Catholic World News

Pope Francis describes the bishops the Church needs

February 27, 2014

Pope Francis met on February 27 with the members of the Congregation for Bishops, and spoke at some length about the characteristics of the leaders the Church needs.

In the process of appointing bishops, the Pope said: “This Congregation exists to ensure that the name chosen has first of all been pronounced by the Lord.” He asked the members of the Congregation to look for priests who have dedicated themselves to the Lord and will draw others to Him.

“There does not exist a standard pastor for all churches,” the Pope said; the particular needs of each diocese will call for different sorts of bishops. But all bishops must possess some common characteristics: “Professionalism, service, and holiness of life: if we turn away from these three virtues we fall from the greatness to which we are called.”

Pope Francis reminded the congregation that when the original apostles set out to replace Judas, they agreed that the new apostle must be “a witness to the Resurrection.” This requirement remains today, he said; the bishop must be a witness to the resurrected Christ. He continued:

Men who are guardians of doctrine, not so as to measure how far the world is from doctrinal truth, but in order to fascinate the world ... with the beauty of love, with the freedom offered by the Gospel. The Church does not need apologists for her causes or crusaders for her battles, but humble and trusting sowers of the truth, who know that it is always given to them anew and trust in its power.

A bishop should also be a man of prayer, the Pope said. He should pray constantly for the welfare of his diocese. “A man who does not have the courage to argue with God on behalf of his people cannot be a bishop,” he argued.

The Pontiff offered some cautions to the congregation in the selection of bishops. “We must rise above and overcome any eventual preferences, sympathies, provenances, or tendencies,” he said. And regarding the candidates, he added: “Be careful that they are not ambitious, that they are not in quest of the episcopate.” He went on to say that a bishop who is chosen to serve one particular Church should not look for another assignment. The Pope said bluntly: “This is called adultery.”

While acknowledging that it is difficult to find the priests who have all of the characteristics necessary for a good bishop, the Pope told the congregation that he had no doubt such men could be found, because Jesus would not abandon his Church.


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  • Posted by: Defender - Feb. 27, 2014 10:00 PM ET USA

    I'm glad the pope is setting standards for bishops (we all know of a few who make us wonder). Two things: why has not one of the bishops imposed Canon 915 on the CINO politicians and why is it that a bishop is "promoted" to an archbishopric from a regular diocese if each has a particular need?

  • Posted by: Vincit omnia amor - Feb. 27, 2014 8:23 PM ET USA

    Amen. Let it be so.