Pope Francis addressed the Congregation for Bishops yesterday, laying out his vision for what qualities a bishop should possess and how the congregation must now go about appointing bishops. In a partial statement posted by News.va, the pope is quoted as saying:
“[W]e need someone who looks upon us with the breadth of heart of God; we do not need a manager, a company administrator…We need someone who knows how to raise himself to the height of God’s gaze above us in order to guide us towards Him…
“Since faith comes from proclamation we need kerygmatic bishops…Men who are guardians of doctrine, not so as as [sic] to measure how far the world is from doctrinal truth, but in order to fascinate the world…with the beauty of love, with the freedom offered by the Gospel. The Church does not need apologists for her causes or crusaders for her battles, but humble and trusting sowers of the truth, who know that it is always given to them anew and trust in its power. Men who are patient men as they know that the weeds will never fill the field…
“May bishops be shepherds, close to the people; fathers and brothers, may they be gentle, patient and merciful; may they love poverty, interior poverty, as freedom for the Lord, and exterior poverty, as well as simplicity and a modest lifestyle; may they not have the mindset of ‘princes’. Be careful that they are not ambitious, that they are not in quest of the episcopate, that they are espoused to the Church, without constantly seeking another; this is called adultery. May they be overseers of the flock that has been entrusted to them, to take care of everything that is needed to keep it united.”
Pope Francis also expressed a desire for bishops who can be in dialogue with the culture around them, and ordered a document reiterating the Council of Trent’s requirement that bishops be physically present in their dioceses.
While not directly related to LGBT matters, many have speculated that Pope Francis’ deepest legacy may come from his episcopal appointments. History has shown that bishops chosen for their pastoral nature, attentive to the reality of Catholics’ lives, are far more welcoming and accepting of LGBT people and their families. The appointments under Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI focused on other criteria, creating an episcopate filled with culture warriors who often lacked pastoral instincts. It is early to know what effect this new pope will have, but Francis’ vision for bishops, and those in religious life generally, is quite hopeful.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry