Pope Benedict XVI ordained five new archbishops Feb. 5 at the Vatican and called upon them to "throw out the nets of the Gospel into the stormy seas of our time" to draw men and women out of "the salty waters of death."
The five are beginning their service either in posts in Vatican departments or in its diplomatic service. Among them was Savio Hon Tai-Fai, the new secretary of the Vatican's congregation for mission churches who hopes to improve relations with China.
Of the other four, Marcello Bartolucci is the new secretary for saints' causes and Celso Morga Iruzubieta that of the Congregation for the Clergy. Both Antonio Guido Filipazzi and Edgar Peña Parra are destined for diplomatic service.
Archbishop Peña Parra was appointed as nuncio to Pakistan last week. Archbishop Filipazzi has not yet been given a destination.
The Pope told the five during his homily that "the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few."
"Although it may seem that a large part of the modern world, of the men and women of today, turn their backs on God and consider faith as a thing of the past, there is still a longing that justice, peace and love will finally be established, that poverty and suffering will be overcome, that mankind may find happiness," he said.
As bishops, the Gospel passage on the harvest sheds light on two of their missions: to work to bring about God's will on earth and to cooperate with Christ along the way, said the Pope.
The line from the Acts of the Apostles, "they devoted themselves to the Apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers," gives them guidelines for being pastors, he explained.
Devotion and constancy are essential because "only where there is stability can there also be growth," he said.
Communion with the Apostles and God is another task of a pastor, said the Pope. "May this chain of communion not be broken!" he exclaimed. "The essence of apostolic succession is to maintain our communion with the people who visibly and tangibly met with the Lord."
Unity in the Church must be ensured, he said.
For the "breaking of the bread," he told them that the "core" of the Church and of the Christian being is the Eucharist. "The Lord gives himself to us; the Risen One enters my intimate self and wishes to transform me, bringing me into profound communion with Him."
Pope Benedict also spoke about prayer, telling the archbishops that it is personal, but "never an exclusively private affair. Only in community "can we be children of our Father, to whom the Lord taught us to pray."
The Pope's words on communion were particularly far reaching with the presence of several hundred Chinese faithful in St. Peter's for their countryman's ordination. The first reading at Mass was read in Chinese by Archbishop Hon Tai-Fai's niece.
It is hoped that the Chinese archbishop will be able to improve Vatican-China relations which have been on the rocks since November when the Chinese government sanctioned a bishop's "ordination" without approval from the Pope.
Benedict XVI concluded his homily with a call to action aimed at the new archbishops. He told them to "throw out the nets of the Gospel into the stormy seas of our time, to obtain the adherence of men and women to Christ, so as to draw them out ... from the salty waters of death and from the dark where the light of heaven does not reach.
"You must bring them onto the earth, to live in communion with Jesus Christ."