Addressing a gathering of new bishops on Saturday, Pope Benedict XVI said the life of the bishop should be “a service of love” and a “continual oblation to God.” He told the prelates to imitate Christ in poverty and humility and to find strength and wisdom in the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Father met with 102 new bishops from mission territories in 40 countries on Saturday morning in the Swiss Hall of the Apostolic Palace at Castel Gandolfo, L’Osservatore Romano reports.
The prelates, all of whom have been appointed in the last year, are taking part in a seminar promoted by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples to assist them as they begin their new ministry.
Welcoming their visit to Rome to deepen their knowledge of their responsibilities as bishops and to renew their profession of faith at the tomb of St. Peter, Pope Benedict XVI told the participants that "the Church places not (a) few hopes" in them.
He went on to remind them of some of their duties to the faithful, noting that these are made more difficult by challenges such as poverty and persecution. "To you," he said, "awaits the task of feeding their hope, of sharing in their difficulties, inspiring yourselves in the charity of Christ which consists of attention, tenderness, compassion, (a spirit of) welcoming, availability and interest in the problems of the people for whom you are disposed to give your lives."
In each task, Benedict XVI emphasized, the bishops are sustained by the Holy Spirit, through which they were "configured" to Christ in their ordinations. "In fact," he added, "the episcopal ministry is understood only starting with Christ, the source of the single and supreme priesthood, of which the bishop is made participant."
Calling the bishops to imitate Christ the "humble and poor" servant, he said they can remain ever close to Him through frequent contemplation in prayer and adoration. "The life of the bishop," he explained, "should be a continual oblation to God for the salvation of his Church, and especially for the salvation for the souls that are entrusted to him."
In this pastoral attititude of giving lies the bishop's "true dignity," the Pope added, explaining that it derives from making himself the servant of all “to the point of giving his own life.”
“The episcopate, in fact, - as the priesthood - must not be misunderstood according to mundane categories. It is a service of love," he said.
"The bishop is called to serve the Church with the style of God made man, becoming ever more fully a servant of the Lord and a servant of humanity."
Referring to their "primary duty" of announcing the Word of God while also administering the sacraments, the Pope said that to be convincing in their ministry, they must “believe and live what they announce and celebrate."
Concluding his remarks by noting that their wisdom and strength to witness to salvation and peace comes from the power of the Holy Spirit, Pope Benedict told the new bishops "He will guide the paths of your episcopal ministry."