Vatican City, Dec 4, 2019 / 06:17 am
Bishops and priests have a duty to guard and protect the Catholics entrusted to their care; and they need the faithful’s prayers for this task, Pope Francis said at the general audience Wednesday.
“Let us ask the Lord to renew in us love for the Church and for the deposit of the faith that it preserves, and to make us all co-responsible in the custody of the flock, supporting the pastors in prayer so that they manifest the firmness and tenderness of the Divine Shepherd,” he said Dec. 4.
He emphasized that “bishops must be very close to their people to guard them, to defend them; not detached from the people.”
Reflecting on the Acts of the Apostles, he explained that in chapter 20 Paul is saying farewell at the end of his apostolic ministry in Ephesus, giving a sort of “spiritual testament” to those who will lead the community after his departure and who will probably never see him again.
Pope Francis recommended everyone read chapter 20 of the Acts of the Apostles to learn how to say goodbye, calling it one of the “most beautiful” passages in Acts.
In this passage, Paul also exhorts the leaders of the community. “And what does he say to them?” the pope said. “‘Watch over yourself and the whole flock.’ This is the work of the shepherd: waking, watching over himself and the flock.”
“The priests must watch, the bishops, the pope must watch,” he continued. “Keep vigil to guard the flock, and also to watch over oneself, examine one's conscience and see how this duty to watch is carried out.”
He quoted Acts 20:28, which says, “Watch over yourselves and over the whole flock, in the midst of which the Holy Spirit has constituted you as guardians to be shepherds of the Church of God, which was acquired with the blood of his own Son.”