Bishops must help Catholics use gifts for good of church, pope says

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — A bishop must help Catholics in his diocese learn to recognize the gifts the Holy Spirit has given them and place them at the service of the entire church, Pope Benedict XVI told new bishops.

(CNS/Paul Haring)

Addressing about 120 Latin- and Eastern-rite bishops ordained in the past year, the pope focused on the role of a bishop in educating Catholics to take responsibility for the church’s life, evaluating and coordinating their gifts in a way that builds up the whole church.

The pope met the new bishops Sept. 15 at the papal villa in Castel Gandolfo near the end of a 10-day course designed to give them both theoretical and practical information about their role and their new relationship to the Vatican and its congregations and councils.

Auxiliary Bishop Christopher J. Coyne of Indianapolis attempted to post items to Twitter about the meeting, but didn’t get much further than letting his Twitter followers know access to Wi-Fi was spotty at best at the Legionaries of Christ center where the course was held.

He did, however, post a blog Sept. 14 about the workshops and discussions.

“Right across the board there is a real concern for the ‘new evangelization,’ the desire to reach those peoples and families who were at one time Catholic, who no longer practice their faith, and to somehow open to them once more the gift of the Catholic faith,” he said.

The bishops, including 18 from the United States, also spoke about dealing with a shortage of priests, promoting transparency in diocesan finances and in “priestly behavior” and working with the church’s new movements, he said.

The blogging bishop also reported “a great deal of discussion around the new media: How does one use the Internet, texting, Twitter, etc., to spread the good news in an authentic and successful manner?”

In his talk to the bishops, Pope Benedict talked about the bishop and unity — both the unity he must maintain with the pope and other bishops, as well as the unity he must safeguard and strengthen in his diocese.

The pope said World Youth Day in Madrid was a vivid example of many different kinds of church movements and gifts coming together with the bishops around the pope, sparking “a vitality that reinforces the work of evangelization and the presence of the church in the world.”

As the sign of the unity of the diocese, he said, the bishop has “the task of unifying and harmonizing” the different gifts of church members and movements, “promoting reciprocity between the hierarchical priesthood (of the ordained) and the baptismal priesthood” of all church members.

The bishop must respect and promote the role of the laity, he said, but the church entrusts to bishops “the pastoral ministry of judging whether charisms are genuine and giving order to their exercise, without extinguishing the Spirit.”

The only way a bishop can fulfill his ministry is by ensuring his own personal growth as a Christian and by modeling his actions on that of Christ, the good shepherd, Pope Benedict said.

He told the bishops to make sure they take time for personal prayer, Bible reading, study and rest.