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riga

MASS FOR THE EPISCOPAL ORDINATION
OF MONSIGNOR JAMES PATRICK GREEN
APPOINTED TITULAR ARCHBISHOP OF ALTINUM
APOSTOLIC NUNCIO IN SOUTH AFRICA, NAMIBIA AND LESOTHO
AND APOSTOLIC DELEGATE IN BOTSWANA

HOMILY OF CARDINAL ANGELO SODANO*

St Peter's Basilica
Wednesday, 6 September 2006

 

Today's Gospel reminds us of a characteristic image used by Jesus. He presents himself as the Good Shepherd who loves his sheep and cares for them, and is even prepared to give his life for them. This is why he also goes in search of the lost sheep, so as to bring them all together into one sheepfold (cf. Jn 10: 11-16).

Jesus' work on earth was to end with his Ascension into Heaven. For this reason, he chose Apostles and said to them: "As the Father has sent me, even so I send you" (Jn 20: 21). He then gave them a clear command: "Go... and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Mt 28: 19-20).

A universal mission

The work of Christ the Good Shepherd would be continued in this way by the Apostles and their successors to the end of time.

The Apostles were fully confirmed in this mission on Pentecost day, according to the Lord's promise: "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1: 8).

This is the special power which will shortly come down upon our brother James, enabling him to continue in today's world the work of Jesus, the Eternal Shepherd of our souls.

In the name of all the Bishops present, in a few moments, I shall ask him: "Dear brother, are you willing to carry out until death the ministry entrusted to us by the Apostles, which we now transmit to you, through the laying on of hands, with the grace of the Holy Spirit?".

With his complete and generous yes, Mons. James will in this way prepare himself to receive the grace of leading the holy people of God, as a Good Shepherd. The Spiritus principalis, about whom the Rite of Ordination speaks, will come down upon him. By this expression, we mean the sovereign Holy Spirit, the Spirit who rules and guides, who enables us to lead the Christian people on the ways of salvation.

An expressive sign of this mission of guidance is the crosier, which I shall present in a little while to the new Bishop as I say to him: "Take care of the entire flock over which the Holy Spirit has made you Bishop, to rule the Church of God".

With the strength of love

Dear Brother, this is the mission which awaits you. Spurred on by a deep pastoral sense, you will be able to repeat every day with the Apostle St Paul: "the love of Christ impels us - Caritas Christi urget nos" (II Cor 5: 14). This will be the interior impulse which will enable you to find suitable ways to lead people to Christ, with great respect for all the persons whom you will encounter. I might add that, in your priestly life to date, you have always been noted for your sense of discretion and great goodness of heart.

When ordaining a Bishop who has been appointed an Apostolic Nuncio, I have often recalled the example of Pope John XXIII who, as Papal Representative in Bulgaria (1925-34), Turkey and Greece (1935-44) and finally in France (1945-53), showed us that the path of goodness is the only one which can open people's hearts and enable them to receive the Christian message.

Of the many Bishops upon whom to date I have had the grace to lay hands, 44 were Apostolic Nuncios. Today, Monsignor, I have the joy of ordaining you, and I consider it my duty to point out also to you the principal path of the pastoral ministry, which is the path of charity.

St Paul too, while working with profound apostolic zeal, exhorted all to work for truth in charity, "veritatem facientes in caritate" (cf. Eph 4: 15).

Towards Southern Africa

Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, the new Bishop's mission will not be carried out within a particular Diocese. Instead, he will assist the Holy Father in working for the good of the Church in Southern Africa. In the name of the Holy Father, he will maintain contacts with the Bishops there and he will also promote constructive dialogue with the civil Authorities. He will be based in Pretoria, the administrative capital of the Republic of South Africa, and in that Country he will continue the work of his worthy predecessors.

Mons. Green is going to a large Country, four times the size of Italy, where the Church, with 26 ecclesiastical circumscriptions, is strongly dedicated to the spiritual progress of the peoples there. It is a young Church, for only two centuries ago, in 1805 to be precise, the first Catholic priests began their mission there. However, every year the number of Christians continues to grow and they are making an important contribution to the good of the Country.

I too witnessed the apostolic zeal of those Christian communities when I accompanied the late Pope John Paul II during his Visit to Pretoria and Johannesburg in September 1995.

The Papal Representative also has the task of strengthening the bonds of communion with the Church in Namibia, in Botswana and in Lesotho, as well as with the other countries in the region to which the Pope intends to send him.

It is a noble mission, especially today when the Church in Africa is called to set out on the path of spiritual renewal so as to bring the transforming yeast of the Gospel of Christ to all parts of the Continent.

The Pope's Blessing

Mons. James, I invite you to undertake your new mission with serenity of heart. The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, is close to you and has asked me to convey his Blessing. You leave with the gratitude of your colleagues in the Secretariat of State, who over the last few years have benefited from your friendship and good example.

I greet your mother and other family members who are with you today, as well as your friends from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and other parts of the United States, and from the various Apostolic Nunciatures where you have worked.

Today, we invoke upon you the gifts of the Holy Spirit through the intercession of Mary, Queen of the Apostles and all the Saints.

Dear Apostolic Nuncio, set out, then, serenely in the Name of the Lord. Amen.


*L'Osservatore Romano. Weekly Edition in English n37 p.2.

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