Bishops must not have “an expiration date,” Pope Francis told a gathering of recently appointed bishops yesterday.
In his address to 138 bishops gathered at the Vatican, the Pope warned them against always being on the lookout for a promotion elsewhere and surrounding themselves with “courtiers, climbers and yes-men.”
The new bishops should not be “like a medicine that will stop being effective or like perishable food to be thrown out,” he said.
He also encouraged them to accept their congregations as they are.
“I also beg you to not let yourselves be deceived by the temptation to change the people. Love the people that God has given you, even when they will have committed great sins,” he said.
The Pope addressed the bishops as they gathered in Rome for a series of orientation programmes.
In his address, Francis reminded them of their mission to be “custodians of the joy of the gospel” and outlined a series of do’s and don’ts for their ministry.
The Church cannot have bishops who are “switched off or pessimists” or who have “surrendered to the darkness of the world or resigned to the apparent defeat of the good, screaming – at this point, in vain – that the tiny fort has been attacked,” he said.
Instead, the bishops must be like vigilant watchmen, “capable of waking up your churches, getting up before dawn or in the middle of the night to bolster the faith, hope and charity, without letting yourselves be lulled to sleep or conforming to the nostalgic complaint of a golden past that’s already gone.”
The Pope also spoke of the need for bishops to be accessible and available to their priests.
A bishop who is “reachable” isn’t the one who has endless means of communication at his disposal. Rather, he is the one with room in his heart to welcome and listen to all of his priests and their “concrete needs, giving them the entirety and breadth of church teaching and not a list of complaints.”
Bishops must always adopt a positive approach, especially in their dealings with each other.
“Though jealously safeguarding the passion for truth, do not waste your energy in opposition and arguments, but in building and loving,” the Pope said.
He also spoke of the bishops’ need for prayer to sustain them in their ministry.
“It is necessary to always dwell in Christ and never run away from him: dwell in his word, in his Eucharist, in the things of his father and, above all, in his cross,” he said.