Vatican City, Nov 15, 2010 / 17:18 pm
A national conference of Catholic bishops exists so that pastors of the Church might "share the fatigue of their labors." But, according to Pope Benedict XVI, those national conferences can never substitute for an individual bishop's authority and duty to guide his people.
The Pope turned a Nov. 15 address to a group of bishops from Brazil into a lesson on the function of the bishops' conference.
The Catholic bishops of the world are divided into bishops' conferences depending on their geographic locations and language groups. For example, the more than 400 bishops of the United States, form the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; the English and Welsh bishops are combined into a single bishops' conference.
Since the Second Vatican Council (1963-1965), some critics have argued that bishops' conferences have assumed too much influence in the lives of local churches and in some cases have diminished the authority of local bishops.