Bishops should be pastors — not princes, Pope Francis has emphasised in an address to papal nuncios, whose duties include sending to the Vatican the names of candidates for the episcopacy.
The Pope said he wants these candidates to be “pastors who are close to their people, fathers and brothers, who are meek, patient and merciful”.
Pope Francis said the best priest to choose as bishop, or the best bishop to choose to head a larger diocese or archdiocese, is one who is wedded to his diocese — “the spouse of one church, who is not constantly seeking another”.
“I will comment [more] about this when it’s not being recorded,” the Pope told the nuncios, who laughed.
Pope Francis said one of the most important tasks nuncios have is studying the needs of vacant dioceses and helping him find appropriate candidates to be appointed bishops.
He referred to the “delicate task of carrying out inquiries” into candidates and said: “Beware of those who are ambitious, who seek the episcopacy.”
He said candidates for the episcopacy must be real pastors and shepherds, able to watch over their flock, keep them united, protect them from danger and, especially, nourish their hope, “sustaining with love and patience the plans that God is working within his people”.
“Shepherds need to be in front of their flocks to indicate the path, in the midst of the flock to keep them united, behind the flock to make sure none is left behind,” the Pope said.
A good prospective bishop will “love interior poverty as freedom for the Lord” and live that externally with a simple lifestyle, and he won’t have the “mindset of a prince”, he added.
Speaking of the hardships involved in the Vatican’s diplomatic service, Pope Francis described the nuncios’ life as “nomadic”.
He said they were never being able to put down roots or have their own “flock” to tend to. They must always begin anew in different national and ecclesial contexts; in short, living with a suitcase at hand.
Source: Catholic News Service/CathNews-New Zealand