Meetingthis morning with bishops from Zambia, the homeland of excommunicatedarchbishop, Emmanuel Milingo, Pope Benedict XVI encouraged the bishopsto guide their people in a life of prayer and urge their priests tolive a life of holiness, not being led astray by the temptations of theworld. The Holy Father met with the bishops as part of their scheduled“ad limina” visit.
In his address, the Holy Father did not speak about the renegade former Archbishop of Lusaka directly. Milingo excommunicated himself recently by illicitly ordaining four men as bishops without approval from the Vatican. The Church had been working to reconcile the bishop after he disappeared from his residence in Rome only to turn up in Washington, D.C. with a woman he now calls his wife. Milingo has also begun a campaign called, “Married Priests Now,” in protest to the Church’s discipline of priestly celibacy.
Though the Pontiff left the issue unaddressed in his official speech, he did dedicate a large portion of his time to encouraging the holiness and fidelity of the priests and bishops themselves.
Benedict reminded the bishops that they must be “pastors and fathers,” to their priests, who are, “co-workers in the vineyard.”
“Communicate to them the joy of serving the Lord with a proper detachment from the things of this world,” the Holy Father said. “Tell them that they are close to the Pope’s heart and in his daily prayers.”
The Pope quoted St. Jerome’s commentary on the letter of St. Paul to Titus, telling them, “Let the bishop practice abstinence with respect to all the troubles that can agitate the soul: let him not be inclined to anger or crushed by sadness and let him not be tortured by fear" (cf. vv. 8-9, PL 26, 603b-42). Words, the Holy Father said, which are especially important for bishops when dealing with their priests, “who at times can be led astray by the many temptations of contemporary society.”
“With you I encourage them to stand steadfast in the true faith and to look forward with living hope to the joyful possession of that undefiled, imperishable treasure, won for us by Jesus Christ (1 Pt 1:4),” the Pope said.
“When you urge your priests to live holy lives in accordance with their calling, when you preach generous love and fidelity in marriage and when you exhort everybody to practice the works of mercy, remind them of the Lord’s own words: ‘You are the light of the world ... Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven’ (Mt 5:14-16),” Benedict encouraged.
The Holy Father also reminded the bishops to continue forming their people in a life of prayer. For, he said, “the Christian has placed his trust in Christ and can be ever confident that He hears his prayers and answers them.”
The Pope noted especially the importance of liturgical prayer, “where, in a sublime way, the Church is united with Christ the High Priest in his eternal intercession for the salvation of the world.”
Moreover, he continued, “the Catholic Church encourages the faithful to practice popular forms of piety. Therefore, always teach your people the value of the intercession of the saints, who are the great friends of Jesus (cf. Jn 12:20-22), and particularly the special intercession of Mary, his Mother, who is always attentive to our needs (cf. Jn 2:1-11).”
From a life of prayer, the Pope added, will flow a life of holiness and the “divine gift” of holiness will manifest itself, “in love of God and love of neighbour.”
“Dear Brothers,” he said, “show your people the beautiful face of Christ by living a life of genuine love. Show Christ’s compassion especially for the poor, for refugees, for the sick and for all who suffer. At the same time, in your teaching continue to proclaim the need for honesty, family affection, discipline and fidelity, all of which have a decisive impact on the health and stability of society.”
“My dear Brother Bishops, I have no doubt that you will continue to devote your lives with generous love to God’s people in Zambia. The Lord has chosen you to keep them and guide them on the way that leads to sanctity. Do so with wise advice, unwavering resolve and paternal affection,” the Holy Father encouraged. “May your witness as men filled with the hope of the resurrection lead them to an ever greater appreciation of the joys that the Lord has promised us.”