A Church that is not united around its bishop is a sick Church, Pope Francis said Wednesday. Jesus wanted unity between the bishop and all the faithful, starting with priests and deacons.
The ordained ministries and in particular the role of bishops and episcopal collegiality were the focus of Pope Francis’ General Audience catechesis this week.
The Pope began by asking those present to pray for bishops, that they may be men of virtue.
“It isn’t easy,” he noted; “we are all sinners, so pray for us.”
He then said Christ himself instituted the ordained ministries with the purpose of building up the Church as His Body. The Pope said among these the role of the bishop stands out because through the bishop it is Christ himself who is present.
Moreover, in carrying out his service of protecting and guiding the people of God, the bishop expresses the motherhood of the Church.
Moving from his scripted speech, the Pope continued: “We understand, therefore, that it is not a position of prestige, an honorary role. The bishop is not an honorary role it is a service. Jesus wanted it this way. There should not be room in the Church for a worldly mentality. A worldly mentality speaks of a man who has an "ecclesiastical career and has become a bishop." There should be no place for such a mentality in the Church. The bishop serves; it is not a position of honor, to boast about.”
Pope Francis said that the many bishops who are saints show us that one does not seek this ministry; one does not ask for it; it cannot be bought; one accepts it in obedience, not in an attempt to climb higher but to lower oneself, just as Jesus "humbled himself and became obedient unto to death, even death on a cross" (Phil 2,8).
And he added “It is sad when we see a man who seeks this office and does all he can to get it and when he gets it does not serve, but instead goes around like a peacock and lives only for his vanity.”
Pope Francis continued: “The bishops are also called to express one single college, gathered around the pope, who is the guardian and guarantor of this profound communion that was so dear to Jesus and His apostles themselves.” Recalling the recent Synod on the Family, the Pope observed that it is beautiful when the bishops, with the pope express this collegiality, despite “living in places, cultures, sensibilities and traditions that are different and distant from each other.”
Concluding, the Pope said we must recognize our bishop as a great gift “in the knowledge that it is in the bishop that the relationship of each Church with the Apostles is visible and with all the other communities, united with their bishops and the pope in the One Church of the Lord Jesus, that is our Holy Mother the Hierarchical Church.”