First General Congregation

VATICAN CITY, OCT 1, 2001 (VIS) - Before the opening of the First General Congregation of the 10th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which took place this morning, John Paul II blessed the new Chapel of the Synod. After the singing of Psalm 26, the Holy Father lit a lamp with a light from the Well of St. Gregory the Illuminator, given to him by the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of all Armenians, Karekin II, at the conclusion of his trip to Armenia on September 27. The Assembly then began at 9 a.m. with the singing of "Veni Creator Spiritus" and a brief discourse by John Paul II.

After a brief greeting by President Delegate Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, Cardinal Jan Pieter Schotte, C.I.C.M., reviewed the activity of the Council of the Secretary General since the preceding assembly.

Relator General Cardinal Edward Michael Egan, archbishop of New York, U.S.A., then gave an overview of the responsibilities of the bishop, excerpts of which we offer below:

"In seeking to decide how best to address the subject assigned to us in this Assembly, one cannot help but notice how frequently the classic munera of the bishop as teacher, sanctifier and shepherd are mentioned both in the Apostolic Exhortations of the Holy Father that followed previous Assemblies and in the Lineamenta and Instrumentum Laboris of this one. Accordingly, it seems quite fitting to adopt this division of duties as the basic outline of our Relatio Ante Disceptationem, beginning with the bishop as teacher of his flock."

"The responsibilities of the bishop as a doctor veritatis in the Church, however, reach far beyond his own individual efforts. ... Each successor of the Apostles must also associate with himself as many fellow preachers, evangelizers, instructors and catechists as he can possibly assemble. ... His guidance in this regard is especially needed by teachers of Religion in Catholic elementary and secondary schools; by catechists in work with converts and in diocesan and parish programs for children, youth and adults; and by professors of Theology on the university level.

"This can be a daunting task, one that calls for both prudence, tact and a fortitude that comes from the Holy Spirit. ... As teachers of the faith, however, it is imperative that we not neglect another crucially important ally in our announcing of the Gospel, namely, parents. They are the first teachers of the faith. No one can instill it, no one can nourish it as effectively as they. A bishop should therefore seize every opportunity to assist parents, particularly on the parish level, to learn their faith in depth and to pass it on with zest."

"Finally, to be truly powerful teachers of the faith, the bishop needs most importantly to work with the priests and deacons of his diocese. ... The essential pre-requisite for this is, of course, excellent seminary education for his priests and excellent programs of theological and spiritual training for his permanent deacons. ... He needs to know who is intellectually and spiritually forming his future clergy, what they are teaching, and whether they are performing their assigned tasks."

"All of which brings us to another essential duty in our ministry as sanctifiers of the faithful B that, namely, of seeing to it that the liturgies in our churches and chapels are in harmony with the norms and practice of the Church and carried out in a spirit of true devotion. ... The munus regendi of a bishop is unique among all of the expressions of leadership in the world. ... To measure up to all of this, the bishop needs, above all else, holiness of life. ... He must avail himself of the many powerful means of sanctification which the Church provides to all of her children, among them, the Mass ... the Sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation ... meditation on Sacred Scripture and the writings of the Fathers, Doctors and great theologians of the Church."

"As shepherd of his people, the bishop must also be a supporter and coordinator of the works of his clergy, those of his diocese in consecrated life and the committed laity as well. ... Accordingly, to the extent possible, there should be in our dioceses a well-trained curia to advise and assist parishes and diocesan agencies."

"Likewise, in carrying out this munus regendi, the bishop has to be deeply concerned about the condition and initiatives of his parishes. ... It is essential that the bishop be present to his parishes as a loving father, priest and friend. ... The bishop who is truly a shepherd-servant in his diocese must also give to consecrated men and women in their parishes and institutions sincere respect and genuine support. ... Finally, authentic episcopal leadership in our day necessitates as well that the bishop be open to and supportive of the new ecclesial communities and groups which are springing up throughout the Church with immense promise for spiritual good. ... When guided with fairness and understanding, they can provide great benefit to the local Church, alerting it to new insights into the Gospel message and reminding it of ideals and values that may need to be revived or strengthened."

"The bishop in our time must likewise lead in the twin areas of poverty and peace. The two go hand-in-hand. For where misery caused by injustice and hardness of heart prevails, conflict is to be expected. ... Furthermore, in those regions of the world where a measure of prosperity is to be found, the bishop is additionally required to remind his people in clearest terms of their obligations to the poor and destitute beyond the boundaries of their diocese or nation."

"In this context, the issue of globalization immediately comes to mind. ... (It) can be an opportunity for the bishop to evangelize, proclaiming the Gospel message of justice and compassion. Borrowing the formula of our Holy Father, we must continually and urgently strive for a 'globalization in solidarity,' one that responds to the needs of all peoples B rich and poor alike B honorably, generously and nobly. Intimately bound up with poverty, peace and globalization is another critically important matter begging for episcopal leadership in our day B the mass movements of men, women and children seeking to escape wars, civil strife, misery and disease. This phenomenon can easily evoke attitudes ... in opposition to the basic human rights of immigrants and refugees ... which are altogether incompatible with the Gospel of compassion preached by the Son of God. ... Against all such, the successors of the Apostles may not hesitate even for a moment. Our hopes here and hereafter reside with a God Who warned us in the plainest of language that He is often hidden behind the mask of a 'stranger' who cries out to be fed, clothed and welcomed.

"All of these issues of social justice render us ever more sensitive to certain evil and growing practices in our time which violate the most elementary of human rights, the right to life. ... We spoke and struggled against abortion, euthanasia and capital punishment. ... Now ... we renew our resolve to defend life in its every phase as a blessing from God."

"One last challenge to the leadership of bishops ... is dialogue. ... Dialogue with adherents of other world religions has become a key factor in the current life of the Church. It presumes knowledge of and sympathy for their values and beliefs, a willingness to share insights and understandings and a sincere desire to cooperate in worthy causes of all kinds. ... Always, however, the bishop must keep in mind that no cloaking or compromising of the essentials of the Catholic faith may ever be countenanced."

Vatican Information Service
1. oktober 2001

av Webmaster publisert 02.10.2001, sist endret 02.10.2001 - 18:48