptable exploitation of religion for
violent purposes, drug trafficking and the sale of arms: the list is not
exhaustive! Still, in the midst of all this distress, the humble take new heart.
The Lord looks at them and strengthens them. 'Because they rob the afflicted,
and the needy sigh, now I will arise,' says the Lord'' (Ps 12:5).280
The dramatic picture just painted can only evoke an urgent appeal for peace and
a commitment to building peace. The hotbeds of conflict inherited from the past
century and from the whole past millennium continue to smoulder. Numerous local
conflicts are creating profound wounds between different cultures and
nationalities. And how can we fail to mention forms of religious fundamentalism,
a constant enemy of dialogue and peace? In many areas the world resembles a
powder-keg ready to explode and shower immense suffering upon the human family.
In this situation the Church continues to proclaim the peace of Christ who in
the Sermon on the Mount proclaimed blessed those who are peacemakers (cf. Mt
5:9). Peace is everyone's responsibility, a responsibility which passes through
the thousand little acts which make up everyday life. It awaits its prophets and
builders, who should be found especially in the ecclesial communities of which
the Bishop is the pastor. Following the example of Jesus, who came to announce
freedom to the oppressed and to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord (cf.
Lk 4:16-21), the Bishop will be ever ready to show that, as the Church's
social teaching makes clear, Christian hope is deeply linked to zeal for the
integral promotion of individuals and society.
In the midst of tragically frequent situations of armed conflict, the Bishop,
even as he exhorts people to assert their rights, must always remind them that
Christians are obliged in all cases to reject vengeance and to be prepared to
forgive and to love their enemies.281 There can be no justice without
forgiveness. Hard as it may be to accept, for any sensible person the matter
seems obvious: true peace is possible only through forgiveness.282
Interreligious dialogue, especially on behalf of world peace
68. As I have insisted on various occasions, dialogue between the religions must
be put at the service of peace between peoples. The different religious
traditions possess the resources needed to overcome divisions and to build
reciprocal friendship and respect. The Synod appealed to Bishops to promote
meetings with the representatives of the world's peoples, in order to reflect
carefully on the conflicts and wars which are tearing our world apart, and to
identify the paths which can be taken towards a common commitment of justice,
concord and peace.
The Synod Fathers strongly emphasized the importance of interreligious dialogue
for peace, and asked the Bishops to commit themselves to engage in this
important activity in their respective Dioceses. New paths to peace can be
blazed by defending religious freedom, which the Second Vatican Council
discussed in the Decree
Dignitatis Humanae, and by working for the
education of the younger generation and the proper use of the communications
The horizons of interreligious dialogue, however, are surely wider, and so the
Synod Fathers stated once more that such dialogue belongs to the new
evangelization, especially in these times when people belonging to different
religions are increasingly living together in the same areas, in the same cities
and their daily workplaces. Interreligious dialogue thus has a place in the
daily life of many Christian families; for this reason too the Bishops, as
teachers of the faith and shepherds of the People of God, must give it proper
When Christians live side-by-side with persons of other religions, they have a
particular obligation to testify to the oneness and universality of the saving
mystery of Jesus Christ and to the consequent necessity of the Church as the
means of salvation for all humanity. ''This truth of faith does not lessen the
sincere respect which the Church has for the religions of the world, but at the
same time, it rules out, in a radical way, that mentality of indifferentism
characterized by a religious relativism which leads to the belief that 'one
religion is as good as another' ''.284 It is clear, then, that
interreligious dialogue can never be a substitute for the proclamation and
propagation of the faith, which constitute the primary goal of the Church's
preaching, catechesis and mission.
A frank and unambiguous affirmation that human salvation depends on the
redemption accomplished by Christ is not an obstacle to dialogue with other
religions. In the context of our profession of Christian hope, it cannot be
forgotten that it is precisely this hope which is the basis of interreligious
dialogue. As the conciliar Declaration
Nostra Aetate states: ''All
nations are one community and have one origin, because God caused the whole
human race to dwell on the whole face of the earth. They also have one final
end, God, whose providence, manifest goodness and plan of salvation extend to
all, until the elect be gathered together in the holy city which the glory of
God will illuminate and where the peoples will walk in his light''.285
Civil, social and economic life
69. The pastoral activity of the Bishop cannot fail to manifest particular
concern for the demands of love and justice arising from the social and economic
situation of the poor, the abandoned and the mistreated. In every poor person
believers see a special image of Jesus. Their presence within the ecclesial and
civil communities is a litmus test of the authenticity of our Christian faith.
I would also like to mention briefly the complex phenomenon of globalization,
which is one of the features of our world today. Certainly there exists a
''globalization'' of the economy, finances and culture which is expanding as a
result of the rapid progress of information technology. As I have observed on
other occasions, this phenomenon calls for careful discernment in order to
identify its positive and negative aspects and their consequences for the Church
and the whole human race. Bishops can make an important contribution to this
discernment by insisting on the urgent need for a globalization in charity,
without marginalization. In this regard, the Synod Fathers spoke of the duty of
promoting a ''globalization of charity'' and considered issues associated with
the cancellation of foreign debt, which compromises the economies of entire
peoples, holding back their social and political progress.286
Without entering into the details of this serious problem, I would only repeat
several fundamental points already indicated elsewhere. The Church's vision in
this area has three essential and concomitant points of reference: the dignity
of the human person, solidarity and subsidiarity. It follows that ''the
globalized economy must be analyzed in the light of the principles of social
justice, respecting the preferential option for the poor who must be allowed to
take their place in such an economy, and the requirements of the international
common good''.287 When globalization is joined to the dynamism of
solidarity, it is no longer a source of marginalization. Indeed, the
globalization of solidarity is a direct consequence of that universal charity
which is the heart of the Gospel.
Respect for the environment and the protection of creation
70. The Synod Fathers also addressed the ethical dimension of the ecological
question.288 In the deepest sense, a call for the globalization of
solidarity also involves the urgent question of the protection of creation and
the earth's resources. The ''crying out of all creation'' spoken of by the
Apostle (cf. Rom 8:22) seems today to occur in a reversal of
perspectives, since it is no longer a matter of an eschatological tension which
awaits the revelation of the sons of God (cf. Rom 8:19), but rather of a
paroxysm of death which strives to grip humanity itself in order to destroy it.
Here in fact we encounter the ecological question in its most insidious and
perverse form. In effect, ''the most profound and serious indication of the
moral implications underlying the ecological problem is the lack of respect for
life evident in many of the patterns of environmental pollution. Often, the
interests of production prevail over the dignity of workers, while economic
interests take priority over the good of individuals and even entire peoples. In
these cases, pollution or environmental destruction is the result of an
unnatural and reductive vision which at times leads to a genuine contempt for
Clearly, what is called for is not simply a physical ecology, concerned with
protecting the habitat of the various living beings, but a human ecology,
capable of protecting the radical good of life in all its manifestations and of
leaving behind for future generations an environment which conforms as closely
as possible to the Creator's plan. There is a need for an ecological
conversion, to which Bishops themselves can contribute by their teaching
about the correct relationship of human beings with nature. Seen in the light of
the doctrine of God the Father, the maker of heaven and earth, this relationship
is one of ''stewardship:'' human beings are set at the centre of creation as
stewards of the Creator.
The Bishop's ministry in the field of health
71. Human concern leads the Bishop to imitate Jesus, the true ''Good
Samaritan'', filled with compassion and mercy, who cares for others without
discrimination. Health care represents one of the outstanding challenges of the
present time. Tragically, many forms of sickness still persist in different
parts of the world, and although science is making tremendous strides in the
search for new solutions and better treatments, there are always new situations
which pose a threat to physical and mental health.
Within his own Diocese each Bishop, with the help of qualified persons, is
called to work for an integral proclamation of the ''Gospel of life''. When
Christians try to humanize medicine and the care of the sick by showing personal
concern and closeness to the suffering, they become for everyone a powerful
image of Jesus himself, the healer of bodies and souls. Among the instructions
which he gave to his Apostles, the Lord included an exhortation to heal the sick
(cf. Mt 10:8).290 The organization and promotion of adequate
pastoral care for health-care workers should thus be a priority close to the
heart of every Bishop.
In a special way, the Synod Fathers felt the need to give forceful expression to
their concern for the promotion of an authentic ''culture of life'' in
contemporary society: ''Perhaps what most upsets us as pastors is the contempt
for human life, from conception to death, as well as the breakdown of the
family. The Church's 'No' to abortion and euthanasia is a 'Yes' to life, a 'Yes'
to the fundamental goodness of creation, a 'Yes' which can move every person in
the depths of his conscience, a 'Yes' to the family, the most basic community of
hope, which so pleases God that he calls it to become a domestic Church''.291
The Bishop's pastoral care of migrants
72. The movement of peoples has assumed unprecedented proportions in our day and
takes the form of mass movements involving an enormous number of persons. Many
of them have fled their countries or been forced to leave them as a result of
armed conflicts, unstable economic conditions, political, ethnic and social
conflicts, and natural disasters. Despite their differences, all these
migrations pose serious questions to our communities about pastoral issues such
as evangelization and interreligious dialogue.
Dioceses should make suitable provision for the establishment of pastoral
structures capable of receiving these persons and providing them with
appropriate pastoral care adapted to their different situations. There is also a
need for greater cooperation between neighbouring Dioceses in offering efficient
and competent services and in training priests and lay workers who are
particularly generous and open to this demanding work, above all when it
involves legal problems associated with enabling these persons to fit into a new
In this context, the Synod Fathers from the Eastern Catholic Churches once again
raised the issue, in some ways new and fraught with serious practical
consequences, of the emigration of members of their communities. It is now a
fact that a significant number of the faithful of the Eastern Catholic Churches
reside habitually and stably outside their countries of origin and the Sees of
the Eastern Hierarchies. Understandably, this is an issue which presents daily
challenges to the pastoral responsibility of the latter.
The Synod of Bishops consequently called for a deeper study of the ways in which
the Catholic Churches of both East and West can establish suitable pastoral
structures to meet the needs of members of the faithful living in a state of
''diaspora''.293 In any case, it remains the duty of the local
Bishops, their differing rites notwithstanding, to act as true fathers to these
faithful of the Eastern Rite, and to ensure that they are given pastoral care
which respects the specific religious and cultural values which they received at
birth and in their earliest Christian formation.
These are only some of the situations which present an especially urgent
challenge to Christian witness and to the ministry of Bishops. Accepting
responsibility for the world, its problems, its challenges and its hopes is part
of our commitment to proclaiming the Gospel of hope. What is at stake is always
the future of man, as a ''being of hope''.
It is understandable that all these new challenges to hope can lead to a
temptation to scepticism and loss of confidence. But Christians are capable of
facing even the most troubling situations, for the basis of their hope is found
in the mystery of the Lord's Cross and Resurrection. This alone is the source
from which they draw the strength to take heart and persevere in the service of
God, who wills the salvation and integral liberation of all humanity.
73. The sheer human complexity of the settings in which the Gospel must be
proclaimed today brings spontaneously to mind the Gospel account of the
multiplication of the loaves. The disciples are worried about the crowds who,
hungering for Jesus' word, have followed him even into the desert. They bring
their worries before Jesus and they tell him: ''Dimitte turbas... Send
the crowd away...'' (Lk 9:12). Perhaps they were afraid, genuinely not
knowing how to satisfy the hunger of so many people.
Our own hearts might be similarly troubled by the enormity of the problems
confronting the Churches and ourselves personally as Bishops. In that case, we
should respond with a new creativity in charity which is shown not only
in more efficient forms of charitable assistance, but even more in an ability to
be close to those in need and to make the poor feel that every Christian
community is truly their home.294
Jesus, however, has his own way of solving our problems. As if to challenge the
Apostles, he tells them: ''Why do you not give them something to eat
yourselves?'' (Lk 9:13). We know how the story ended: ''All ate and were
satisfied. And they took up what was left over, twelve baskets of broken
pieces'' (Lk 9:17). That residual abundance is still present today in the
life of the Church!
The Bishops of the third millennium are called to do what was done by so many
saintly Bishops throughout history, up to our own time. Like Saint Basil, for
example, who even built at the gates of Caesarea a large hospice for those in
need, a true citadel of charity, which was called after him the Basiliad: this
clearly demonstrates that ''the charity of works ensures an unmistakable
efficacy to the charity of words''.295 This is the path that we too
must walk: the Good Shepherd has entrusted his flock to each Bishop to feed it
with his word and to form it by his example.
Where then will we Bishops get the ''bread'' needed to respond to the many
requests which come to us from within and without the Churches and the Church?
We could easily complain, as the Apostles did to Jesus: ''Where are we to get
bread enough in the desert to feed so great a crowd?'' (Mt 15:33). Where
can we find the resources we need? We can at least point to a few fundamental
Our first, transcendent resource is the love of God poured out in our hearts
through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (cf. Rom 5:5). The love
with which God has loved us is so great that it can always sustain us in finding
the right ways to touch the hearts of men and women today. At every moment the
Lord gives us, by the power of his Spirit, an ability to love and to find the
best and most beautiful ways to express that love. We are called to be servants
of the Gospel for the hope of the world, yet we know that this hope does not
come from us, but from the Holy Spirit, who ''does not cease to be the guardian
of hope in the human heart: the hope of all human creatures, and especially of
those who 'have the first fruits of the Spirit' and 'wait for the redemption of
their bodies' ''.296
Our second resource is the Church, whose members we have become through Baptism,
together with countless other brothers and sisters with whom we confess one
heavenly Father and drink of the one Spirit of holiness.297 The
present situation urges us to make the Church ''the home and the school of
communion,'' if we truly wish to respond to the expectations of the world.298
Our communion in the body of Bishops, of which we became members by our
consecration, is itself a remarkable resource, since it provides us with
valuable support in our efforts to read carefully the sign of the times and to
discern clearly what the Spirit is saying to the Churches. At the heart of the
College of Bishops there is the support and the solidarity of the Successor of
the Apostle Peter, whose supreme and universal power does not destroy but rather
affirms, strengthens and vindicates the power of the Bishops, the successors of
the Apostles. Here we will need to make the most of the means of building
communion which are to be found in the great directives of the Second Vatican
Council. Certainly there are circumstances – and today they are not rare – in
which an individual Church or a number of neighbouring Churches find it
difficult or practically impossible to provide an adequate response to major
problems. It is above all in these cases that recourse to the means of building
episcopal communion can provide genuine help.
A final, immediate recourse for a Bishop in search of ''bread'' to satisfy the
hunger of his brothers and sisters is his own particular Church, when the
spirituality of communion has taken root as an educative principle ''wherever
individuals and Christians are formed, wherever ministers of the altar,
consecrated persons and pastoral workers are trained, wherever families and
communities are built up''.299 It is here that we see once more the
connection between the Tenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops
and the three General Assemblies which immediately preceded it. For a Bishop is
never alone: he is not alone in the universal Church and he is not alone in his
74. The duty of Bishops at the beginning of a new millennium is thus clearly
marked out. It is the same duty as ever: to proclaim the Gospel of Christ, the
salvation of the world. But it is a duty which has a new urgency and which calls
for cooperation and commitment on the part of the whole People of God. The
Bishop needs to be able to count on the members of his diocesan presbyterate and
on his deacons, the ministers of the Blood of Christ and of charity; he needs to
be able to count on his consecrated sisters and brothers, called to be for the
Church and the world eloquent witnesses of the primacy of God in the Christian
life and the power of his love amid the frailty of the human condition; and he
needs to be able to count on the lay faithful, whose greater scope for the
apostolate represents for their pastors a source of particular support and a
reason for special comfort.
At the conclusion of these reflections, we appreciate how the theme of the
Tenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops leads each of us Bishops
back to all our brothers and sisters in the Church and to all the men and women
of the world. Christ sends us to them, even as he once he sent the Apostles (cf.
Mt 28:19-20). We need to become, for each and every person, in an
outstanding and visible way, a living sign of Jesus Christ, Teacher, Priest and
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate, Jesus Christ is the icon to which we look
as we carry out our ministry as heralds of hope. Like him, we must be ready to
offer our own lives for the salvation of those entrusted to our care, as we
proclaim and celebrate the triumph of God's merciful love over sin and death.
Let us implore for this great undertaking the intercession of the Virgin Mary,
Mother of the Church and Queen of the Apostles. May she, who in the Upper Room
supported the prayers of the Apostolic College, obtain for us the grace never to
fail in the task of love which Christ has entrusted to us. As a witness to true
life, Mary ''shines forth for the pilgrim people of God'' – and in a particular
way for us, their pastors – ''as a sign of sure hope and comfort, until the day
of the Lord arrives''.301
Given in Rome, at Saint Peter's, on 16 October 2003, the twenty-fifth
anniversary of my election to the Pontificate.
JOHN PAUL II
1Rite of Ordination of a Bishop: Prayer of Ordination.
2Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church in
the Modern World Lumen Gentium, 18.
3Saint Thomas Aquinas, Super Ev. Joh., X, 3.
4John Paul II, Homily at the Conclusion of the Tenth Ordinary General Assembly of
the Synod of Bishops, 27 October 2001, 3: AAS 94 (2002), 114.
5Paul VI, Address to the Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops of Italy (6 December
1965): AAS 58 (1966), 68.
7Cf. John Paul II, Prayer in Commemoration of 11 September 2001: L'Osservatore
Romano (12 October 2001), p. 1.
8Synod of Bishops, Tenth Ordinary General assembly, Message (25 October
2001), 8: L'Osservatore Romano, 27 October 2001, p. 5; cf. Paul VI,
Apostolic Letter Octogesima Adveniens (14 May 1971), 41: AAS 63
9Cf. Propositio 6.
10Cf. Propositio 1.
11Cf. Optatus of Milevis, Contra Parmenianum Donat., 2, 2: PL 11,
947; Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Romanos, 1, 1: PG 5, 685.
12John Paul II, Homily at the Opening of the Tenth Ordinary General Assembly of
the Synod of Bishops (30 September 2001), 6: AAS 94 (2002), 111-112.
13Cf. Roman Missal, Preface of Pastors.
14Saint Augustine, Sermo 340/A, 9: PLS 2, 644.
15Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church
Lumen Gentium, 3.
16Cf. Adv. Haer. III, 2, 2; 3, 1: PG 7: 847-848; Propositio
17Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church
Lumen Gentium, 27.
18Cf. Ad Magnes., 6, 1: PG 5, 764; Ad Trall., 3, 1: PG
5, 780; Ad Smyrn., 8:1: PG 5, 852.
19Roman Pontifical, Rite of Ordination of a Bishop: Promise of the Elect.
20Cf. Didascalia Apostolorum II, 33, 1, ed. F.X. Funk, I, 115.
21Cf. Propositio 6.
22Cf. Roman Pontifical, Rite of Ordination of a Bishop: Homily.
24Cf. ibid., 22; Code of Canon Law, c. 330; Code of Canons of the Eastern
Churches, c. 42.
25Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church
Lumen Gentium, 22; Code of Canon Law, c. 336; Code of Canons of the Eastern
Churches, c. 49.
26Cf. Propositio 20; Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic
Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 21; Code of Canon Law, c. 375 §
27Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church
Lumen Gentium, 23; Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church
Christus Dominus, 3; 5; 6; John Paul II, Motu Proprio Apostolos Suos
(21 May 1998), 13: AAS 90 (1998), 650-651.
28Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus (28 June 1988),
Appendix I, 4: AAS 80 (1988), 914-915; Second Vatican Ecumenical Council,
Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 22; Code of Canon Law,
c. 337 §§ 1, 2; Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, c. 50 §§ 1, 2.
29Cf. John Paul II, Address at the Conclusion of the Seventh Ordinary General
Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (29 October 1987), 4: AAS 80 (1988),
610; Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus (28 June 1988), Appendix I:
AAS 80 (1988), 915-916; Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic
Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 22.
30Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church
Lumen Gentium, 22.
32John Paul II, Motu Proprio Apostolos Suos (21 May 1998), 8: AAS 90
33Cf. Angoulême Sacramentary: In dedicatione basilicae novae: “Dirige, Domine,
ecclesiam tuam dispensatione caelesti, ut, quae ante mundi principium in tua
semper est praesentia praeparata, usque ad plenitudinem gloriamque promissam te
moderante perveniat”: CCSL 159 C, rubr. 1851; Catechism of the Catholic
Church, 758-760; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter
Communionis Notio (28 May 1992), 9: AAS 85 (1993), 843.
34Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen
35John Paul II, Motu Proprio Apostolos Suos (21 May 1998), 12: AAS
90 (1998), 649-650.
36Decree on the Missionary Activity of the Church Ad Gentes, 5.
37Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church
Lumen Gentium, 22.
38John Paul II, Motu Proprio Apostolos Suos (21 May 1998), 12: AAS
90 (1998), 650.
39Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church
Lumen Gentium, 22.
40Cf. John Paul II, Motu Proprio Apostolos Suos (21 May 1998), 12: AAS
90 (1998), 649-650.
41Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops
in the Church Christus Dominus, 25-26.
42Cf. Propositio 33.
43Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church
Lumen Gentium, 21, 27; John Paul II, Letter to Priests (8 April 1979), 3:
AAS 71 (1979), 397.
44Cf. In Io. Ev. tract. 123, 5: PL 35, 1967.
45Sermo 340, 1: PL 38, 1483: “Vobis enim sum episcopus; vobiscum sum
46Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church
Lumen Gentium, 10.
48Cf. Propositio 8.
49Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte (6 January 2001), 30: AAS
93 (2001), 287.
50Oratio II, No. 71: PG 35, 479.
51Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte (6 January
2001), 15, 31: AAS 93 (2001), 276, 288.
52No. 5: AAS 94 (2002), 111.
53Sacramentarium Serapionis, 28: ed. F.X. Funk, II, 191.
54John Paul II, Homily for the Opening of the Tenth Ordinary General Assembly of
the Synod of Bishops (30 September 2001), 5: AAS 94 (2002), 111.
55Code of Canon Law, c. 387; cf. Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, c. 197.
56Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 40.
57Sermo 340, 1: PL 38, 1483.
58Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, Nos. 1804, 1839.
59Cf. Propositio 7.
60Saint Cyprian, De Oratione Dominica, 23: PL 4: 553; cf. Second
Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium,
61Rite of Ordination of a Bishop: Investiture with the Miter.
62Cf. Propositio 7.
63Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen
64Cf. Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments,
Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy. Principles and Guidelines (17
December 2001), 184: Vatican City, 2002.
65Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae (16 October
2002), 43: AAS 95 (2003), 35-36.
66Cf. Propositio 8.
67Cf. Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi (8 December 1975),
59: AAS 68 (1976), 50.
68Ad Philadel. 5: PG 5, 700.
69Comm. in Is., Prol.: PL 24, 17; cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic
Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum, 25.
70Cf. Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus (2 February 1974), 17:
AAS 66 (1974), 128.
71Cf. Saint Augustine, Sermo 179, 1: PL 38, 966.
72In Lev. Hom., VI: PG 12, 474 C.
73No. 39: AAS 93 (2001), 294.
74Cf. Ps.-Dionysius the Aeropagite, De Hier. Eccl., III: PG 3, 512; Saint Thomas Aquinas, S. Th. II-II, q. 184, a.
75John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte (6 January 2001),
34: AAS 93 (2001), 290.
76Saint Thomas Aquinas, S. Th. II-II, q. 17, a. 2.
77Rite of Ordination of a Bishop: Promise of the Elect.
78Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, 84-85.
79Apostolic Constitution Laudis Canticum (1 November 1970): AAS 63
80Cf. John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata (25
March 1996), 20-21: AAS 88 (1996), 393-395.
81John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis (25
March 1992), 27: AAS 84 (1992), 701.
82Cf. No. 28: AAS 84 (1992), 701-703.
83Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen
84Cf. ibid., 27, 37.
85Cf. Propositio 10.
86Ad Polyc., IV: PG 5, 721.
87Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen
88Cf. Propositio 9.
89Cf. Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte (6 January 2001), 49: AAS
93 (2001), 302.
90Rite of Ordination of a Bishop: Bestowal of the Ring.
91No. 43: AAS 93 (2001), 296.
92Saint Gregory the Great, Hom. in Ez. 1, 11: PL 76, 908.
93Acta Ecclesiae Mediolanensis, Milan, 1599, p. 1178.
94John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis (25
March 1992), 70: AAS 84 (1992), 781.
95Ibid. 72: loc. cit., 787.
96Cf. Propositio 12.
97Cf. Propositio 13.
98Cf. No. 6: AAS 94 (2002), 116.
99Cf. Propositio 11.
100Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops in
the Church Christus Dominus, 12; cf. Dogmatic Constitution on the Church
Lumen Gentium, 25.
101Cf. Propositiones 14; 15.
102Cf. Propositio 14.
103John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte (6 January 2001),
29: AAS 93 (2001), 285-286.
104Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in
the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 22.
105Cf. Propositio 15.
106Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi (8
December 1975), 28: AAS 68 (1976), 24.
107Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church,
Lumen Gentium 25; Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum,
10; Code of Canon Law, c. 747 §1.; Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, c.
595 § 1.
108Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation
Dei Verbum, 7.
109Cf. ibid., 8.
110Cf. ibid., 10.
111Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 12.
112En. in Ps. 126, 3: PL 37, 1669.
113Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen
115Cf. Propositio 15.
116No. 63: AAS 71 (1979), 1329.
117Cf. Congregation for the Clergy, General Directory for Catechesis (15
August 1997), 233: Ench. Vat. 16, 1065.
118Cf. Propositio 15.
119Cf. Propositio 47.
120Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction Donum Veritatis
(24 May 1990), 19: AAS 82 (1990), 1558; Code of Canon Law, c. 386 § 2;
Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, c. 196 § 2.
121Cf. Propositio 16.
122Address to those taking part in the Italian National Congress of the Ecclesial
Movement of Cultural Engagement (16 January 1982), 2: Insegnamenti V/1
(1982), 131; Propositio 64.
123Cf. Propositio 65.
124Cf. Propositio 66.
125Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine
Revelation Dei Verbum, 10.
126De Trinitate, VIII, 1: PL 10, 236.
127Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia (17 April
2003), 22-24: AAS 95 (2003), 448-449.
128Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy
Sacrosanctum Concilium, 10.
130Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy
Sacrosanctum Concilium, 10.
132Roman Pontifical, Blessing of Oils: Introduction, 1.
133Cf. Roman Pontifical, Rite of Ordination of a Bishop, of Priests and of
Deacons: Foreward, 21, 120, 202.
134Cf. Nos. 42-54.
135Cf. Propositio 17.
136“Legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi”: Saint Celestine, Ad Galliarum Episcopos, PL 45, 1759.
137Cf. Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, 11, 14.
138John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte (6 January 2001),
35: AAS 93 (2001), 291.
139Cf. Propositio 17.
140Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy
Sacrosanctum Concilium, 102.
141Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen
142Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy
Sacrosanctum Concilium, 104.
143Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church
Lumen Gentium, 26.
144Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia (17 April
2003), 21: AAS 95 (2003), 447-448.
146Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on the Life and Ministry of Priests
Presbyterorum Ordinis, 5.
147Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church
Lumen Gentium, 28; John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de
Eucharistia (17 April 2003), 41-42: AAS 95 (2003), 460-461.
148Cf. Congregation for the Clergy (et al.), Interdicasterial Instruction
Ecclesiae de Mysterio on Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of
the Non-Ordained Faithful with the Ministry of Priests (15 August 1997),
“Practical Provisions”, Art. 7: AAS 89 (1997), 869-870.
149Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy
Sacrosanctum Concilium, 64.
150Paul VI, Apostolic Constitution Divinae Consortium Naturae
(15 August 1971): AAS 63 (1971), 657.
151Cf. Propositio 18.
152Cf. Motu Proprio Misericordia Dei (7 April 2002), 1:
AAS 94 (2002), 453-454.
153Cf. Propositio 18.
154Cf. Roman Ritual, Rite of Exorcisms (22 November 1998), Vatican City,
1999; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on Prayers for
Healing (14 September 2000): L'Osservatore Romano, 24 November 2000, p.
155Cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi (8 December 1975), 48:
AAS 68 (1976), 37-38.
157Cf. Propositio 19.
158Cf. Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments,
Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy (17 December 2001), 21: Vatican
City, 2002, 28-29.
159Cf. Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte (6 January 2001), 29-41:
AAS 93 (2001), 285-295.
160Cf. Propositio 48.
161Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church
Lumen Gentium, 27; Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church
Christus Dominus, 16.
162Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops
in the Church Christus Dominus, 11; Code of Canon Law, c. 369; Code of
Canons of the Eastern Churches, c. 177 § 1.
163Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church
Lumen Gentium, 27; Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church
Christus Dominus, 8; Code of Canon Law, c. 381 § 1; Code of Canons of the
Eastern Churches, c. 178.
164Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen
165Roman Pontifical, Rite of Ordination of a Bishop: Homily.
166Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen
Gentium, 27; cf. Code of Canon Law, c. 381 § 1; Code of Canons of the
Eastern Churches, c. 178.
167Ad Irenaeum, Epistulae, Bk. I, Ep. VI: Sancti
Ambrosii Episcopi Mediolanensis Opera, Milano-Roma 1988 19, p. 66.
170Cf. Code of Canon Law, cc. 204 § 1; 208; 212 §§ 2, 3; Code of Canons of the
Eastern Churches, cc. 7 § 1; 11; 15 §§ 2,3.
171Cf. Propositio 35.
172Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church
Lumen Gentium, 32; Code of Canon Law, cc. 204 § 1; 208.
173Cf. Propositio 35.
174Cf. AAS 89 (1997), 706-727. An analogous point must be made for the
Eparchal Assemblies, which are dealt with in cc. 235-242 of the Code of Canons
of the Eastern Churches.
175Cf. Propositio 35.
176Cf. Propositio 36.
177Cf. Propositio 39.
178Cf. Propositio 37.
180Romae, 1572, cf. 52 v.
182Cf. Nos. 16-17: AAS 84 (1992), 681-684.
183Cf. Propositio 40.
184John Paul II, Address to a group of newly-appointed Bishops (23 September 2002),
4: L'Osservatore Romano (23- 24 September 2002), p. 5.
185Ep. Ad Nepotianum presb., LII, 7: PL 22, 534.
186John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis (25
March 1992), 77: AAS 84 (1992), 795.
187Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops
in the Church Christus Dominus, 16.
188Cf. Propositio 40.
189Cf. Propositio 41.
190Cf. ibid., John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores
Dabo Vobis (25 March 1992), 60-63: AAS 84 (1992), 762-769.
191Cf. ibid., 65: AAS 84 (1992), 771-772.
192Cf. Code of Canon Law, c. 1051.
193Cf. Propositio 41.
194Cf. Propositio 42.
195Cf. Congregation for Catholic Education, Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis
Diaconorum Permanentium (22 February 1998): AAS 90 (1998), 843-879;
Congregation for the Clergy, Directorium pro Ministerio et Vita Diaconorum
Permanentium (22 February 1998): AAS 90 (1998), 879-926.
196Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church
Lumen Gentium, 44.
197Cf. Propositio 43.
198Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Council on the Church in the Modern
World Gaudium et Spes, 39.
199Cf. Propositiones 45, 46 and 49.
200Cf. Propositio 52.
201Cf. Propositio 51.
203Cf. Propositio 53.
204Cf. Propositio 52.
205Cf. Roman Pontifical, Rite of Ordination of a Bishop: Promise of the
206Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 23.
207Cf. Paul VI, Address for the Opening of the Third Session of
the Council (14 September 1964): AAS 56 (1964), 813; Congregation for the
Doctrine of the Faith, Letter Communionis Notio (28 May 1992), 9, 11-14:
AAS 85 (1993), 843-845.
208Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on
the Church Lumen Gentium, 22: Code of Canon Law, cc. 337, 749 § 2; Code
of Canons of the Eastern Churches, cc. 50, 597 § 2.
209Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on
the Church Lumen Gentium, 23.
210Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church
Christus Dominus, 8.
211Cf. Encyclical Letter Quadragesimo Anno (15 May 1931):
AAS 23 (1931), 203.
212Cf. Propositio 20.
213Cf. Relatio post disceptationem, 15-17: L'Osservatore
Romano, 14 October 2001, p. 4; Propositio 20.
214Cf. Code of Canon Law, c. 381 § 1; Code of Canons of the
Eastern Churches, c. 178.
215Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on
the Church Lumen Gentium, 22; Code of Canon Law, cc. 331 and 333; Code of
Canons of the Eastern Churches, cc. 43 and 45 § 1.
216Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter
Communionis Notio (28 May 1992), 12: AAS 85 (1993), 845-846.
217Ibid., 13: loc. cit., 846.
218Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on
the Church Lumen Gentium, 27; Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops in
the Church Christus Dominus, 8; Code of Canon Law, c. 381 § 1; Code of
Canons of the Eastern Churches, c. 178.
219Cf. Code of Canon Law, c. 753; Code of Canons of the Eastern
Churches, c. 600.
220Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on
the Church Lumen Gentium, 22; Code of Canon Law, cc. 333 § 1, 336; Code
of Canons of the Eastern Churches, cc. 43, 45 § 1, 49.
221Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on
the Church Lumen Gentium, 21; Code of Canon Law, c. 375 § 2.
222Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the
Church Lumen Gentium, 27; cf. Code of Canon Law, c. 333 § 1; Code of
Canons of the Eastern Churches, c. 45 § 1.
223Cf. Paul VI, Address for the Opening of the Third Session of
the Council (14 September 1964): AAS 56 (1964), 813.
224Cf. Synod of Bishops, Second Extraordinary General Assembly,
Final Report Exeunte Coetu (7 December 1985), C.1: L'Osservatore
Romano, 10 December 1985), 7.
225Cf. Code of Canon Law, c. 333 § 2; Code of Canons of the
Eastern Churches, c. 45 § 2.
226Cf. Propositio 27.
227Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus
(28 June 1988), Art. 31: AAS 80 (1988), 868; Adnexum I, 6:
ibid., 916-917; Code of Canon Law, c. 400 § 1; Code of Canons of the Eastern
Churches, c. 208.
228Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on
the Church Lumen Gentium, 13.
229Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus,
Adnexum I, 2; I, 5: AAS 80 (1989), 913, 915.
230Cf. Saint Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses, 3, 3, 2: PG
231Cf. Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Romanos, 1:1: PG
232Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on
the Church Lumen Gentium, 13.
233Cf. ibid., 21-22; Decree on the Pastoral Office of
Bishops in the Church Christus Dominus, 4.
234Cf. Propositiones 26 and 27.
235Cf. Code of Canon Law, c. 399; Code of Canons of the Eastern
Churches, c. 206.
236Cf. Propositio 25.
237Cf. Motu Proprio Apostolica Sollicitudo (15 September
1965): AAS 57 (1965), 775-780; Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree
on the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church Christus Dominus, 5.
238Cf. Paul VI, Motu Proprio Apostolica Sollicitudo (15
September 1965), II: AAS 57 (1965), 776-777; Address to the Synod Fathers
(30 September 1967): AAS 59 (1967), 970-971.
239Cf. Propositio 25.
240Cf. Code of Canon Law, c. 333 § 2; Code of Canons of the
Eastern Churches, c. 45 § 2.
242Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte (6 January
2001), 44: AAS 93 (2003), 298.
243Propositio 31; Cf. John Paul II, Motu Proprio
Apostolos Suos (21 May 1998), 13: AAS 90 (1998), 650-651.
244Cf. Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops Christus
245Cf. Propositio 32.
246Cf. Propositio 33.
247Cf. Propositio 21.
248Cf. Propositio 22.
249Cf. Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium,
23; Decree on the Eastern Catholic Churches Orientalium Ecclesiarum, 11.
250Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Constitution Sacri Canones
(18 October 1990): AAS 82 (1990), 1037.
251Decree on the Catholic Eastern Churches Orientalium
252Cf. Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, cc. 76 and 77.
253Cf. Canones Apostolorum, VIII, 47, 34: ed. F.X. Funk, I,
254Cf. Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, cc. 110 § 3 and
255Cf. ibid., cc. 110 § 1 and 150 §§ 2, 3.
256Cf. ibid., cc. 110 § 2 and 1062.
257Cf. ibid., cc. 140-143.
258Cf. Propositio 28; Code of Canon Law, c. 437 § 1; Code
of Canons of the Eastern Churches, c. 156 § 1.
259Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church
Christus Dominus, 36.
260Cf. Code of Canon Law, cc. 441, 443.
261Cf. AAS 90 (1998), 641-658.
263Cf. Propositiones 29 and 30.
264John Paul II, Motu Proprio Apostolos Suos (21 May 1998),
6: AAS 90 (1998), 645-646.
265Cf. Code of Canon Law, c. 450.
266Cf. John Paul II, Motu Proprio Apostolos Suos (21 May
1998), 10, 12: AAS 90 (1998), 648-650.
267Cf. ibid., Nos. 12, 13, 19: loc. cit., 649-651,
653-654; Code of Canon Law, c. 381 § 1; 447; 455 § 1.
268John Paul II, Motu Proprio Apostolos Suos (21 May 1998),
18: AAS 90 (1998), 653.
270Cf. Propositio 25.
271Cf. Code of Canon Law, c. 459 § 1.
272Cf. Propositio 30.
273Cf. Propositio 60.
274Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on the Missionary
Activity of the Church Ad Gentes, 38.
275Cf. Propositio 63.
276Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris Missio
(7 December 1990), 11: AAS 83 (1991), 256-260.
277Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the
Church Lumen Gentium, 6.
278Cf. ibid., 1.
279Cf. Propositiones 54-55.
280Synod of Bishops, Tenth Ordinary General assembly, Message
(25 October 2001), 10-11: L'Osservatore Romano, 27 October 2001, p.
281Cf. Propositio 55.
282Cf. John Paul II, Message for the World Day of Peace 2002
(8 December 2001), 8: AAS 94 (2002), 137.
283Cf. Propositiones 61 and 62.
284Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration
Christus Dominus (6 August 2000), 22: AAS 92 (2000), 763.
286Cf. Propositio 56.
287John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in
America (22 January 1999), 55: AAS 91 (1999), 790- 791.
288Cf. Propositio 56.
289John Paul II, Message for the 1990 World Day of Peace (8
December 1989), 7: AAS 82 (1990), 150.
290Cf. Propositio 57.
291Synod of Bishops, Tenth Ordinary General assembly, Message
(25 October 2001), 12: L'Osservatore Romano, 27 October 2001, p. 5.
292Cf. Propositio 58.
293Cf. Propositio 23.
294Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte
(6 January 2001), 50: AAS 93 (2001), 303.
296John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Dominum et Vivificantem
(18 May 1986), 67: AAS 78 (1986), 898.
297Cf. Tertullian, Apologeticum, 39, 9: CCL 1, 151.
298Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte
(6 January 2001), 43: AAS 93 (2001), 296.
300Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on
the Church Lumen Gentium, 21.