Vatican City, May 21, 2019 / 03:08 am
Pope Francis said Monday that each bishop has a duty to have a strong, close relationship with his priests with a firm warning that episcopal aloofness and favoritism weakens the mission of the Church.
“The relationship between us bishops and our priests is, unquestionably, one of the most vital issues in the life of the Church, it is the backbone on which the diocesan community is based,” Pope Francis told Italian bishops gathered at the Vatican for their annual meeting May 20-23.
“Unfortunately, some bishops are struggling to establish acceptable relationships with their priests, thus risking the ruin of their mission and even weakening the mission of the Church itself,” he said.
Pope Francis said that bishops need to understand that at this time many priests feel continually under attack because of the crimes of others in the priesthood, and they need encouragement during this difficult time.
“This requires, first of all, closeness to our priests, who need to find the bishop's door and his heart always open,” he said.
The pope warned the Italian bishops that hierarchical communion “collapses when it is infected by any form of personal power or self-gratification,” but in turn is strengthened by “a spirit of total abandonment and service to the people of God.”
Francis also stressed that bishops must not “fall into the temptation to approach only the sympathetic priests or flatterers” or to “hand over all responsibilities to available priests or ‘climbers.’”
In addition to the importance of the relationship between bishops and priests, Pope Francis outlined two other priorities for the Italian bishops’ conference (CEI) assembly taking place in the Vatican’s synod hall this week: synodality and the implementation of a more streamlined annulment process announced in 2015.