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Friday, September 9, 2016

Meeting with bishops from mission territories

At 11:30am this morning, in the Sala Clementina at the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father, Pope Francis received in audience those who are participating in the Seminar for Bishops from Mission territories, organized by the Congregation for Evangelization of Peoples.


Speech of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
for the meeting with newly-ordained Bishops
from Mission territories

 Dear brothers,

The seminar for newly-ordained bishops, organized by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, offers me the joyous occasion to meet you and to greet you one on one.  I thank Cardinal Fernando Filoni for his words and for all the work that he is doing along with the staff at his Dicastery.

Having come to Rome during this Holy Year of Mercy, you are united with many pilgrims from every corner of the globe: this experience is so good for us, for all of us; it helps us to feel that we are all pilgrims, pilgrims of mercy; we all need the grace of Christ in order to be merciful like the Father.  Every Bishop experiences this reality himself and, as vicars of the great Shepherd of the sheep (cf Heb 13:20), we are called to manifest the life, the episcopal ministry and the paternity of God, the goodness, the concern, the mercy, the gentleness and the authority of Christ, who came to give life and to make all humanity one family reconciled in the love of the Father.  Every one of you has been placed as Pastor in your Diocese in order to govern the Church of God in the name of the Father, whose image you make present; in the name of Jesus Christ his Son, by whom you were made teachers, priests and guides; and in the name of the Holy Spirit, who gives life to the Church (cf Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores gregis, 7).

The places you come from are different and distant from one another; they belong to the large constellation known as mission territories.  Therefore, each of you has the great privilege and at the same time, the responsibility to be the best of evangelizers.  In the image of the Good Shepherd, you are invited to care for the flock and to go in search of the sheep, especially those who have been distanced or lost; as well as to seek out new ways of proclaiming the gospel and of going out to meet people; to help those who have received the gift of Baptism to grow in their faith, so that all believers, even tepid or non-practicing believers, can discover anew the joy of their faith and evangelizing fruitfulness (cf Evangelii Gaudium, 11).  For this reason, I encourage you to meet even with the sheep who do not belong to Christ's fold: in fact, evangelization is essentially connected with the proclamation of the gospel to those who do not yet know Jesus Christ or who have always rejected him (EG, 14).

In your work in the missions, you avail yourselves of various collaborators.  Many of the faithful laity, immersed in a world that is marked by contradictions and injustices, are willing to seek the Lord and to bear him witness.  It belongs to the Bishop, first of all, to encourage, accompany and to spur on all the efforts and attempts that are already being made to keep hope and faith alive.  The young Churches of which you are pastors are characterized by the presence of local clergy who at times are numerous, at times scarce or even few in number.  In every case, I invite you to pay attention to the preparation of your priests during the years they spend in the Seminary, never ceasing to accompany them with ongoing formation following their Ordination.  Strive to offer them a concrete and tangible example.  Whenever possible, seek to participate with them in the principal moments of their formation, always caring also for the spiritual dimension.  Do not forget that the Bishop's closest collaborator is the priest.  Every priest should feel close to his Bishop.  When a Bishop receives a telephone call from a priest, or a letter, respond immediately, right away!  That same day, if possible.  This closeness should begin in the seminary, in formation, and it should continue.  A Bishop's closest collaborator is his priest.

The dynamism of the sacrament of Orders, which is the same vocation as the episcopal mission, and the duty to attentively follow the concrete problems and questions of the society that we seek to evangelize, calls every Bishop to be attentive to the fullness of maturity in Christ (cf Eph 4:13).  Even  through the testimony of your own human, spiritual and intellectual maturity, by focusing on pastoral charity, the charity of Christ and concern for his Church shine even more in you for the sake of all humanity.

Keep careful watch so that everything you put into practice for the sake of evangelization and all pastoral activities that are promoted are not damaged or undermined by divisions that are already present or that can be created.  Divisions are the armour which the devil keeps close at hand in order to destroy the Church from within.  He has two weapons, but the main one is division; the other is money.  The devil enters through our pockets and destroys with the tongue; he divides us through gossip, and the habit of gossiping is the habit of terrorism.  A gossiper is a terrorist who throws a bomb - gossip - in order to destroy.  Please, fight against all divisions, for this is one of the weapons the devil uses to destroy local Churches and the universal Church.  In particular, differences due to various ethnic groups present in the same territory should not penetrate into the Christian community and be able to prevail over their good intentions.  These are difficult challenges to resolve, but with the grace of God, prayer, penance, it is possible.  The Church is called to find ways always to go above tribal and cultural connotations and the Bishop, the visible principle of unity, has the task of unceasingly building up the local Church in the communion of all its members.

Dear brothers, I am sure that what you have been able to share during these days will help each one of you to progress with enthusiasm in your ministry.  Care for the people of God who are confided to you, care for the priests, care for the seminarians.  This is your work.  May Mary, our Mother protect and sustain you.  For my part, I assure you of my prayer; and you too, please pray for me, I need your prayer too!
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