(Vatican Insider, Andrea Tornielli) The address Francis gave during yesterday’s audience with bishops who were appointed over the last year was one significant speeches of his pontificate. It added new elements to the identikit of the ideal pastor which Francis presented on other occasions. The text is worth reading in its entirety in order to understand where it springs from and appreciate its depth.
Towards the end of his speech, there is an illuminating passage in which Francis describes the reality of the run-up to the Synod: The Pope said he saw the “bishops as sentinels, able to awaken their Churches; “men able to cultivate and ripen God’s fields and pastors able to restore unity, sow nets and overcome division. Engage in respectful dialogue with the great traditions in which you are immersed, without fear of getting lost and without feeling the need to defend your borders, because the Church’s identity is defined by the love of Christ which knows no boundaries. Do not waste energy in conflict and disagreement, but rather use it to build and to love.”
One aspect that is “close to his heart” is a bishops’ stable presence in his diocese. A bishop cannot always be someplace else. “I feel it is my duty to remind Church pastors, of the “inseparable bond between a Bishops’ stable presence and the growth of his flock.” “Any genuine reform within the Church of Christ begins by being present; it begins with the presence of Christ who is never absent, but also with the presence of the pastor who reigns in Christ’s name. This is not just a pious piece of advice. “When the Shepherd shirks his responsibility and is not easy to get hold of, he puts the pastoral care of his flock and the salvation of souls at risk,” Francis pointed out, quoting the Council of Trent.
“I ask you not to delude yourself into thinking that you can change people. Love the people God has given you, even if they ‘commit serious sins’ and do not forget to ‘go up to the Lord’ to ask for forgiveness and for a fresh start.”