Adoremus, Society for the Renewal of the Sacred Liturgy
POST-SYNODAL APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION
OF HIS HOLINESS
POPE JOHN PAUL II
ON THE BISHOP,
SERVANT OF THE GOSPEL
OF JESUS CHRIST
FOR THE HOPE OF THE WORLD
CHAPTER 1 – THE MYSTERY AND MINISTRY OF THE BISHOP
CHAPTER 2 – THE SPIRITUAL LIFE OF THE BISHOP
CHAPTER 3 – TEACHER OF THE FAITH AND HERALD OF THE WORD
CHAPTER 4 – MINISTER OF THE GRACE OF THE HIGH PRIESTHOOD
CHAPTER 5 – THE PASTORAL GOVERNANCE OF THE BISHOP
CHAPTER 6 – IN THE COMMUNION OF THE CHURCHES
CHAPTER 7 – THE BISHOP BEFORE THE CHALLENGES OF THE PRESENT
1. The shepherds of the Lord’s flock know that they can count on a special divine grace as they carry out their ministry as Bishops. In the Roman Pontifical, during the solemn prayer of episcopal ordination, the principal ordaining Bishop, after invoking the outpouring of the Holy Spirit who leads and guides, repeats a phrase already found in the ancient text of the Apostolic Tradition: "Grant, O Father, knower of all hearts, that this your servant, whom you have chosen for the office of Bishop, may shepherd your holy flock. May he fulfill before you without reproach the ministry of the High Priesthood".1 In this way there continues to be carried out the will of the Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Shepherd, who sent the Apostles even as He himself was sent by the Father (cf. Jn 20:21), and who wishes that their successors, the Bishops, should remain shepherds in His Church until the end of time.2
The image of the Good Shepherd, so dear also to ancient Christian iconography, was very much present to the Bishops from throughout the world who gathered from September 30 to October 27, 2001 for the Tenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. At the tomb of the Apostle Peter, they joined me in reflecting on the figure of The Bishop, Servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the Hope of the World. We were all agreed that the figure of Jesus the Good Shepherd represents the primary image to which we must constantly refer. No one, in fact, can be considered a pastor worthy of the name, nisi per caritate efficiatur unum cum Christo.3 This is the fundamental reason why ”the ideal figure of the Bishop, on which the Church continues to count, is that of the pastor who, configured to Christ by his holiness of life, expends himself generously for the Church entrusted to him, while at the same time bearing in his heart a concern for all the Churches throughout the world (cf. II Cor 11:28)”.4
The Tenth Assembly of the Synod of Bishops
2. We give thanks to the Lord, then, for having granted us the gift of celebrating once more an assembly of the Synod of Bishops and thus having a truly profound experience of being Church. Held in the wake of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, at the beginning of the third Christian millennium, the Tenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops followed a long series of assemblies: both the Special Assemblies, all of which were marked by a concern for evangelization on the different continents — from Africa to America, Asia, Oceania and Europe; and the Ordinary Assemblies, the last of which were devoted to a reflection on the rich treasure which the Church possesses in the variety of vocations raised up by the Holy Spirit among the People of God. In this context, the attention devoted to the specific ministry of Bishops completed the picture of that ecclesiology of communion and mission which must always be our fundamental point of reference.
Consequently, the work of the Synod made constant reference to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council on the episcopate and the ministry of Bishops, especially as set forth in the third chapter of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium and in the Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops Christus Dominus. Of this luminous teaching, which repeats and develops traditional theological and juridical themes, my predecessor of venerable memory Pope Paul VI, could rightly say: ”It seems to us that episcopal authority emerges from the Council vindicated in its divine institution, confirmed in its irreplaceable function, renewed in its pastoral powers of teaching, sanctifying and governing, honoured in its extension to the universal Church by way of collegial communion, more clearly identified in its hierarchical aspect, strengthened in shared and fraternal responsibility with other Bishops for the universal and particular needs of the Church, and more strongly associated in a spirit of hierarchical union and joint cooperation with the head of the Church, the constitutive centre of the College of Bishops”.5
At the same time, in keeping with the designated topic of the Synod, the Fathers reviewed their ministry in the light of the theological virtue of hope. This approach immediately appeared as especially pertinent to the mission of the pastor who, in the Church, is first and foremost to bear witness to the Paschal and eschatological mystery.
A hope founded on Christ
3. It is in fact the task of every Bishop to proclaim hope to the world, hope based on the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ: a hope ”which not only concerns penultimate matters but also and above all that eschatological hope which awaits the riches of the glory of God (cf. Eph 1:18), which surpasses anything that the human heart has ever conceived (cf. I Cor 2:9), and to which the sufferings of the present cannot be compared (cf. Rom 8:18)”.6 A stance of theological hope, together with faith and love, must completely shape the Bishop’s pastoral ministry.
The Bishop is called in a particular way to be a prophet, witness and servant of hope. He has the duty of instilling confidence and proclaiming before all people the basis of Christian hope (cf. I Pet 3:15). The Bishop is the prophet, witness and servant of this hope, especially where a culture of ”the here and now” leaves no room for openness to transcendence. Where hope is absent, faith itself is called into question. Love too is weakened by the loss of this virtue. Especially in times of growing unbelief and indifference, hope is a stalwart support for faith and an effective incentive for love. It draws its strength from the certainty of God’s desire for the salvation of all people (cf. 1 Tim 2:4) and from the constant presence of the Lord Jesus, the Emmanuel who remains with us always, until the end of the world (cf. Mt 28:20).
Only by the light and consolation born of the Gospel can a Bishop succeed in keeping his own hope alive (cf. Rom 15:4) and in nourishing the hope of those entrusted to his pastoral care. He must therefore model himself on the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Hope, who believed in the fulfilment of the Lord’s words (cf. Lk 1:45). Relying on the word of God and holding firmly to hope, which like a sure and steadfast anchor reaches to the heavens (cf. Heb 6:18-20), the Bishop stands in the midst of the Church as a vigilant sentinel, a courageous prophet, a credible witness and a faithful servant of Christ, ”our hope of glory” (cf. Col 1:27), thanks to whom ”death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying nor pain any more” (cf. Rev 21:4).
Hope, when hopes are dashed
4. Everyone will remember that the sessions of the Synod of Bishops took place at a dramatic time. The terrible events of September 11, 2001 were intensely felt by the Synod Fathers, with the dreadful fate of countless innocent victims and for the appearance in our world of grave new situations of uncertainty and fear, both for human civilization and the peaceful coexistence of nations. A new specter of war and death appeared, which, when added to the already existing situations of conflict, made all the more evident the need to implore the Prince of Peace that human hearts might open once more to reconciliation, solidarity and peace.7
Together with its prayers, the Synodal assembly spoke out in condemnation of all forms of violence and identified their ultimate source in human sin. Acknowledging the failure of human hopes based on materialist, immanentist and market ideologies which claim to measure everything in terms of efficiency, relationships of power and market forces, the Synod Fathers reaffirmed their conviction that only the light of the Risen One and the guidance of the Holy Spirit can enable people to base their expectations on the hope that does not disappoint. Thus, they proclaimed: ”We should not allow ourselves to be intimidated by those doctrines which deny the existence of the living God and which strive, more or less openly, to undermine, parody or deride Christian hope. In the joy of the Spirit we profess: ‘Christ is truly risen!’ In his glorified humanity he has opened up the prospect of eternal life for all those who accept the grace of conversion”.8
The certainty of this profession of faith must be such that it daily strengthens a Bishop’s hope and makes him increasingly confident of the unfailing power of God’s merciful goodness to open up paths of salvation and propose them to the freedom of each person. Hope encourages a Bishop to discern, wherever he exercises his ministry, the signs of life which are able to uproot the seeds of destruction and death. Hope sustains him as he transforms conflicts themselves into an opportunity for growth and for reconciliation. Hope in Jesus the Good Shepherd will fill his heart with compassion, prompting him to draw near to the pain of every suffering man and woman and to soothe their wounds, ever confident that every lost sheep will be found. The Bishop will thus be an ever more luminous sign of Christ, the Shepherd and Spouse of the Church. Acting as father, brother and friend to all, he will stand beside everyone as the living image of Christ, our hope, in whom all God’s promises are fulfilled and all the expectations of creation are brought to completion.9
Servants of the Gospel for the hope of the world
5. In issuing this Apostolic Exhortation, I now take up the reflections which developed during the Tenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, from the first Lineamenta to the Instrumentum Laboris, from the interventions made in the Hall by the Synod Fathers to the two Relations that introduced and summarized these interventions, from the theoretical and practical pastoral insights that emerged from the small groups to the Propositiones presented to me at the conclusion of the Synod to assist me in preparing for the whole Church a document on the Synod’s theme of The Bishop, Servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the Hope of the World.10 In doing so, I send my fraternal greetings and the kiss of peace to all the Bishops in communion with this See, first entrusted to Peter so that he might be a guarantee of unity and, as is recognized by all, preside in love.11
To you, venerable and dear Brothers, I repeat the invitation that I addressed to the whole Church at the beginning of the millennium: Duc in altum! It is Christ Himself who repeats these words to the Successors of those Apostles who heard them from His lips and who, putting their trust in Him, set forth on mission along the byways of the world: Duc in altum (Lk 5:4). In the light of this pressing command from the Lord, ”we may reread the triple munus entrusted to us in the Church: munus docendi, sanctificandi et regendi…. Duc in docendo! With the Apostle we will say: ‘Preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke and exhort — be unfailing in patience and in teaching’ (II Tim 4:2). Duc in sanctificando! The ‘nets’ we are called upon to cast among men are, first of all, the sacraments, of which we are the principal dispensers, moderators, guardians and promoters. They form a sort of saving ‘net’, which sets free from evil and leads to the fullness of life. Duc in regendo! As pastors and true fathers, assisted by the priests and other helpers, we have the task of gathering together the family of the faithful and in it fostering charity and brotherly communion. As arduous and laborious a mission as this may be, we must not lose heart. With Peter and the first disciples we too with great confidence renew our heartfelt profession of faith: Lord, ‘at your word I will lower the nets’ (Lk 5:5)! At your word, O Christ, we wish to serve your Gospel for the hope of the world!”.12
In this way, living as men of hope and reflecting in their ministry the ecclesiology of communion and mission, Bishops will truly be a source of hope for their flock. We know that the world needs the ”hope that does not disappoint” (cf. Rom 5:5). We know that this hope is Christ. We know it and therefore we proclaim the hope that springs from the Cross.
Ave Crux, spes unica! May this acclamation, which echoed in the Synod Hall at the central moment of the work of the Tenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, remain ever on our lips, for the Cross is a mystery of life and death. The Cross has become for the Church a ”tree of life”. For this reason we proclaim that life has triumphed over death.
In making this Paschal proclamation we follow in the footsteps of a great multitude of holy pastors who have been eloquent images of the Good Shepherd in medio Ecclesiae. This prompts us always to praise and thank almighty and eternal God, for, as we sing in the sacred Liturgy, He strengthens us by their example, instructs us by their teaching and gives us protection through their intercession.13 As I said at the conclusion of the Synod’s work, the face of each of these holy Bishops, from the beginning of the Church’s life to our own day, is like a tile placed in a sort of mystical mosaic forming the face of Christ the Good Shepherd. It is He, then, that we contemplate, setting an example for the flock entrusted to us by the Pastor of Pastors, so that we can become ever more committed servants of the Gospel for the hope of the world.
As we gaze upon the face of our Master and Lord at that hour when He ”loved his own to the end”, all of us, like the Apostle Peter, allow our feet to be washed so that we might have a part in Him (cf. Jn 13:1-9). And with the strength that comes to us from Him in the Church, in the presence of our priests and deacons, before all men and women of the consecrated life and all our beloved lay people, we repeat aloud: ”Whatever we may be, let not your hope be placed in us: if we are good, we are your servants; if we are bad, we are still your servants. But if we are good and faithful servants, it is then that we are truly your servants”.14 Servants of the Gospel for the hope of the world.
”… and he chose from them Twelve” (Lk 6:13)
6. The Lord Jesus, during His earthly pilgrimage, proclaimed the Gospel of the Kingdom and inaugurated it in His own person, revealing its mystery to all people.15 He called men and women to be His followers, and from His disciples He chose Twelve ”to be with Him” (Mk 3:14). The Gospel of Luke points out that Jesus made this choice after a night spent in prayer on the mountain (cf. 6:12). The Gospel of Mark, for its part, appears to see in this action of Jesus a sovereign act, a constitutive act which gives an identity to those whom He chose: ”He appointed Twelve” (3:14). The mystery of the election of the Twelve is thus disclosed: it is an act of love, freely willed by Jesus in intimate union with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
The mission entrusted by Jesus to the Apostles is to last until the end of time (cf. Mt 28:20), since the Gospel which they have been charged to hand down is the life of the Church in every age. It was precisely for this reason that the Apostles were concerned to appoint for themselves successors, so that, as Saint Irenaeus attests, the apostolic tradition might be manifested and preserved down the centuries.16
The special outpouring of the Holy Spirit with which the Risen Lord filled the Apostles (cf. Acts 1:5; 8; 2:4; Jn 20:22-23) was shared by them through the gesture of laying hands upon their co-workers (cf. I Tim 4:14; II Tim 1:6-7). These in turn transmitted it by the same gesture to others, and these to others still. In this way, the spiritual gift given in the beginning has come down to our own day through the imposition of hands, in other words, by episcopal consecration, which confers the fullness of the sacrament of Orders, the high priesthood and the totality of the sacred ministry. Thus, through the Bishops and the priests, their co-workers, the Lord Jesus Christ, seated at the right hand of God the Father, remains present in the midst of believers. In every time and place it is He who proclaims the word of God to all peoples, administers the sacraments of faith to believers and guides the people of the New Testament on their pilgrimage to eternal happiness. The Good Shepherd does not abandon His flock but preserves and protects it always through those who, by their ontological share in His life and mission, carry out in an eminent and visible way the role of teacher, shepherd and priest, who act in his name in exercising the functions associated with the pastoral ministry, and who are constituted His vicars and ambassadors.17
The Trinitarian foundation of the episcopal ministry
7. The Christological dimension of the pastoral ministry, considered in depth, leads to an understanding of the Trinitarian foundation of ministry itself. Christ’s life is Trinitarian. He is the eternal and only-begotten Son of the Father and the anointed of the Holy Spirit, sent into the world; it is He who, together with the Father, pours out the Spirit upon the Church. This Trinitarian dimension, manifested in every aspect of Christ’s life and activity, also shapes the life and activity of the Bishop. Rightly, then, the Synod Fathers chose explicitly to describe the life and ministry of the Bishop in the light of the Trinitarian ecclesiology contained in the teaching of the Second Vatican Council.
The tradition which sees the Bishop as an image of God the Father is quite ancient. As Saint Ignatius of Antioch wrote, the Father is like an invisible Bishop, the Bishop of all. Every Bishop, therefore, stands in the place of the Father of Jesus Christ in such a way that, precisely because of this representation, he is to be revered by all.18 Consonant with this symbolism, the Bishop’s chair, which especially in the tradition of the Eastern Churches evokes God’s paternal authority, can only be occupied by the Bishop. This same symbolism is the source of every Bishop’s duty to lead the holy people of God as a devoted father and to guide them — together with his priests, his co-workers in the episcopal ministry, and with his deacons — in the way of salvation.19 Conversely, as an ancient text exhorts, the faithful are to love their Bishops who are, after God, their fathers and mothers.20 For this reason, in accordance with a custom widespread in certain cultures, one kisses the Bishop’s hand as one would kiss the hand of the loving Father, the giver of life.
Christ is the primordial icon of the Father and the manifestation of His merciful presence among men and women. The Bishop, who acts in the person and in the name of Christ Himself, becomes in the Church entrusted to Him a living sign of the Lord Jesus, Shepherd and Spouse, Teacher and High Priest of the Church.21 Here we find the source of pastoral ministry, and the reason why, as the homily outline in the Roman Pontifical suggests, the three functions of teaching, sanctifying and governing the People of God are to be carried out in imitation of the Good Shepherd: with charity, knowledge of the flock, concern for all, mercy towards the poor, the stranger and those in need, and a willingness to seek out the lost sheep and to bring them back to the one sheepfold.
Finally, the anointing of the Holy Spirit, by configuring the Bishop to Christ, enables him to be a living continuation of the mystery of Christ for the Church. Because of this Trinitarian shaping of his existence, every Bishop in his ministry is committed to keeping watch over the whole flock with love, for he has been placed in their midst by the Spirit to govern the Church of God: in the name of the Father, whose image he represents; in the name of Jesus Christ His Son, by whom he has been established as teacher, priest and shepherd; in the name of the Holy Spirit, who gives life to the Church and by His power strengthens us in our human weakness.22
The collegial nature of the episcopal ministry
8. ”And He appointed Twelve” (Mk 3:14). The Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium employs this Gospel text to introduce its teaching on the collegial nature of the group of the Twelve, formed ”after the manner of a college or a fixed group, over which He placed Peter, chosen from among them”.23 Similarly, through the personal succession of the Bishop of Rome to Saint Peter and the succession of all the Bishops as a group to the Apostles, the Roman Pontiff and the Bishops are united among themselves as a College.24
The collegial union between the Bishops is based on both episcopal ordination and hierarchical communion. It thus affects the inmost being of each Bishop and belongs to the structure of the Church as willed by Jesus Christ. One attains to the fullness of episcopal ministry by virtue of episcopal consecration and through hierarchical communion with the Head of the College and with its members, that is, with the College, which always includes its Head. This is how one becomes a member of the College of Bishops,25 and the reason why the three functions received in episcopal ordination — sanctifying, teaching and governing — must be exercised in hierarchical communion, even though, given their different immediate finalities, in a distinct way.26
This constitutes what is called ”the spirit of collegiality” (affectus collegialis), or ”affective” collegiality, which is the basis of the Bishops’ concern for the other particular Churches and for the universal Church.27 Consequently, if we must say that a Bishop is never alone, inasmuch as he is always united to the Father though the Son in the Holy Spirit, we must also add that he is also never alone because he is always and continuously united with his brothers in the episcopate and with the one whom the Lord has chosen as the Successor of Peter.
The spirit of collegiality is realized and expressed in different degrees and in various modalities, including institutional forms such as, for example, the Synod of Bishops, Particular Councils, Episcopal Conferences, the Roman Curia, ad Limina visits, missionary cooperation, etc. In its full sense, however, the spirit of collegiality is realized and expressed only in collegial action in the strict sense, that is, in the action of all the Bishops together with their Head, with whom they exercise full and supreme power over the whole Church.28
This collegial nature of the apostolic ministry is willed by Christ Himself. Consequently, the spirit of collegiality, or affective collegiality (collegialitas affectiva), is always present among the Bishops as communio episcoporum, but only in certain acts does it find expression as effective collegiality (collegialitas effectiva). The various ways in which affective collegiality comes to be realized in effective collegiality belong to the human order, but in varying degrees they concretize the divine requirement that the episcopate should express itself in a collegial manner.29 The College’s supreme authority over the whole Church is solemnly exercised in Ecumenical Councils.30
The collegial dimension gives the episcopate its character of universality. A parallelism can thus be established between the Church as one and universal, and therefore indivisible, and the episcopacy as one and indivisible, and therefore universal. The principle and foundation of this unity, be it that of the Church or of the Bishops, is the Roman Pontiff. Indeed, as the Second Vatican Council teaches, the College, ”insofar as it is composed of many, expresses the variety and universality of the People of God, but insofar as it is assembled under one head, it expresses the unity of the flock of Christ”.31 For this reason, ”the unity of the episcopate is one of the constitutive elements of the unity of the Church”.32
The universal Church is not the sum of the particular Churches, or a federation of the latter, or even the result of their communion as such, since, in the expression of the early Fathers and the liturgy, in her essential mystery the Church precedes creation itself.33 In the light of this teaching, we can add that the relationship of mutual interiority existing between the universal Church and each particular Church, whereby the particular Churches are ”formed in the likeness of the universal Church, and in and from the particular Churches there comes into being the one and only Catholic Church”,34 is reproduced in the relationship between the College of Bishops in its entirety and each Bishop as an individual. For this reason, ”the College of Bishops is not to be understood as the aggregate of the Bishops who govern the particular Churches, nor as the result of their communion; rather, as an essential element of the universal Church, it is a reality which precedes the office of being the head of a particular Church”.35
We can better understand this parallelism between the universal Church and the College of Bishops in light of the Council’s statement that ”the Apostles were the first members of the new Israel, and at the same time the beginning of the sacred hierarchy”.36 In the Apostles, not considered individually but as a College, there was already contained the structure of the Church — which in them was established in her universality and unity — and the structure of the College of Bishops, their successors, the sign of this universality and unity.37
It is thus that ”the power of the College of Bishops over the whole Church is not the result of the sum of the powers of the individual Bishops over their particular Churches; it is a pre-existing reality in which individual Bishops participate. They have no competence to act over the whole Church except collegially”.38 Bishops share as a body in the power of teaching and governing, and they do so immediately by the very fact that they are members of the College of Bishops, in which the Apostolic College truly continues in being.39
Just as the universal Church is one and indivisible, so too the College of Bishops is one ”indivisible theological subject”, and hence the supreme, full and universal power possessed by the College, and by the Roman Pontiff personally, is one and indivisible. Precisely because the College of Bishops is a reality prior to the office of heading a particular Church, there are many Bishops who, while carrying out tasks that are properly episcopal, are not heads of particular Churches.40 Each Bishop, always in union with his brothers in the episcopate and with the Roman Pontiff, represents Christ the Head and Shepherd of the Church: he does this not only in a proper and specific manner when he receives the office of pastor of a particular Church, but also when he cooperates with the Diocesan Bishop in the governance of his Church41 or when he shares in the Roman Pontiff’s office of universal pastor in the governance of the universal Church. In the course of her history the Church has also recognized, in addition to the specific form of presidency over a particular Church, other forms of exercising the episcopal ministry – such as that of an Auxiliary Bishop or a representative of the Roman Pontiff in the offices of the Holy See or in Papal Legations; today too, in accordance with the norms of law, she admits these other forms when they are needed.42
The missionary character and the unitary nature of the episcopal ministry
9. The Gospel of Luke (cf. 6:13) tells us that Jesus named the Twelve ”Apostles”, which literally means ”envoys”, ”those who are sent”. In the Gospel of Mark we read that Jesus also appointed the Twelve ”to be sent out to preach” (3:14). This means that both the election and the establishment of the Twelve as Apostles are directed toward mission. Their first sending (cf. Mt 10:5; Mk 6:7; Lk 9:1-2) comes to its fulfillment in the mission that Jesus entrusts to them after the Resurrection, at the moment of His Ascension into heaven. The Lord’s words remain as timely as ever: ”All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:18-20). This apostolic mission finds its solemn confirmation on the day of Pentecost with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
In the text of the Gospel of Matthew just quoted, the entire pastoral ministry can be seen as organized according to the threefold function of teaching, sanctifying and governing. We see here a reflection of the threefold dimension of Christ’s service and mission. We, as Christians, and in a qualitatively new manner as priests, participate in the mission of our Master, who is Prophet, Priest and King, and we are called to bear special witness to Him in the Church and before the world.
These three functions (triplex munus) and the powers that derive from them express on the level of action the pastoral ministry (munus pastorale) that every Bishop receives with episcopal consecration. It is a share in Christ’s own love that is given in the consecration; this love is made concrete in the proclamation of the Gospel of hope to all peoples (cf. Lk 4:16-19), in the administration of the sacraments to those who embrace salvation and in the guidance of God’s holy people toward eternal life. These three functions are, in fact, deeply interconnected; they explain, influence and clarify one another.43
For this reason, then, when the Bishop teaches, he also sanctifies and governs the People of God; when he sanctifies, he also teaches and governs; when he governs, he teaches and sanctifies. Saint Augustine defines the entirety of this episcopal ministry as an office of love: amoris officium.44 This gives us the certainty that the pastoral charity of Jesus Christ will never be lacking in the Church.
”He called to him those whom he desired” (Mk 3:13-14)
10. A great crowd was following Jesus when He decided to go up the mountain and call the Apostles. There were many disciples, but from them He chose Twelve alone for the specific role of Apostles (cf. Mk 3:13-19). In the Synod Hall the words of Saint Augustine were often heard: ”For you I am a Bishop and with you I am a Christian”.45
As a gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church, the Bishop is above all else, like every other Christian, a son and member of the Church. From this holy Mother he has received the gift of divine life in the sacrament of Baptism and his first instruction in the faith. Together with all the faithful he shares in the incomparable dignity of the children of God, a dignity to be lived out in communion and in a spirit of gratitude and fraternity. On the other hand, by virtue of the fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders, the Bishop is also the one who, before the faithful, is teacher, sanctifier and shepherd, charged with acting in the name and in the person of Christ.
These are obviously two relationships which do not simply stand side-by-side but are deeply interconnected; they are ordered to each other inasmuch as both draw upon the richness of Christ, the one High Priest. The Bishop becomes a ”father” precisely because he is fully a ”son” of the Church. This brings up once again the relationship between the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial priesthood: two modes of participation in the one priesthood of Christ, which involves two dimensions which unite in the supreme act of the sacrifice of the Cross.
This is reflected in the relationship which exists in the Church between the common priesthood and the ministerial priesthood. The fact that for all their difference in essence each is ordered to the other 46 gives rise to an interplay that harmoniously structures the life of the Church as the place where the salvation brought about by Christ is made historically present. This interplay is present in the very person of the Bishop, who is and remains a baptized member of the Church, yet is incorporated into the high priesthood. This deeper reality of the Bishop is the foundation of his ”being among” the other faithful and of his being placed ”before” them.
The Second Vatican Council puts this nicely: ”If therefore everyone in the Church does not walk along the same path, nevertheless all are called to sanctity and have received an equal privilege of faith through the justice of God (cf II Pet 1:1). And if by the will of Christ some are made teachers, dispensers of mysteries, and shepherds on behalf of others, yet all share a true equality with regard to the dignity and to the activity common to all the faithful for the building up of the Body of Christ. For the distinction which the Lord made between sacred ministers and the rest of the People of God entails a unity, since pastors and the other faithful are bound to each other by a common bond. The Church’s pastors, following the example of the Lord, should minister to one another and to the rest of the faithful. The faithful in their turn should cooperate gladly with their pastors and teachers”.47
The pastoral ministry received in episcopal consecration, which sets the Bishop ”before” the other faithful, finds expression in his ”being for” the other members of the faithful while not detracting from his ”being with” them. This is true with regard both to the Bishop’s personal sanctification, which must be pursued and realized in the exercise of his ministry, and to the ”style” with which he carries out this ministry in all its respective functions.
The interplay between the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial priesthood, present in the episcopal ministry itself, is manifested in a kind of ”perichoresis” between the two forms of priesthood: a perichoresis between the common witness to the faith given by the faithful and the Bishop’s authoritative witness to the faith through his magisterial acts; a perichoresis between the lived holiness of the faithful and the means of sanctification that the Bishop offers them; and finally, a perichoresis between the personal responsibility of the Bishop for the good of the Church entrusted to him and the shared responsibility of all the faithful for that same Church.
11. In the same act of love by which He freely established the Twelve as Apostles, Jesus called them to share His own life. This sharing, which is a communion of mind and heart with Him, also appears as an inner demand of their participation in Jesus’ own mission. The functions of the Bishop must not be reduced to those of administration alone. Precisely in order to avoid this risk, both the preparatory documents of the Synod and many interventions by the Fathers in the Synod Hall dwelt at length on what the reality of the episcopate as the fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders — in its theological, Christological and pneumatological foundations — entails for the personal life of the Bishop and for the exercise of the ministry entrusted to Him.
Objective sanctification, which by Christ’s work is present in the sacrament through the communication of the Holy Spirit, needs to coincide with subjective sanctification, in which the Bishop, by the help of grace, must continuously progress through the exercise of his ministry. The ontological transformation brought about by episcopal consecration, as a configuration to Christ, demands a lifestyle that manifests a ”being with Him”. Consequently, during the Synod sessions, emphasis was laid on pastoral charity as being the fruit of the character bestowed by the sacrament and of its particular grace. Charity, it was said, is in a sense the heart of the ministry of the Bishop, who is drawn into a dynamic pastoral pro-existence whereby he is impelled to live, like Christ the Good Shepherd, for the Father and for others, in the daily gift of self.
It is above all in exercising his own ministry, inspired by imitation of the charity of the Good Shepherd, that the Bishop is called to be sanctified and to sanctify, taking as his unifying principle contemplation of the face of Christ and the proclamation of the Gospel of salvation.48 His spirituality, therefore, draws direction and nourishment not only from the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation but also from his episcopal ordination, which commits him to living out in faith, hope and charity his ministry of evangelization, liturgical presidency and leadership in the community. The Bishop’s spirituality will therefore be an ecclesial spirituality, since everything in his life is directed toward the building up of the Church in love.
This requires of the Bishop an attitude of service marked by personal strength, apostolic courage and trusting abandonment to the inner working of the Spirit. He will therefore strive to adopt a lifestyle which imitates the kenosis of Christ, the poor and humble servant, so that the exercise of his pastoral ministry will be a consistent reflection of Jesus, the Servant of God, and will help him to become, like Jesus, close to everyone, from the greatest to the least. Again, by a form of reciprocal interplay, the faithful and loving exercise of his ministry sanctifies the Bishop and on the subjective level configures him ever more closely to the ontological richness of sanctity which the sacrament has bestowed upon him.
The Bishop’s personal holiness, however, is never limited to the purely subjective level, since in its efficacy it always proves beneficial to the faithful entrusted to his pastoral care. In the practice of charity, as the content of the pastoral ministry he has received, the Bishop becomes a sign of Christ and acquires that moral authority needed for the effective exercise of his juridical authority. Unless the episcopal office is based on the witness of a holiness manifested in pastoral charity, humility and simplicity of life, it ends up being reduced to a solely functional role and, tragically, it loses credibility before the clergy and the faithful.
The call to holiness in the Church in our time
12. There is a particularly apt Biblical image to describe the figure of the Bishop as the friend of God and the pastor and guide of his people. It is the figure of Moses. Looking to him, the Bishop can find inspiration for his life and activity as a pastor, for Moses was chosen and sent by the Lord, courageous in leading his people toward the Promised Land, a faithful interpreter of the word and law of the living God, a mediator of the Covenant, ardent and confident in his prayer on behalf of his people. Like Moses, who after his dialogue with the Lord on the holy mountain returned among his people with his face radiant (cf. Ex 34:29-30), so the Bishop will be able to show his brothers and sisters that he is their father, brother and friend only if he has entered the dark yet luminous cloud of the mystery of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Radiant with the light of the Trinity, he will be a sign of the merciful goodness of the Father, a living image of the love of the Son, and transparently a man of the Spirit, consecrated and sent forth to lead the People of God along the paths of history on their pilgrimage to eternity.
The Synod Fathers stressed the importance of spiritual commitment in the life, ministry and growth of the Bishop. I myself have spoken of its priority in conformity with the requirements of the Church’s life and the call of the Holy Spirit, who in these years has made evident to everyone the primacy of grace, the widespread desire for spirituality and the urgent need for a witness of holiness.
The call for spirituality arises from a consideration of the work of the Holy Spirit in salvation history, where His presence is active and dynamic, prophetic and missionary. The gift of the fullness of the Holy Spirit, which the Bishop receives at his episcopal ordination, is a precious and urgent call to cooperate with the Spirit’s activity in ecclesial communion and in universal mission.
Held in the wake of the Great Jubilee of 2000, the Synodal Assembly made its own from the beginning the call to holiness of life which I set before the whole Church: ”All pastoral initiatives must be set in relation to holiness…. Once the Jubilee is over, we resume our normal path, but knowing that, stressing holiness remains more than ever an urgent pastoral task”.49 An enthusiastic acceptance of my appeal to give first place to the call to holiness was the atmosphere in which the synodal labors took place and the environment which, in a certain sense, unified the Fathers’ interventions and reflections. In their hearts they heard resound Saint Gregory Nazianzen’s admonition: ”First be purified and then purify others, first allow yourself to be instructed by wisdom and then instruct others, first become light and then enlighten others, first draw close to God and then guide others to Him, first be holy yourself and then make others holy”.50
For this reason frequent appeals were heard during the Synodal Assembly for a clearer specification of the properly ”episcopal” character of the Bishop’s path to holiness. This will always be a holiness lived with his people and for his people, in a communion which becomes a stimulus to and a mutual building up in charity. These are not secondary or marginal demands. It is precisely the Bishop’s own spiritual life which favors the fruitfulness of his pastoral activity. Is not the ultimate basis of all pastoral effectiveness constant meditation on the mystery of Christ, passionate contemplation of His Face and generous imitation of the life of the Good Shepherd? If ours is indeed a time of continual movement and even at times of frenzied ”doing for the sake of doing”, then the Bishop must be the first to show by the example of his own life the need to re-establish the primacy of ”being” over ”doing” and, more importantly, the primacy of grace, which, in the Christian vision of life, remains the essential principle for any ”planning” of pastoral ministry.51
The Bishop’s spiritual journey
13. A Bishop can be considered a genuine minister of communion and hope for God’s holy people only when he walks in the presence of the Lord. It is not possible to be a servant of others unless one is first a ”servant of God”. And one can only be a servant of God if one is a ”man of God”. For this reason I stated in my homily at the beginning of the Synod: ”The pastor must be a man of God; his existence and his ministry are entirely under his divine glory and from the supereminent mystery of God they derive their light and vigor”.52
For Bishops the call to holiness is inherent in the sacramental event that stands at the origin of their ministry, that is, their episcopal ordination. The ancient Euchology of Serapion formulates the ritual invocation of the consecration thus: ”God of truth, make thy servant a living Bishop, a holy Bishop in the succession of the holy Apostles”.53 Since episcopal ordination does not infuse the perfection of the virtues, ”the Bishop is called to pursue his path of perfection with greater intensity so as to attain to the stature of Christ, the perfect Man”.54
The Christological and Trinitarian character of his mystery and ministry demands of the Bishop a journey of holiness which consists in a progressive advance toward an ever more profound spiritual and apostolic maturity marked by the primacy of pastoral charity. This journey is obviously experienced together with his people, along a path which is at once personal and communitarian, like the life of the Church itself. Along this path, however, the Bishop becomes, in intimate communion with Christ and attentive docility to the Holy Spirit, a witness, a model, and a source of encouragement and help. This same idea is expressed by canon law: ”Mindful that he is bound to give an example of holiness, charity, humility and simplicity of life, the Diocesan Bishop is to seek in every way to promote the holiness of Christ’s faithful according to the special vocation of each. Since he is the principal dispenser of the mysteries of God, he is to strive constantly that the faithful entrusted to his care may grow in grace through the celebration of the sacraments, and may know and live the Paschal mystery”.55
The spiritual journey of the Bishop, like that of every Christian, is rooted in the sacramental grace of Baptism and Confirmation. He shares this grace in common with all the faithful since, as the Second Vatican Council notes, ”all the faithful of whatever condition or rank are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity”.56 Here the celebrated expression of Saint Augustine, with its rich realism and supernatural wisdom, proves especially true: ”If I am in fear because I am for you, I am consoled to be with you. Because for you I am a Bishop, with you I am a Christian. The first name is one of responsibility, the second, one of grace. The former is the name of a danger, the latter of salvation”.57 Thanks to pastoral charity, however, responsibility becomes a form of service and peril is transformed into an opportunity for growth and maturation. The episcopal ministry is not only a source of holiness for others, but is already a cause of sanctification for one who allows the charity of God to pass through his own heart and life.
The Synod Fathers presented in synthesis some of the demands of this journey. Above all they stressed the character given in Baptism and Confirmation, which from the beginning of our lives as Christians, through the theological virtues, makes us capable of believing in God, hoping in Him and loving Him. The Holy Spirit, in turn, infuses His gifts and fosters our growth in goodness through the exercise of the moral virtues that concretize, also on the human level, our spiritual life.58 By means of the Baptism he has received, the Bishop shares, like every Christian, in that spirituality which is rooted in incorporation in Christ and is manifested in following Christ in accordance with the Gospel. For this reason the Bishop shares the call to holiness proper to all the faithful. He must therefore cultivate a life of prayer and profound faith, and put all his trust in God, offering his witness to the Gospel in docile obedience to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, and maintaining a particular filial devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the perfect teacher of the spiritual life.59
The spirituality of the Bishop will thus be a spirituality of communion, lived in harmony with the other baptized faithful who with him are children of one Father in heaven and one Mother on earth, Holy Church. Like all believers in Christ, he needs to nourish his spiritual life with the living and effective word of the Gospel and with the living bread of the Holy Eucharist, the food of eternal life. Because of his human frailty the Bishop is also called to have frequent and regular recourse to the sacrament of Penance, in order to obtain the gift of that mercy of which he himself has been made a minister. Mindful, therefore, of his human weaknesses and sins, each Bishop, along with his priests, personally experiences the sacrament of Reconciliation as a profound need and as a grace to be received ever anew, and thus renews his own commitment to holiness in the exercise of his ministry. In this way he also gives visible expression to the mystery of a Church which is constitutively holy, yet also made up of sinners in need of forgiveness.
Like all priests and, obviously, in special communion with the priests of his diocesan presbyterate, the Bishop will strive to progress along a specific path of holiness. He is also called to holiness by a new title arising from Holy Orders. The Bishop thus lives by faith, hope and love, inasmuch as he is a minister of the Lord’s word and of the sanctification and spiritual advancement of the People of God. He must be holy because he must serve the Church as teacher, sanctifier and guide. As such, he must also love the Church deeply and fervently. Each Bishop is configured to Christ in order to love the Church with the love of Christ the Bridegroom, and in order to be in the Church a minister of her unity, enabling her to become ”a people gathered by the unity of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”.60
The specific spirituality of the Bishop, as the Synod Fathers repeatedly emphasized, is further enriched by the bestowal of that grace inherent in the fullness of the priesthood which is given to him at the moment of his ordination. As a pastor of the flock and servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in hope, the Bishop must become as it were a transparent reflection of the very person of Christ, the Supreme Pastor. In the Roman Pontifical this requirement is explicitly mentioned: ”Receive the miter, and may the splendor of holiness shine forth in you, so that when the Chief Shepherd appears, you may deserve to receive from Him an unfading crown of glory”.61
Hence, the Bishop constantly needs the grace of God that strengthens and perfects his human nature. He can say with the Apostle Paul: ”Our sole credit is from God who has made us qualified ministers of a new covenant” (II Cor 3:5-6). It needs to be emphasized that the apostolic ministry is a source of spirituality for the Bishop, who should derive from it all the spiritual resources which will make him grow in holiness and enable him to discover the workings of the Holy Spirit in the People of God entrusted to his pastoral care.62
The spiritual journey of the Bishop coincides, from this perspective, with that pastoral charity which must rightly be considered the soul of his apostolate, as it is of the apostolate of priests and deacons. Here it is not only a matter of an existentia but indeed of a pro-existentia, that is to say, of a way of living inspired by the supreme model of Christ the Lord and which is spent totally in worship of the Father and in service of neighbor. The Second Vatican Council rightly states that pastors, in the image of Christ, must carry out their ministry with holiness and zeal, with humility and fortitude, ”which, fulfilled in this way, will be for them an excellent means of sanctification”.63 No Bishop can fail to realize that the summit of Christian holiness is the crucified Christ in his supreme self-oblation to the Father and to his brothers and sisters in the Holy Spirit. For this reason configuration to Christ and a share in His sufferings (cf. I Pet 4:15) becomes the royal road of the Bishop’s holiness in the midst of his people.
Mary, Mother of Hope and teacher of the spiritual life
14. The Bishop will also find support for his spiritual life in the maternal presence of the Virgin Mary, Mater spei et spes nostra, as the Church invokes her. The Bishop will therefore nourish an authentic and filial devotion to Mary, and feel himself called to make her fiat his own, re-experiencing and re-appropriating each day Jesus’ entrusting of Mary at the foot of the Cross to the Beloved Disciple, and of the Beloved Disciple to Mary (cf. Jn 19:26-27). The Bishop is also called to reflect the unanimous and persevering prayer of Christ’s disciples and Apostles with His Mother in preparation for Pentecost. This icon of the nascent Church manifests the indissoluble bond uniting Mary and the successors of the Apostles (cf. Acts 1:14).
The holy Mother of God will consequently be the Bishop’s teacher in listening to the word of God and promptly putting it into practice, as a faithful disciple of the one Teacher, in firm faith, confident hope and ardent charity. As Mary was the ”memory” of the incarnation of the Word in the first Christian community, so the Bishop must preserve and pass on the living Tradition of the Church, in communion with all the other Bishops, in union with, and under the authority of, the Successor of Peter.
The Bishop’s solid Marian devotion will be constantly related to the liturgy, where the Blessed Virgin is particularly present in the celebration of the mysteries of salvation and serves as a model of docility and prayer, of spiritual oblation and motherhood for the whole Church. Indeed, it will be the Bishop’s responsibility to ensure that the liturgy always appears ”as an ‘exemplary form’, a source of inspiration, a constant point of reference and the ultimate goal” for the Marian piety of the People of God.64 While holding to this principle, the Bishop will also nourish his personal and communitarian Marian devotion by devotional practices approved and recommended by the Church, especially by the recitation of that compendium of the Gospel which is the Holy Rosary. Being himself completely familiar with this prayer, completely centered as it is on the contemplation of the saving events of Christ’s life with which His holy Mother was closely associated, every Bishop is also called to promote diligently its recitation.65
Entrusting oneself to the word
15. The assembly of the Synod of Bishops indicated several indispensable means for the sustenance and progress of the spiritual life.66 First among these is reading and meditating on the word of God. Every Bishop should always commend himself and feel commended ”to the Lord and to the word of His grace, which is able to build up and give the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (cf. Acts 20:32). Before becoming one who hands on the word, the Bishop, together with his priests and indeed like every member of the faithful and like the Church herself,67 must be a hearer of the word. He should live ”within” the word and allow himself to be protected and nourished by it, as if by a mother’s womb. With Saint Ignatius of Antioch the Bishop must say: ”I commend myself to the Gospel as to the flesh of Christ”.68 Each Bishop will thus take to heart the well-known admonition of Saint Jerome quoted by the Second Vatican Council: ”Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ”.69 There can be no primacy of holiness without attentive listening to the Word of God, which is the guide and nourishment of all holiness.
To commend oneself to the word of God and to keep it, like the Virgin Mary, Virgo audiens,70 requires the practice of certain aids constantly proposed by the Church’s tradition and spiritual experience. These include, first of all, frequent personal reading and regular study of Sacred Scripture. A Bishop would try in vain to preach the word to others if he did not first listen to it within himself.71 Without frequent contact with Sacred Scripture a Bishop would hardly be a credible minister of hope, since, as Saint Paul reminds us, it is ”from the lessons of patience and the words of encouragement in the Scriptures that we can derive hope” (cf. Rom 15:4). The words of Origen remain ever applicable: ”These are the two activities of the Bishop: learning from God by reading the divine Scriptures and meditating on them frequently, and teaching the people. But let him teach the things that he himself has learned from God”.72
The Synod recalled the importance of reading (lectio) and meditation (meditatio) on the word of God in the life of pastors and in their ministry of service to the community. As I wrote in my Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, ”it is especially necessary that listening to the word of God should become a life-giving encounter, in the ancient and ever valid tradition of lectio divina, which draws from the biblical text the living word which questions, directs and shapes our lives”.73 In the realm of meditation and lectio, the heart which has already received the word opens itself to the contemplation of God’s work and, consequently, to a conversion of thoughts and life to Him, accompanied by a heartfelt request for His forgiveness and grace.
Drawing nourishment from the Eucharist
16. Just as the Paschal My