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Focus on evangelization, Pope urges new bishops

September 13, 2010

In two separate meetings with newly ordained bishops, Pope Benedict XVI has stressed the importance of the bishop’s own prayer life, which should fuel his evangelical efforts.

Meeting on September 11 with a group of 120 new bishops, the Holy Father said that the role of the bishop “can be understood only on the basis of Christ, source of the one and supreme priesthood in which the bishop is made a participant.” The bishop himself must be firmly grounded in that understanding, he added. “In order to imitate Christ it is necessary to dedicate an adequate period of time to being with Him, contemplating Him in the intimacy of prayer.”

Above all else, bishops must have an active faith, the Pope said. “They must believe and live what they proclaim and celebrate.” Pope Benedict met again with the same group on September 13. The newly ordained bishops had been brought together by the Congregation for Bishops, and the Pope began his remarks at the Monday private audience by welcoming the new prefect of that Congregation, Cardinal Marc Ouellet. He also said that it is fitting for bishops to begin their ministry by fulfilling the “important custom” of a pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Peter, recognizing their roles as successors to the apostles.

In his second address to the group the Pope returned to the theme of evangelization. He underscored the importance of that task with a short meditation on the words that are used during the ritual of episcopal consecration. When the new bishop receives his ring, he is exhorted by the ordaining bishop to “protect the bride of God, His Holy Church.” Pope Benedict said that in this context “protecting” the Church means continuing the essential mission of spreading the Gospel. He explained:

"The concept of 'protecting' does not only mean conserving what has already been established (though this must not be lacking); rather, in its essence it also includes the dynamic aspect: a perpetual and concrete tendency towards perfection, in complete harmony with, and continually adapting to, the new requirements that arise with the development and progress of that living organism which is the community.”

Moreover, the Pope reminded his audience, a bishop is responsible not only for the Catholics in his diocese, but for the entire society. He acknowledged that this role is difficult in places where Catholics are a minority and “especially in Christian communities that live their faith in difficult contexts where, apart from various kinds of poverty, they have to face persecution because of their Christian faith.” Yet even in such difficult circumstances, he insisted, “the Gospel can reveal all its salvific power.”


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