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"The Bishop: Servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the Hope of the World"
The Bulletin of the Synod of Bishops is only a working instrument for journalistic use and the translations from the original are not official.
03 - 30.09.2001
At 9.30 this morning, Sunday 30 September 2001, in the Patriarchal Vatican Basilica, at the tomb of the Apostle Peter, Pope John Paul II presided at the Solemn Concelebration of the Eucharist with the Synodal Fathers, for the Inauguration of the X Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, to be held in the Synod Hall of the Vatican from 30 September to 27 October 2001, on the theme The Bishop: Servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the Hope of the World.
Concelebrating with the Pope were the Synod Fathers and Collaborators (55 Cardinals, 7 Patriarchs, 70 Archbishops, 106 Bishops, 10 Priests, 5 Auditores and 15 Adiutores).
While the Holy Father and the Concelebrants proceeded toward the Altar, the Laudes Regiae was being sung.
During the Holy Mass, after the proclamation of the Gospel, the Holy Father gave the following homily.
1. "The Bishop Servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the Hope of the World".
The works of the Tenth General Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which we are beginning in the name of the Lord, will be on this theme. This follows the series of Special Assemblies of continental characteristics, in preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, Assemblies all having in common the perspective of evangelization, as witnessed by the post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortations published until now. Within this same perspective, today’s Synod can be located, in continuity with the preceding Ordinary Assemblies, dedicated to the various vocations of the People of God: the laity in 1978, the priests in 1990, consecrated life in 1994. Thus the treatment on Bishops completes the framework of an ecclesiology of communion and of mission, which we must always have before us.
With great joy I welcome you, dear and venerated Brothers in the Episcopate, coming from all over the world. Meeting and working together, under the guidance of the Successor of Peter, manifests "that all the Bishops in hierarchical communion partake of the solicitude for the Universal Church" (Christus Dominus, N. 5). I extend my cordial welcome to the other members of the Assembly and to those who in the following days will cooperate in its efficient development. In a special way, I thank the Secretary General of the Synod, Cardinal Jan Pieter Schotte, along with his collaborators, who actively prepared the present Synodal reunion.
2. On Christmas Eve of 1999, inaugurating the Great Jubilee, after having opened the Holy Door, I crossed it with the Book of Gospels in my hands. This was a very symbolic gesture. In it, in some way, we can find the entire content of the Synod we are inaugurating today and whose theme will be: "The Bishop, Servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the Hope of the World".
The Bishop is "minister, servant". The Church is at the service of the Gospel. "Ancilla Evangelii": this is how it could be defined, echoing the words said by the Virgin at the Angel’s Annunciation "Ecce ancilla Domini", Mary said; "Ecce ancilla Evangelii", the Church continues to say today.
"Propter spem mundi". The hope of the world lies in Christ. In Him, the expectations of humanity find real and solid foundations. The hope of every human being comes from the Cross, sign
of the victory of love over hate, of forgiveness over revenge, of truth over falsehood, of solidarity over egoism. Our task is to proclaim this salvific announcement to the men and women of our time.
3. "Blessed are the poor in spirit", we sang in the refrain of the Responsorial Psalm.
The evangelical beatitude of poverty, which today’s Sunday Word of God proposes, is a precious message for the Synodal Assembly that we are beginning. In fact, poverty is an essential trait of the person of Jesus and His ministry of salvation and represents one of the indispensable requirements for the evangelical proclamation to be heard and welcomed by today’s humanity.
In the light of the First Reading, drawn from the Prophet Amos, and yet more from the famous parable of the "rich man" and poor Lazarus, told by Luke the Evangelist, we, venerable Brothers, are incited to look into ourselves about our attitude towards earthly goods and about the use made of them. We are asked to verify to what point in the Church the personal and community conversion has achieved towards an effective evangelical poverty. The words from Vatican Council II return to our minds: "Just as Christ carried out the work of redemption in poverty and persecution, so the Church is called to follow the same route that it might communicate the fruits of salvation to men" (Lumen Gentium, 8).
4. The route of poverty will allow us to transmit our contemporary "fruits of salvation". As Bishops we are called upon, therefore, to be poor at the service of the Gospel. To be servants of the revealed word, who when needed will raise their voices in defense of the least, denouncing the abuses against those that Amos called the "carefree" and the "revelers". To be prophets that underline with courage the social sins tied to consumerism, to hedonism, to an economy that produces an unacceptable gap between luxury and misery, between the few "rich men" and the many "Lazari" condemned to misery. In every age, the Church was solidary with the least, and has had Shepherd saints who sided, like intrepid apostles of charity, with the poor.
But for the Shepherds’ Word to be credible, they must give proof of a conduct detached from private interests and attentive towards the weaker ones. They must give an example to the community entrusted to them, teaching and supporting that ensemble of principles of solidarity and social justice that make up the social doctrine of the Church.
5. "As someone dedicated to God" (1 Tim 6:11): with this title Saint Paul qualifies Timothy in the Second Reading, just proclaimed. It is a page where the Apostle traces a program of life perennially valid for the Bishop. The Shepherd must be "someone dedicated to God"; his existence and his ministry are entirely under the divine lordship and draw light and vigor from the supreme mystery of God.
Saint Paul continues: "As someone dedicated to God... You must aim to be upright and religious, filled with faith and love, perseverance and gentleness" (see 11). How much wisdom in that "aim"! Episcopal Ordination does not infuse perfection of the virtues: the Bishop is called upon to continue his path of sanctification with greater intensity, to achieve the stature of Christ, the perfect Man.
The Apostle adds: "Fight the good fight of faith and win the eternal life..." (see 12). Striving for the Kingdom of God, dear Brothers, we face our daily toils for faith, not looking for any other reward if not the one God will give us at the end. We are called upon to give this "noble profession of faith before many witnesses" (see 12). The splendor of faith thus bears witness: reflected by the glory of Christ in the words and gestures of each of His faithful ministers.
Saint Paul concludes: "I charge you to do all that you have been told, with no faults or failures, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ" (see 14). "All that you have been told"! These words contain all of Christ: His Gospel, His witness of love, the gift of His Spirit that the law fulfills. The Apostles received this inheritance from Him and entrusted it to us, to be conserved and transmitted intact until the end of times.
6. Dear Brothers in the Episcopate! Christ repeats to us today: "Duc in altum - Put out into deep water!" (Lk 5:4). In the light of His invitation, we may reread the triple munus entrusted to us in the Church: munus docendi, sanctificandi et regendi (cf. Lumen Gentium, 25-27; Christus Dominus, 12-16).
Duc in docendo! With the Apostle we will say: "Proclaim the message and, welcome or unwelcome, insist on it. Refute falsehood, correct error, give encouragement - but do all with patience and with care to instruct" (2 Tim 4:2).
Duc in sanctificando! The "nets" we are called upon to cast among men are, first of all, the Sacraments, of which we are the principal dispensers, governors, guardians and promoters (cf. Christus Dominus, 15). They form a sort of salvific "net" , which frees from evil and leads to the fullness of life.
Duc in regendo! As Shepherds and true Fathers, assisted by the Priests and by other collaborators, we have the task of gathering the family of the faithful and fomenting charity and brotherly communion in it (cf. Christus Dominus, 16).
As arduous and tiring a mission this may be, we must not become discouraged. With Peter and with the first disciples we too trustingly renew our sincere profession of faith: Lord, "pay out your nets" (Lk 5:5)! On Your Word, O Christ, we wish to serve Your Gospel for the hope of the world!
We also trust in your motherly assistance, O Virgin Mary. You who guided our first steps in the Christian community, be a support and encouragement for us also. Intercede for us, Mary, in whom, using the words of the servant of God Paul VI, we invoke "aid to the Bishops and the Mother of Shepherds". Amen!
[00004-02.03] [nnnnn] [Original text: Italian]
Bulletin Synodus Episcoporum - X Ordinary
General Assembly - 2001