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Just today, Pope Francis spoke to the Congregation of Bishops (reported in Italian here).
Yesterday, I asked “if the pope will take care of the Vatican, and I will take care of cleaning myself up, who takes care of the middle?”
It appears Pope Francis answered that question today! Speaking to the Bishops, he declared:
“At all times and in all places, the question will gather up from the lips of the Church, give us a Bishop! The holy People of God speak: we need one that we supervise from above, we need one that looks at us with the largesse of the heart of God, we do not need a manager, a CEO of a company, and not one that is at the level of our smallness or trite contentions.”
[IMPORTANT WARNING! I make no claims to an entirely accurate Italian translation — it is my own, and I profess no exact capability, but this should be the gist of what the Pope said — I believe it is a fair translation, but you should check the original Italian.]
So Pope Francis is setting up the idea that CEOs and middle managers see things on a level inferior to God’s view. I made this distinction yesterday! I commented that PBS Frontline was not able to see the whole picture, but only the secular problems — the symptoms or effects. But I compared what their analysis of the temple at the time of Gospels would be and that their analysis would be of the problems, but that Jesus was able to properly diagnose the actual cause “because his viewpoint spanned the full nature of mankind.” Pope Francis is making this very same comparison! He says that the people of God want bishops who can see them with the same height that God’s gaze has on us! And a future vision for us that is like that of God’s.
I can’t help but be struck by the similarity!
The headline of the next section of the Pope address is nearly the same comparison: “Horizon of God determines the mission of the Congregation” in which the Pope mentions that they should not be “affected by fear” but be “pastors with parrhesia” (lit. “bold speech”). In other words, their vision should be like God’s and their speech should be as well.
He also gave another guideline on the expectation of a bishop from fellow bishops: “Professionalism, service and holiness of life: if we deviate from this trio we diminish the magnitude to which we are called.”
The Pope gave the method by which the Bishops could attain this larger view:
The Bishop is first and foremost a martyr of the Risen One. Not one witness alone but together with the Church. His life and his ministry must make credible the Resurrection. Union with Christ in the cross of true giving of himself, for his own Church is overflowing life that never dies. The courage to die, the generosity of offering their own lives and to be consumed by the flock are inscribed in the “DNA” of the episcopate. The renunciation and sacrifice are akin to the Episcopal mission. And I want to emphasize this: the renunciation and sacrifice are akin to the Episcopal mission.The episcopate is not for himself but for the Church, for the flock, for others, especially for those who are according to the world, those to be discarded.
Read that last line again.
He goes on to say that the Bishop should be patient, should be constantly working to declare truth and make the true faith attractive in his area — then the Pope emphasized that Bishops should be, as Lumen Gentium 27 emphasized, “concerned with the daily care of the flock.” And that the boredom and routine of business (as opposed to the large view of God) forces them to seek escape. Says the Pope:
“So often we try to escape to a permanent ‘elsewhere’. This is a temptation of the Shepherds, of all pastors. The spiritual fathers explain it well, so that we should understand it and not fall. Unfortunately, even in the Church, we are not spared from this risk. Therefore, it is important to reiterate that the mission of the Bishop requires diligence and everyday life. In this time of meetings and conferences, I think that the decree of the Council of Trent on the local residency is so relevant and it would be nice that the Congregation of Bishops wrote something about this. The flock need to find space in the heart of Shepherd.”
I had to go do a little reading to pick up what all that meant… Fortunately, New Advent always seems to have good resources online. They have an entry on ecclesial residency, and in particular this portion on what the Council of Trent reference from Pope Francis is all about:
“Residence, in connexion with the pastoral office, is inculcated in various canons. The Council of Trent (Sess. XXIII, c. 1, de ref.) says: “Since by Divine precept it is enjoined on all to whom the cure of souls is entrusted to know their own sheep, to offer sacrifice for them, to feed them by preaching the Divine word, by the administration of the sacraments, and by the example of all good works, likewise to have a fatherly care of the poor and other distressed persons, and to apply themselves to all other pastoral duties; all which offices can not be rendered and fulfilled by those who neither watch over nor are with their own flock, but abandon it after the manner of hirelings, the sacred synod admonishes and exhorts such that, mindful of the Divine precept and made a pattern of the flock, they feed and rule in judgment and truth”. A pastor then is obliged to dwell in his parish; and, generally speaking, by reason of local statutes, in the parochial residence or rectory. Because of greater responsibilities resting upon them, the Church insists that patriarchs, primates, metropolitans, bishops, or others in charge of dioceses or quasi-dioceses, even though they be cardinals, live within their own territory, though not of necessity in the episcopal city. Bishops, moreover, are admonished by the Council of Trent not to be absent from their cathedrals, unless their episcopal duties call them elsewhere in the diocese, during Advent and Lent, on Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, and Corpus Christi, on which days especially the sheep ought to be refreshed and rejoice in the Lord at the presence of the shepherd.”
The article has much more to mention, including that non-residence is a mortal sin.
We’ll See…. after years of ICEL translations that gut any meaningful phraseology or certainty out of documents, I should be forgiven for having “small contentions” (nay, should my sarcasm mention the concept that the bishops will apply dynamic equivalence and inclusive language to themselves?). But Pope Francis is giving to them the same approach I’d hope to receive: a chance to do better.
So Pope Francis is asserting the Council of Trent, and telling the Congregation of Bishops to write on it. He contrasts residency (daily concerns, daily work with the people discarded, and the faithful being able to find a place in their hearts, presumably by actually being with him) on one side, and “conferences and meetings elsewhere” on the other hand. I suppose we’ll have to see how the Congregation of Bishops writes: will the document they ultimately write have the keygma and parrhesia?
I’ll be interested to see if there is ever a more reliable translation made of the document above. There’s a lot to his statements, more than merely telling the Bishops to cut out the jet set life, cut out the conference and meeting mania, and instead be bold teachers of truth and serve the “disposable” people.
This article, Pope Francis to Bishops: “we do not need a manager, a CEO of a company” is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
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