Pope tells bishops not to try to change their people

Pope Francis has asked new bishops not to be deceived by the temptation to change their people, but to love them as they are.

The Pope said this in a written address on September 18 to 138 recently appointed bishops from around the world, including two from Australia.

“Though jealously safeguarding the passion for truth, do not waste your energy in opposition and arguments, but in building and loving,” Francis told the bishops.

Like Moses, bishops need to be with their people no matter what, he said.

“I also beg you to not let yourselves be deceived by the temptation to change the people. Love the people that God has given you, even when they will have committed great sins.”

Like Moses, the bishop must “come up to the Lord” and advocate on his people’s behalf, praying for forgiveness and a fresh start, he said.

“I am well aware of how our times have become a desert,” the Pope said.

And that’s why the people need someone who will patiently guide them and help them mature, and who will not “fear death as exiles, but deplete your last energies, not for yourselves, but to let those you guide enter into God”.

Nothing is more important than bringing people to God, he said.

Bishops must strike a balance between being audacious sentinels, ready always to wake up a slumbering world, and gentle, forgiving fathers who unconditionally love the sinning people “God has given you”.

The only way to fulfil this mission, Francis said, is to be constantly in search of and completely bound to Christ.

The Church cannot have bishops who are “switched off or pessimists”, the Pope added.

It can’t have bishops who rely only on themselves and have “surrendered to the darkness of the world or resigned to the apparent defeat of the good, screaming – at this point, in vain – that the tiny fort has been attacked”, the Pope said.

But they do have to be like sentinels, he said, “capable of waking up your churches, getting up before dawn or in the middle of the night to bolster the faith, hope and charity, without letting yourselves be lulled to sleep or conforming to the nostalgic complaint of a golden past that’s already gone”.

The Pope also warned bishops not to surround themselves with “climbers” and “yes-men”.


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