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Vatican Basilica
Thursday, 24 October 2013

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Beloved Brothers and Sons,

Let us consider attentively the great responsibility to which these brothers of ours have been called in the Church. Our Lord Jesus Christ, who was sent by the Father to redeem the human race, in turn sent the Twelve Apostles into the world so that filled with the power of the Holy Spirit they might preach the Gospel to all people and unite them under one Shepherd, and that they might sanctify them and guide them to salvation.

In order to perpetuate this apostolic ministry from one generation to the next, the Twelve chose other men to share in their work. Through the laying on of hands, they passed on to them the gift of the Spirit which they themselves had received from Christ, thereby conferring the fullness of the Sacrament of Orders. Thus, through an uninterrupted succession of bishops this earliest ministry has been preserved in the living Tradition of the Church, and the work of the Saviour continues and develops to our own day. In the bishop surrounded by his priests, Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Eternal High Priest, is present in your midst.

For it is Christ who, through the ministry of the bishop, continues to preach the Gospel of salvation and to sanctify believers by means of the sacraments of faith. It is Christ who, through the paternal role of the bishop, draws new members to his body which is the Church. It is Christ who, in the wisdom and prudence of the bishop, guides the People of God along their pilgrimage here on earth until at last they reach eternal bliss.

Therefore, welcome with gratitude and joy, these brothers of ours whom we bishops are about to receive into the episcopal college by the laying on of hands. Render them the honour that is owed to the ministers of Christ and the dispensers of the mysteries of God, to whom the testimony of the Gospel and the ministry of the Spirit for sanctification has been entrusted. Remember the words of Jesus to the Apostles: “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me”.

And you, Jean-Marie and Giampiero, elect of the Lord, consider that you have been chosen from among men and for men; you have been appointed to the things pertaining to God. Indeed, “episcopacy” is the name of a service and not of an honour. The bishop must strive to serve rather than to rule, according to the Master’s commandment: “whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all”. Always serving, always.

Proclaim the Word at every opportunity: in season and out of season. Admonish, rebuke, and exhort unfailing in patience and in teaching. And through prayer and the offering of sacrifice for your people, draw upon the fullness of Christ’s holiness the manifold riches of divine grace. Through prayer. Remember the first conflict in the Church of Jerusalem, when the bishops had so much work to do in caring for widows and orphans. They decided to appoint deacons. Why? So that they might pray and preach the Word. A bishop who does not pray is a bishop only halfway. And if he does not pray to the Lord, he ends up in worldliness.

Be faithful guardians and dispensers of the mysteries of Christ in the church entrusted to you. You are placed by the Father at the head of his family; therefore, always follow the example of the Good Shepherd who knows his sheep and is known by them and for them did not hesitate to lay down his life.

The love of the bishop: love, love all of those who are entrusted to you with the love of a father and a brother. First, love the priests and deacons. They are your collaborators, they are the closest of the close, for you. Never make a priest wait. If he asks for an audience, respond to him immediately! Be close to them. But also love the poor, the defenceless and all those who need to be welcomed and assisted. Exhort the faithful to work with you in the apostolic task and listen willingly to them.

Pay great attention to those who do not yet belong to the one fold of Christ; they too are commended to you in the Lord. Pray much for them. Remember that in the Catholic Church, made one by the bond of charity, you are incorporated into the college of bishops and you must have a constant concern for all the Churches and gladly come to the aid and support of those which are most in need.

And watch lovingly over the whole flock, among whom the Holy Spirit appoints you to govern the Church of God. Keep watch in the name of the Father, whose image you make present; in the name of Jesus Christ, his Son, by whom you have been constituted teachers, priests and shepherds; in the name of the Holy Spirit, who gives life to the Church and sustains us in our weakness. So be it!


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