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Cathedral of Chimbote, Peru
Sunday, 26 August 2007


Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Distinguished Civil and Military Officials,
Dear Fr Gaetano,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, we are celebrating a great event that fits into the deeply spiritual context of the National Eucharistic Congress.

In these days, Peru's entire Ecclesial Community is gathered in spirit around the Eucharist and is meditating on the love Christ manifested to us by giving himself for us so that we might have life in him.

Let us also interpret in the light of this mysterious love the dramatic event that some days ago took a heavy toll of human victims, causing injuries to many and widespread material damage. God does not abandon us in moments of trial; confident of this, we desire to pray together for all our sorely-tried brothers and sisters. Let us remember them in our prayers: prayers of suffrage for the deceased and prayers of support for those going through a period of great difficulty.

The gift that Providence offers today to the Church and the People of Peru also testifies to God's closeness. Indeed, we are preparing to receive from God's Providence a new Pastor, dear Bishop Gaetano Galbusera, whom the Holy Father Benedict XVI has appointed Coadjutor of the Apostolic Vicariate of Pucallpa.

Let us pray with him and for him that the Lord may grant him the graces he needs to carry out worthily the mission entrusted to him.

Let us pray that from this gift each community may receive encouragement to witness generously to the Gospel, "Always... prepared", as the Apostle Peter exhorts, "to make a defence to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you" (I Pt 3: 15).

With these sentiments I am pleased to greet all of you present here, starting with dear Bishop Ángel Francisco Simón Piorno of Chimbote, and Vicar Apostolic Juan Luis Martin Buisson of Pucallpa. Since its establishment, this Apostolic Vicariate has been entrusted to the pastoral care of the Foreign Mission Society of Quebec, which I thank for its precious service to the Church.

I also greet the other Bishops present, the priests, men and women religious, seminarians, catechists and all who are actively working in the Lord's vineyard.

I greet the civil and military Authorities and the relatives and friends who have come from Italy for this very special occasion.

A special greeting to you, dear Fr Gaetano, to whom I am united by bonds of priestly brotherhood and consecrated life in the spirit of St John Bosco. And together with you, I greet your loved ones who joyfully accompany you today.

To you, in the first place, and to everyone present, I am pleased to convey the Greeting and Blessing of the Holy Father Benedict XVI, who is spiritually united with us in this solemn manifestation of faith and spiritual joy.

The biblical readings proclaimed today help us to understand and live more intensely the liturgical celebration in which all of us, in various ways, are protagonists.

The First Reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah introduces us into the mystery that will be fulfilled with the episcopal ordination of our brother priest.

The Prophet proclaims: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me" (Is 61: 1). This will take place for you too, dear Fr Gaetano. In a little while we shall invoke the Spirit so that he may pour out an abundance of his grace upon you, to consecrate you and to make you totally "his" at the service of "his" Church.

Indeed, it is Jesus himself who has chosen you and sends you "to bring good tidings to the afflicted... to bind up the broken-hearted" (Is 61: 1) This will be your mission in the Church, which is the new People of God, within which all are called to be prophets of truth and hope; all can participate in the new and eternal worship.

Worship, in the most authentic prophetic vision, is not only not considered as a superfluous element but is presented as the true essence of the new universal religion willed by God. It is, of course, an integral worship that harmonizes love and holiness of life with the liturgical rite.

The eternal plan of God, therefore, is the formation of a great family composed of all peoples of every language and nation.

It is not an assembly that meets from time to time, but a stable community of which the Church, as the First Vatican Council says, is "a banner raised above the nations" (cf. D 1784) or, as the Second Vatican Council emphasizes, "a sign of God's presence in the world" (Ad Gentes, n. 15).

The universal openness of the Kingdom of God of which Jesus speaks is eschatological and eternal, even if it presupposes the earthly stage. It must never be forgotten that the divine Kingdom is not of this world.

In the Gospel we have just heard, we sense in Jesus' words all his anxiety for the disciples, who in their mission will meet with countless difficulties and misunderstandings, innumerable trials and also persecution. He prays for them, addressing the Father: "I do not ask you to take them out of the world, but to guard them from the evil one". And he adds: "They are not of the world, anymore than I belong to the world. Consecrate them by means of truth - "Your word is truth'" (Jn 17: 15-17).

Our mission, dear Fr Gaetano, as is that of every disciple of Christ, is not easy and is filled with obstacles. The Lord told us: we do not belong to the world because we belong to him; consequently, we must not seek human support or applause.

Our only pillar is our divine Master, who prayed for us and will not let us go without the help of his grace.

For our part, it is indispensable that everyone do what is necessary to save himself or herself. And since God uses human beings to proclaim and offer his salvation to the world, it is important that we become docile instruments of his universal love, so that the greatest possible number of people may know Christ and have eternal life in him.

In the plan of salvation which the Father fulfilled with the Incarnation, death and Resurrection of his Only-Begotten Son, since the day of Pentecost, a special role has been entrusted to the Apostles and their successors.

As the Apostle Peter strongly emphasizes in the Second Reading, Pastors must tend the "flock of God... not by constraint but willingly, not for shameful gain but eagerly, not as domineering over those in [their] charge, but being examples to the flock" (I Pt 5: 2-3).

Dear Fr Gaetano, keep these instructions very present in your new ministry which is beginning today. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, has chosen you through the call of the Successor of Peter to be Bishop, to shepherd a chosen portion of his flock in close communion and active collaboration with the whole Episcopal College, at the service of the entire Christian community.

But what are the characteristics of this ecclesial service that you are about to take on, following in the footsteps of the one High Priest who is Christ? With what spirit must you prepare yourself to carry out this indispensable ministry in the Apostolic Vicariate of Pucallpa?

In the Holy Father's recent book, Jesus of Nazareth, I found some points for reflection which may be useful, in the light of God's Word just proclaimed, to help you give a better focus to your mission as Bishop, as a successor of the Apostles.

The Holy Father observes that we can sum up in one word and attitude a first characteristic, indispensable to every Pastor: "seeking".

Thus, as a Bishop, you must always be attentive to others, imitating the Good Shepherd who never tires of going in search of the lost sheep or of the son who strayed from his father's house.

You will sometimes find this search difficult or even dramatic, yet always passionate. It will be a search to carry out with the one goal of making others perceive through your words, your way of being and your heart, the Heavenly Father's boundless goodness and mercy.

What is more, you must offer those who are injured or have difficult and troubled lives, "the oil of consolation and the wine of hope". Thus, you will imitate Jesus, who in passing through cities and villages stopped to speak with people, entered homes, comforted and consoled the afflicted and healed those sick in body and in spirit.

In short, you must make yourself a neighbour to anyone you may meet on your path.

You know, however, that to be like the Good Samaritan, ready to listen and serve the brethren, the secret is to cultivate an intimate and constant relationship with Jesus.

Therefore, let yourself be formed by him in listening to his Word, in the intimacy of prayer, in daily life and in the devout daily celebration of the Eucharist. May Jesus always be your friend and your inseparable travelling companion.

A second characteristic of your episcopal ministry must be total dedication to the good of the flock that the Church entrusts to you today and to whom you will be indissolubly bound. "The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep", the Evangelist John notes, taking up again Jesus' words (10: 11): yet again, he is the model to whom to look, the Good Shepherd who by the Cross gives us life.

Here we take up the central point: the mystery of the Cross. The Holy Father writes: "The Cross is at the centre of the shepherd discourse. And it is portrayed not as an act of violence that takes Jesus unawares and attacks him from the outside, but as a free gift of his very self.... He transforms the outward violence of the act of crucifixion into an act of freely giving his life for others. Jesus does not give something, but rather, he gives himself" (Jesus of Nazareth, p. 280).

Dear Fr Gaetano, in your episcopal ministry may it be your highest aspiration to be consumed, to sacrifice yourself for the Lord and for the good of every brother and sister entrusted to your pastoral care. Offer yourself without reserve and all the rest will be given to you in abundance.

This unlimited self-giving, the Pope also says, cannot happen unless the shepherd and the flock truly know each other. The Pastor "calls his own sheep by name and leads them out... and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice" (Jn 10: 3-4).

In biblical language the verb "to know" does not mean something superficial but rather a deep and personal relationship. The Holy Father writes: "The Shepherd knows the sheep because they belong to him, and they know him precisely because they are his. Knowing and belonging... are actually one and the same thing. The true shepherd does not "possess' the sheep as if they were a thing to be used and consumed; rather, they "belong' to him, in the context of their knowing each other, and this "knowing' is an inner acceptance. If signifies an inner belonging that goes much deeper than the possession of things" (Ibid., p. 281).

We can then say that the essence of a priest's ministry and especially of a Bishop's is precisely in this knowledge and belonging.

In fact, dear Fr Gaetano, the more you enter into harmony, into dialogue with the faithful, the more you will learn to share its joys and sorrows. For the Pastor, this reciprocal belonging becomes love, a love that respects the freedom of others and prepares him in every circumstance, after Jesus' example, to sacrifice his life for the flock.

The last instructions I would like to entrust to you, also taken from Benedict XVI's recent book, concern unity. Once again, it is St John who introduces us into this spiritual perspective. "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" (10: 16).

Clearly expressed here is the desire that the Pastor turn his gaze not only to his own community but to all God's children, so that the original divine plan may be fulfilled, thanks also to your contribution, dear Fr Gaetano. You will thus be able to praise the Lord's goodness and mercy for ever, as we repeated in the Responsorial Psalm.

Beloved Brother, you spent long years in your native Land, Italy, working with the young people in various Salesian institutions in the Lombardy-Emilia Province - here, I recall the boarding school and parish of Arese, the Bologna boarding school and the boarding school and parish in Sesto San Giovanni.

After working in the same educational ministry in Peru as Rector of the Pumallucay Major Seminary, you are now beginning a new mission as Coadjutor Bishop of the Apostolic Vicariate of Pucallpa.

Your sound experience as an educator in the Salesian charism constitutes a treasure for the Church that will have you as Pastor, and is the guarantee of a precious service to the formation of new generations in Peru. The importance of the formation of youth who are the hope and future of the Church and of the world is well known.

Spare no energy in this mission, clearly remembering the ever timely teaching of Don Bosco, who liked to repeat: "Remember that education is a matter of the heart, of which God is the sole master, and we will be unable to achieve anything unless God teaches us and puts the key in our hand" (Letter 4, 209).

Yes, dear Fr Gaetano, once again the secret consists in having Christ's Heart, the Good Shepherd's Heart, a father's and brother's heart which makes charity in truth the reason for your whole life.

May the Virgin Mary, invoked especially in this Country as Our Lady of Carmel, accompany you in this new and demanding service to the Church. May she obtain for you the gift of faithfulness and perseverance so that you may bring to fulfilment the work that the Lord has begun in you. Amen.