VATICAN CITY, 11 SEP 2010 (VIS) – At midday today Benedict XVI received participants in a congress for recently-consecrated bishops, regularly organised at this time of year by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
The Pope began his remarks by referring to the challenges they have to face, “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”. In this context he reminded the prelates of their “duty to nourish people’s hopes, to share their difficulties, drawing inspiration from Christ’s charity which consists in care, tenderness, compassion, hospitality, availability and interest in people’s problems, for which we are ready to give our lives”.
Speaking then of the episcopal ministry, the Holy Father explained that “it can be understood only on the basis of Christ, source of the one and supreme priesthood in which the bishop is made a participant. … 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. … Remaining frequently in God’s presence, being a man of prayer and adoration; these are the primary duties to which the pastor is called”.
After then highlighting how “the life of the bishop must be a constant oblation to God for the salvation of His Church, and especially for the salvation of the souls entrusted to his care”, the Pope noted that “the office of bishop, like that of priest, must never be misunderstood in worldly terms. It is a service of love”.
“The acceptance and the fruit of the proclamation of the Good News are closely linked to the quality of faith and prayer. Those called to the ministry of preaching must believe in the power of God which is released in the Sacraments and which accompanies them in their duty to sanctify, govern and announce. They must believe and live what they proclaim and celebrate”.
“In many cases”, Benedict XVI went on to note, the prelates’ communities “represent a minority presence. In these contexts the mission of the bishop is particularly demanding. Yet, it is precisely in such circumstances that, through your ministry, the Gospel can reveal all its salvific power. You must not give in to pessimism and discouragement, because it is the Holy Spirit that guides the Church and gives her … the courage to persevere and seek new methods of evangelization, so as to reach areas as yet unexplored.
“The Christian truth”, he added in conclusion, “is attractive and persuasive because it responds to the profound need of human existence, convincingly announcing that Christ is the one Saviour of all of man and of all mankind. This announcement remains valid today, just as it was at the beginning of Christianity when the first great missionary expansion of the Gospel took place”.