The Holy See
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Cathedral Church of Abu Dhabi
Friday, 30 January 2004



Your Excellencies, Reverend Minister General,
Dear Priests, Religious men and women,
Civic authorities,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We have come to the Cathedral of Abu Dhabi to take part in an event of outstanding ecclesial importance, the ordination of Mons. Paul Hinder, O.F.M. Cap., appointed by the Holy Father as Auxiliary Bishop of the Apostolic Vicariate of Arabia. In tune with the unceasing prayers offered for St Peter the Apostle by the early Church (cf. Acts 12: 5), we have addressed God with the opening prayer of apostolic tradition for our brother Paul:  Father, you know the secrets of hearts. Help your servant Paul, whom you have called to the episcopate, to tend to your holy flock and to fulfil in an irreproachable manner the mission of the fullness of the priesthood.

I am happy this evening to preside at this Eucharist and to hand on, together with the other consecrating Bishops, the fullness of Holy Orders to Father Hinder, who has served with competence and passion the Order of Friars Minor Capuchins as Definitor General. I bring to the Bishop-elect and to all present the warm greetings of the Holy Father. He holds you in his heart and assures each and all of you of his prayers:  Catholics, other Christians, followers of other religions.

I have come as a pilgrim to see the Lord's wonders among you. I thank the Capuchin Family which, since the distant year of 1889, has had juridical and pastoral responsibility for the Catholic Church in Arabia. I am also grateful to other Religious Families, male and female, working in different ways for the good of the faithful.

I voice, also on your behalf, words of special gratitude to Bishop Bernardo Gremoli, who for more than 28 years has served tirelessly as the Shepherd of this Catholic community in Arabia. The universal Church is deeply grateful for the zeal which has marked his pastoral activity.

I also greet Archbishop Giuseppe De Andrea, the Holy Father's Representative in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait and Yemen. I know that the service of ecclesial communion and encouragement which he continues to offer priests, Religious and all the faithful is deeply appreciated.

Finally, I offer a warm welcome to the three brothers of the Bishop-elect, one a Benedictine lay brother. Through them and through other members of Mons. Paul's family who have come from Switzerland, I wish to honour also his deceased parents. The Church in Arabia will be ever grateful to them for the precious gift of a new Shepherd.

You have come from many places for the ordination of a Bishop. But why? What is a bishop? Is he a man of power or a high-ranking state dignitary? What is so special about this religious service? Is it perhaps the official investiture of a man chosen for some important charge? No.

The Word of God which we have just heard told us that we are about to enter into the Mystery. The Eternal enters time, although veiled with the appearance of signs, to consecrate a man. The new Bishop will receive a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit and become a chosen tool in God's plan and work of salvation.

What happened to the Apostles will happen today for Mons. Hinder. Jesus will establish profound communion with him, and this will help him live a life of authentic spiritual identification. Today Jesus chooses him, as long ago after an intense night of prayer he chose the Apostles. He will call him by name - Paul - to continue his mission and to render everywhere present the figure of the Good Shepherd, who "lays down his life for the sheep.... And I have other sheep that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd" (Jn 10: 11, 16).

The gentle and reassuring image of the Good Shepherd found in the Gospel of St John is the icon which the new Bishop will take as inspiration for his life, a never-ending effort to adhere to Jesus Christ's unequalled model. He will work generously for this Community, while never forgetting that he must feel concern for all the different Churches spread all over the earth.

Dear Mons. Paul, you have been entrusted with a grave task, but, as we heard in the First Reading:  "Say not:  I am too young:  to whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak. Have no fear before them because I am with you to protect you" (Jer 1: 7-8).

The Twelve, after receiving the command from the Lord, passed it on to their successors through the laying on of hands. This was the beginning of Apostolic succession.

In the same way, 45 years ago a successor of the Apostles prayed over young Bishop Karol Wojtyla who, 12 years ago when he was already Pope, prayed over me. And I today have the joy of repeating this action and invoking the Spirit upon Mons. Paul Hinder.

The new Bishop will be a successor of the Apostles and, as we read in the Council, he will render the Lord Jesus himself present among the faithful (cf. Lumen Gentium, n. 21). The Bishop, in fact, guarantees the constant presence of the Son of God among men, concretizing the promise made by the Master of Nazareth to the Apostles before he ascended into Heaven:  "Behold I am with you always, even to the end of time" (Mt 28: 20).

Dear Mons. Paul, shortly you will be ordained a Bishop of the Catholic Church. You will receive a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit and you will become a member of the College of Bishops. You will have the duty to preach the Gospel to all mankind, a task entrusted to the Apostles by the Lord Jesus himself. St Paul the Apostle showed his awareness of this responsibility when he said:  "Preaching the Gospel is not the subject of a boast; it is for me a duty:  woe to me if I did not preach the Gospel" (I Cor 9: 16).

The duty to announce the Gospel falls in a special way to Bishops. On the day of their ordination they assume as a principal task that of preaching the Gospel.

You must, then, teach and sanctify the faithful and lead them to eternal pastures in Heaven.

Remember always what St Peter the Apostle said in his first Letter:  "God's flock is in your midst; give it a shepherd's care. Watch over it willingly as God would have you do, not under constraint but generously. Be examples to the flock, not lording it over those assigned to you" (I Pt 5: 2-3).

The Holy Father has asked you to work in communion with Bishop Gremoli and under his responsibility. I know that with God's grace you will be faithful to the mandate you have received.

The Church entrusted to you is engaged on many different pastoral fronts: from properly sacramental and catechetical fronts to that of education, visible in attentive service to scholastic formation.

But the Apostolic Vicariate of Arabia also provides social assistance through the presence of various institutes for the elderly, for disabled persons, for orphans. Pastoral work will not be lacking for you.

Nevertheless, at times of difficulty, may there resound in your heart the sentiments of St Augustine who was fond of saying: "For you I am a bishop, with you I am a Christian". The pastoral ministry received with ordination places you as a Bishop "in front" of other believers, and it is expressed in "being for" other believers. But this responsibility must not prevent you from being "with them".
I ask you, moreover, to live and to promote in your Church a spirituality of communion which has its origin in the very heart of the Most Holy Trinity. Strive to promote this among your priests, consecrated persons, men and women, the lay faithful. Foster individual and community encounter in the certainty that the Spirit never ceases to speak to his Church (cf. Rev 2: 7). Spiritual retreats and exercises, days of spirituality of communion, will serve for this purpose. May this same spirituality of communion also prompt you to work to nourish communion with the Holy Father and with your brother Bishops.

I ask you, priests, religious men and women, lay faithful, to help, especially with prayer the new Bishop to live the fullness of his pastoral service.

In the Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Gregis on the Bishop, Servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the Hope of the World, the Pope affirms that between the Bishop and his people a sort of "circularity" must be formed. The spirit of communion will thrive on the testimony of charity of the faithful and that of the Bishop in his magisterial acts; on the holiness of the faithful and the means of sanctification offered them by the Bishop; on the personal responsibility of the Bishop for the good of the Church entrusted to him and the co-responsibility of all the faithful with regard to the good of the Ecclesial Community (cf. Pastores Gregis, n. 10).

How can I fail to remind you this evening, my dear people, that the variety of your faces bears witness to the multiform richness of your origins, while the harmony of your voices and your songs are an expression of the chorus of faith of the one people of God: "Praise the Lord all you peoples, all you nations give him glory" (Ps 117: 1). In you the mystery of the Church is achieved: "For as in one body we have many members, and all the members do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ" (Rom 12: 4-5).

May unity, therefore, be your fundamental good. Live with joy and enthusiasm the faith given to you by God.

"As the Father sent me, so I send you" (Jn 20: 21). Dear brother Paul, new horizons open for you, new paths open for your life. Take up the staff of the Good Shepherd and walk with farsightedness and courage ahead of your people.

Your life now belongs to these people. Lead them to the sources of grace, quench their thirst with the freshness of the word of salvation, feed them with the bread of the Eucharist, keep alive in them a longing for the Father in Heaven.

May St Francis of Assisi, your model for Religious life, help you to carry to every person the precious gift of peace. May you be accompanied by the maternal protection of Mary Most Holy, Mother of our Redeemer and Star of the new evangelization.