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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 to them.

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 Christian formation.

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 better results.203

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
He 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




“Anxiety for all the Churches”\b\i (@2CO 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'' (2Co 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?'' (2Co 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 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 theUna Sancta, while the latter, again through their ministry, is made present in each individualEcclesiae 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.
1Co 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.216Consequently, ''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 their pastors.220

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.221This 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 acts 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 particular Church.

Visits ''ad Limina Apostolorum''

57 A manifestation and means of communion between the Bishops and the Chair of Peter is the visitad 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 martyrdom.

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
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 Church.

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 universal service.

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 Church.236

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 communion.238

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 ''post-synodal''.

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 practical cooperation.

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

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