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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.



“I have given you an example”\b\i (@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 Mt 20,28 Mc 10,45 Lc 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' '' (13:1-15).

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 Ph 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. Jn Jn 10,16).

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 Lc 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. 2Co 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 sacrament.

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'' (Mc 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 Lc 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 them.

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 mission.

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 Jesus.

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 Canonization.188

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 Institute.193

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 Canonization.

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 canon law.

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 schools, etc.

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.
1P 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

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