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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'' (
Rm 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 Rm 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 is irreproachable''.126

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'' (Tt 2,7-8).




''Sanctified in Jesus Christ, called to be saints''\i\b (@1CO 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'' (1Co 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 withhis people, and presiding over the celebration of the sacraments. For this reason the Dogmatic Constitution 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 He 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 totractare 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 Vatican Council.137

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
Ga 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 priesthood.143

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 priests.147

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 sheep.151

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 LetterMisericordia 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 piety.

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 mercy.157

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

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