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New bishops gather for training for first time since pandemic


Riccardo De Luca - Update | Shutterstock

I.Media - published on 09/19/22

More than 300 bishops in two sessions have gathered in Rome

After the hiatus imposed by Covid-19, the annual formation for new bishops, organized by the Dicastery for Bishops since 2000, resumed this year in two sessions. In all, more than 300 participants reflected on the theme, “Announcing the Gospel in Changing Times and in the Aftermath of the Pandemic: The Bishop’s Service.”

The first session, from September 1 to 8, had an Eastern tone since of the 154 bishops present, nearly one-third came from Eastern Church territories. In receiving them on September 8, the Pope conducted an informal dialogue with them, which the Vatican did not release. The second session, initiated on September 12, involves 170 bishops from some 30 countries.

Among them, I.MEDIA met with Bishop Marc Beaumont, 61, bishop of Moulins since May 16, 2021. As the head of a small rural diocese with a population of about 330,000 and 35 active priests in 15 parishes, Bishop Beaumont is happy to compare his experiences with those of other territories. “We have met confreres from Switzerland, the United States, Brazil, Poland… It is an experience of the universality of the Church, lived in a serene and comforting way. The question-and-answer sessions are very free,” he said, happy to have been able to put faces to some of the heads of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia.

The young bishops from all continents are invited to reflect on a wide variety of themes, such as the challenges of the “changing times,” the canonical administration of a diocese, relations with the media, or the accompaniment of families.

Finding “interior serenity” in “adverse circumstances”

During these days, the new bishops are confronted with questions about the “spiritual traits” of pastors that the Church needs today. “People evaluate our credibility as ministers on the basis of the inner serenity with which we know how to transmit the joy of the Gospel, even in adverse circumstances,” organizers said in a statement.

The abuse crisis led to a session with the Discerning Leadership Commission of the Society of Jesus, during which the bishops were able to share their experiences. “No diocese is untouched,” said Bishop Beaumont, who noted that in his rural territory, the only cases that have come to light are of deceased priests. Nevertheless, he has spoken with victims and is accompanied in this process by a listening unit set up by his predecessor, involving a psychiatrist and a lawyer.

The physical and psychological health of priests in the face of the media pressure induced by these cases is also a concern for the bishops. Bishop Beaumont is reassured by the attitude of the faithful of his diocese who “have words of support and encouragement for their priests, rather than suspicion,” he said.

The Synod, a time of conversion for the Church

The time of exchange with the General Secretariat of the Synod was particularly significant for Bishop Beaumont. “The synodal experience marks a change in the life of the Church, with a before and an after. All the baptized are called to participate in the decision-making process. In France, lay men and women are already present in the episcopal councils, but we would like to see younger people involved in responsibilities, in the management of parishes,” explains Bishop Beaumont.

In any case, if he appreciates this link with Rome experienced in September 2021 with the ad limina visit and then this year with the formation of new bishops, he considers it his duty to call each Christian to take responsibility, without expecting everything from the Pope and the Vatican. “Each country, each continent has its own problems. It is clear from the exchanges that, depending on where they come from, the concerns are different. It is not easy for the Vatican to adapt to each context,” he acknowledges.

The challenge, both for the Synod and for the fight against abuse, is to make the local Churches more responsible. “It’s not enough to criticize the universal Church and expect Rome to change. The conversion process must be lived by each one of us, at the parish and diocesan level,” insists the Bishop of Moulins.

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