"Apostolorum Successores": New directory for Bishops

.- The Congregation for Bishops has just published "Apostolorum successores," A Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops, in answer to the desire expressed during the October 2001 synod on the ministry of the bishop for an updated version of the 1973 Directory, "Ecclesiae imago."

An explanatory note released today explained that "the title is at the root of the ministry of the bishop and well defines his figure and mission in the Church." The 300-page volume, published in Italian and in the process of being translated into other principal languages, "takes into acccount," says the communique, "the documents of Vatican Council II, the 1983 Code of Canon Law, various pontifical documents published in recent years and above all, the Apostolic Exhortation 'Pastores gregis'."

"The Directory is fundamentally pastoral and practical and is an instrument that aims to help bishops as they undertake their complex ecclesial service to answer the needs of the Church and society today, at the start of the third millennium, marked by challenges and new problems, by great progress and by sudden, unexpected changes. The responsibilities on a bishop's shoulders are great, as are those of society. Many people turn to the bishop for religious life and also to receive light, support and comfort in difficulties, placing on him their problems and their concerns."

"The bishop," affirms the note, "is a father who lives for his children," one who "does everything possible to form consciences and make them grow in the faith."

It then summarizes the volume's nine chapters, which are followed by a conclusion and a look at a "sede vacante," or vacant see: the causes, procedures to follow during a vacant see, electing a diocesan administrator and other aspects.

Chapters I through III highlight the identity and mission of the bishop, his concern for the Universal Church and episcopal collegiality. Chapter III, entirely new with respect to the previous directory, regards the spirituality and permanent formation of the bishop, reminding him of "his path towards holiness in pastoral charity" and outlining the "theological virtues and human gifts that must support a bishop in his pastoral ministry."

Chapter IV "illustrates several basic principles that must guide the pastoral governing of the bishops, such as the principles of truth, collaboration, respect for jurisdictions, of the right person in the right place, of justice and legality."

Chapters V through VII deal with the ministry of the bishop in the Particular Church and are articulated according to the triple "munus," the three duties of a bishop: to teach, to sanctify and to govern.

Chapter VIII deals with the parish, giving guidelines for spiritual assistance, the diocesan pastoral plan, and a bishop's pastoral visit, as well as a look at particular problems associated with ministries in large cities, for example.

Also entirely new is Chapter IX which regards the bishop emeritus, whose rights and duties are outlined with respect to the Universal Church and the Particula r Church.


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