Benedict XVI on Bishops

As I write, Pope Benedict XVI is in Africa.  For this trip his Post-Synodal Exhortation (following the Synod on Africa) has been released with the title Africae munus.  It is a long, “omnibus” document.  We can look at a few bits and pieces.

Here is one piece, on bishops, with my emphases:

I. Bishops

100. Dear brother bishops, the holiness to which the bishop is called requires the exercise of the virtues – in the first place, of the theological virtues – and the exercise of the evangelical counsels.[153] Your own holiness must be outstanding, to the benefit of those entrusted to your pastoral care, those whom you must serve. Your life of prayer will nourish your apostolate from within. The bishop must be someone in love with Christ. The moral authority and the prestige that uphold the exercise of your juridical power can only come from the holiness of your life.

101. Saint Cyprian of Carthage, in the middle of the third century, stated: “The Church rests on the bishops, and all her conduct follows the direction of those same rulers”.[154] Communion, unity and cooperation with the presbyterate will be a safeguard against the seeds of division and will assist you in listening together to the Holy Spirit. He will lead you on the right path (cf. Ps 22:3). Love and respect your priests! They are esteemed co-workers in your episcopal ministry. Imitate Christ! He created around himself a circle of friendship, fraternal affection and communion which he drew from the depths of the Trinitarian mystery. “I invite you to take continuous care to help your priests to live in intimate communion with Christ. Their spiritual life is the foundation of their apostolic life. Exhort them gently to daily prayer, to the worthy celebration of the sacraments, especially those of the Eucharist and Reconciliation, as Saint Francis de Sales did for his priests … Your priests need your affection, your encouragement and your concern.”[155]

102. Be one with the Successor of Peter, together with your priests and all the faithful. [NB:] Do not waste your human and pastoral energies in the vain search for answers to questions which are not of your direct competence, or in the twists and turns of a nationalism that can easily blind. It is easier to follow this idol, or to absolutize African culture, than to follow the demands of Christ. Such idols are illusions. Even more, they are a temptation, that believing that human efforts alone can bring the kingdom of eternal happiness to earth.

103. Your first duty is to bring the good news of salvation to all, and to offer the faithful a catechesis which leads them to a deeper knowledge of Jesus Christ. See to it that laypeople acquire a genuine awareness of their ecclesial mission and encourage them to engage in it with responsibility, always seeking the common good. The permanent formation programmes offered to lay people, and above all to political or economic leaders, must insist on conversion as a necessary condition for the transformation of the world. It is fitting that they should begin with prayer and continue with a catechesis that will lead to concrete action. The creation of structures, if truly needed, will come later; since they can never replace the power of prayer!

104. Dear brother bishops, following in the footsteps of Christ the Good Shepherd, be good pastors and servants of the flock entrusted to your care, exemplary in life and conduct. The good administration of your dioceses requires your presence. To make your message credible, see to it that your dioceses become models in the conduct of personnel, in transparency and good financial management. Do not hesitate to seek help from experts in auditing, so as to give example to the faithful and to society at large. Promote the good functioning of the ecclesial bodies provided for by Church law on the diocesan and parochial level. To you in the first place belongs the task of seeking unity, justice and peace since you have the responsibility for the local Churches.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. TNCath says:

    Pope Benedict XVI wrote, “The good administration of your dioceses requires your presence. To make your message credible, see to it that your dioceses become models in the conduct of personnel, in transparency and good financial management.”

    Is the Holy Father suggesting that the African bishops (or bishops in general) are busy traveling and away from their dioceses too often, or is he suggesting they are not “hands on” bishops, preferring to delegate their duties to others and not taking on the responsibilities and duties entrusted to them? Methinks it may be a combination of both.

  2. Supertradmum says:

    Many years ago, I felt the Lord was telling me never to criticize a priest or bishop without praying for him. The more I pray for bishops, individually, and priests, individually, the more I feel God’s Love for them. That priests and bishops must be virtuous must be part of our daily prayers.

  3. Brad says:

    When praying for priests, especially the humble, in the trenches sort, please ask St. Anne Line to help your prayer. She is wonderfully energetic.

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