During a gathering organized for the Year of Faith, Pope Francis asked his ambassadors to be careful in helping to select candidates for the episcopacy, making sure they are men of pastoral hearts.
“In the delicate task of carrying out inquiries for episcopal appointments, be careful that the candidates are pastors close to the people,” he told a gathering of apostolic nuncios from around the world at the Vatican's Clementine Hall June 21.
“That they are gentle, patient and merciful; animated by inner poverty, the freedom of the Lord, and also by outward simplicity and austerity of life,” he added.
Hundreds of nuncios gathered at the Vatican for two days of prayer as part of an initiative for the Year of Faith. The meeting had been arranged by Benedict XVI and was announced in Oct. 2012 by Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone at the bishops' synod on the new evangelization.
The asked his nuncios to choose bishops that do not to have “the psychology of princes” or that are ambitious, ensuring that “they do not seek the episcopate.”
The Bishop of Rome also suggested that it is not always best that bishops be moved often from diocese to diocese. “Be careful … that they are married to a (local) Church without being in constant search of another.”
“That they are able to watch over the flock that will be entrusted to them, take care to keep it united, vigilant of the dangers that threaten it,” he advised.
“But above all that they are able to watch over the flock, to keep watch, imbue hope, that they have sun and light in their hearts.”
Saint Joseph, spouse of the Virgin Mary, may be taken as a model for bishops, he said, because of “his care for the family that God entrusted to him.” Like St. Joseph, a bishop should “lovingly and patiently support the plans which God brings about in his people.”
“Pastors must know how to be ahead of the herd to point the way, in the midst of the flock to keep it united, behind the flock to prevent someone being left behind,” reflected the Pope.
The Roman pontiff told his ambassadors that as his representatives, their job is for “one who is really conscious of the fact that he carries Christ with him,” quoting a former Vatican secretary of state.
“I do not want to address purely formal or perfunctory words to you; what I now say comes from deep within my heart,” he assured them.
The Pope underscored that “giving in to worldly spirit exposes us pastors to ridicule.”
“There is always the danger … to surrender to what I call, taking an expression from De Lubac, 'spiritual worldliness': to surrender to the spirit of the world, which leads to action for self-fulfillment and not for the glory of God,” reflected the Bishop of Rome.
This spiritual worldliness, he called a “sort of 'bourgeoisie spirit and life' which leads people to settle, and seek a peaceful and comfortable life.
Pope Francis said that Blessed John XXIII, who himself served in the Vatican's diplomatic corps for 28 years, found that “he had to continually prune the vineyard of his life from that which was merely useless foliage and go straight to the essentials, which is Christ and his Gospel; otherwise there was the risk of ridiculing a holy mission.”
The Pope noted the “nomadic” quality of their life, stressing the challenges of never being able to put down roots, never having their own flock, always having to begin anew in different cultures, “always with a suitcase at hand.”
Pope Francis said this is a sign of the pilgrim nature of the Christian life, always journeying towards our heavenly home.
A primary element in this, he said, was the “mortification” of “stripping oneself of things, friends, bonds, and of always beginning anew.”
The pontiff said their life is “of great worth when lived with an intensity of love.”
“We know that our stability does not lie in things, in our own projects or ambitions, but in being true pastors who keep our gaze fixed on Christ.”
“Goods, the prospects of this world, end up disappointing. They push people to never be satisfied,” he told the diplomats. “The Lord is the good that does not disappoint.”
He noted that this focus on the Lord “demands a self-detachment that can only be achieved through a constant relationship with the Lord and the unification of one’s life around Christ.”
“Familiarity with Jesus Christ must be the daily food of the papal representative because it is the food that comes from the memory of our first encounter with him, and also because it is the daily expression of loyalty to his call.”
“Always do everything with deep love!” he exclaimed. “Always seek the good, the good of all, the good of the Church and of every person.”