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VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis addressed 150 newly-appointed bishops in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall on 16 Sept 2016 at the Clementine Hall, reminding them of the thrill of being loved in advance by God and exhorting them to ‘make mercy pastoral.’
The audience came at the end of Sept 10-18 formation course for new bishops organised by the Congregation for Bishops and the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.
Three of the Malaysian bishops attended the new bishops’ formation course at the Vatican. They are Archbishop Julian Leow, Bishop Bernard Paul of the Melaka-Johor Diocese, and Auxiliary Bishop Simon Poh of the Kuching Archdiocese.
Make mercy pastoral, for you have experienced the thrill of being loved by God. That, according to Pope Francis, is the mission of bishops, especially those who are new Pastors of the Church.
He said the bishops had been “fished, that is, caught by the love of God’s surprising mercy” and pointed them to the example of biblical figures like Moses and Nathaniel who were loved and known by God even before they realized it.
The Holy Father called this “an admirable condescension”. He said, “How beautiful it is to let oneself be transfixed by the loving knowledge of God. It consoles us to know that He truly knows who we are and is not afraid of our littleness…, despite our insufficiencies.
The Pope said the Holy Door of the Jubilee of Mercy is Christ, the only Door. Passing through that door, he said, should help them live “a personal experience of gratitude, of reconciliation, of total trust, of complete self-giving of one’s life without limit to the Pastor of Pastors”.
“The most precious richness you can bring from Rome at the beginning of your episcopal ministry is the awareness of the mercy with which you have been seen and chosen.”
Pope Francis then called the bishops to fulfill their duty to make mercy pastoral for their flocks. “Mercy,” he said, “should form and inform the pastoral structures of our Churches. This does not mean lowering our standards or giving away our pearls. Rather, the only condition placed by the precious pearl on those who find it is to give their all.”
He gave the bishops three recommendations for how to make mercy pastoral, saying their ministry must be accessible, tangible, and capable of encounter.
The Holy Father told them to be accessible to their flock and able to invite them through “goodness, beauty, truth, love, and goodness.” Though he warned them in an off-the-cuff remark that “the world is tired of enchanting liars, that is, fashionable priests or fashionable bishops.”
He also told them to not be afraid to ‘initiate’ those entrusted to them, especially seminarians.
“I ask you,” he said, “to take special care of the structures of initiation of your Churches, especially Seminaries. Do not be tempted by numbers and quantities of vocations, but search rather for the quality of your seminaries. Do not deprive your seminarians of your firm and tender fatherhood.”
Pope Francis concluded by telling them to be “bishops capable of accompanying” their flock, just as the Good Samaritan accompanied the man left hurt on the side of the road to a safe place.
“Accompany, above all, your presbyterate with patient care… Place before their eyes the joy of authentic love and the grace of God with which God raises them to the participation in His own Love.” – Vatican Radio/Herald