Vatican City, Apr 28, 2004 / 22:00 pm
Addressing bishops from the ecclesiastical provinces of Baltimore and Washington who end their ‘ad limina’ visit today, the Holy Father underscored the pursuit of personal holiness as the first duty of a bishop and key which enables him to fulfill his ministry and build up the Church.
“The pursuit of personal holiness must be central to the life and identity of every Bishop. He is to recognize his own need to be sanctified as he engages in the sanctification of others,” said the Pope. “Each Bishop stands in the place of Christ himself and acts in his person” and thus is called to conform his heart in charity “to the heart of Christ in a sacrificial love for the Church and all her members.”
The bishop is called to serve as “a herald of the Gospel, a steward of the mysteries of God, and the spiritual father of the flock entrusted to his care.” The task set before bishops is to see that "the life of every Christian and all the structures of the Church must be clearly ordered to the pursuit of holiness.”
The Holy Father said that the “unifying principle of the Bishop’s ministry will be his contemplation of the face of Christ and his proclamation of his Gospel of salvation: a dynamic interplay of prayer and work which will spiritually enrich both his outward activity and his interior life.”