The candidates to the episcopate must be pastors, close to the people: this is the first criterion. A great theologian, a learned mind: let him go to the university! They must not have the mindset of princes

‘The sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice’ (Jn 10:4). The suggestive imagery of the shepherd with his flock is almost a synonym of the Episcopal ministry in the Church. The faithful who hear the voice of the Bishop are the good sheep, docile to the action of God made present to them in the person of the prelate. On the other hand, the rebellious sheep represent the faithful who prefer to follow their own whims rather than submitting to ecclesiastical authority. The shepherd, in turn, has the responsibility to lead the sheep to good pasture, defend them from ferocious wolves, and protect them from thieves. This is how the bishop should proceed with his flock; teaching, governing, sanctifying and most especially being the perfect example of virtue.

Well then, if the owner of numerous flocks had to choose several shepherds to care of them, he would, without a doubt, hire the most experienced and zealous…Only a madman would prefer those who don’t have even the basic notions of the job at hand, and have no desire to learn more, but rather consider it sufficient to linger unconcerned nearby the flock, without taking precautions against the dangers that surround it.

In the great flock of Christ which is the Church, what are the criteria for the selection of shepherds, especially at this point in time when demagogy and populist socialism seem to strut around with impunity?

Francis

In the delicate task of carrying out the investigation required prior to making episcopal appointments, be careful that the candidates are pastors close to the people: this is the first criterion. Pastors close to the people. He is a great theologian, has a learned mind: Let him go to university where he will do such great good! Pastors! We need them! May they be fathers and brothers, may they be gentle, patient and merciful; may they love poverty, interior poverty, as freedom for the Lord, and exterior poverty, as well as simplicity and a modest lifestyle; may they not have the mindset of ‘princes’. (Address to participants in the Papal Representatives’ Days, June 21, 2013)

Teachings of the Magisterium

Table of contents

I – To be suitable for the episcopacy, the candidate has to be a prince in many ways
II – The elevated dignity of the episcopate constitutes a true spiritual princeship
III – The triple mission of the bishops, a true office of princeship
IV – The knowledge of doctrine is an obligation inherent to the Episcopal Ministry
V – Giving good example: a primordial duty of the bishops in coherency with the sanctity of doctrine


I – To be suitable for the episcopacy, the candidate has to be a prince in many ways


Sacred Scripture
– A bishop should exhort with sound doctrine and refute opponents

Code of Canon Law
– A candidate for the episcopacy should be outstanding in solid faith, and truly an expert sacred scripture, theology, or canon law

Saint Cyprian of Carthage
– We ought to choose none but unstained and upright ministers

Saint Hilary of Poitiers
– An innocent minister is profitable to himself alone, unless he be instructed also

Benedict XVI
– Candidates for the episcopate should be models of life in the faith

Saint Thomas Aquinas
– He who chooses for the episcopate whom he prefers and not those who are more useful to the Church, commits a grave sin


II – The elevated dignity of the episcopate constitutes a true spiritual princeship


Sacred Scripture
– The nobility of the espiscopate

Saint Ignatius of Antioch
– Let all reverence the bishop as Jesus Christ

Vatican Council II
– Among those various ministries the chief place belongs to the episcopate
– Men with a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit for the supreme power of the sacred ministry
-Bishops are to be respected by all as witnesses to divine and Catholic truth
– Bishops: true and authentic teachers of the faith, pontiffs, and pastors

Synod of Bishops
– The Bishop is responsible for proclaiming and bearing witness

Pius XII
– The fullness of the apostolic dignity resides in the Bishops

Saint Augustine
– A higher place was given the Bishops, that they might the guardians of the people

Synod of Bishops
– The episcopal insignia are symbols of the nobility of the bishop’s vocation


III – The triple mission of bishops, a true office of princeship


Code of Canon Law
– Through episcopal consecration, bishops receive the function of sanctifying, teaching and governing

Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church
– A bishop governs with the authority of his own sacred power exercised in the name of Christ

Catechism of the Catholic Church
– The bishop receives a grace of strength to guide and defend the Church

Vatican Council II
– Bishops: principal dispensers of the mysteries of God, governors, promoters, and guardians of the liturgical life

John Paul II
– A decisive mission for the life of the Church is confided to bishops: the sanctification of the People of God

Benedict XVI
– The ministry of the Bishop is not human, administrative or sociological


IV – The knowledge of doctrine is an obligation inherent to the Episcopal Ministry


Saint Thomas Aquinas
– Doctrine is the first, for it is proper to the prelate
– It is necessary for the bishop to be well versed and instructed, to shepherd his flock with true doctrine and protect it from heretics

Congregation for Bishops
– The Bishop has an obligation to deepen his intellectual and theological preparation for the enlightenment of the People of God

John Paul II
-The bishop is responsible for the ongoing formation of his priests


V – Giving good example: a primordial duty of the bishops in coherency with the sanctity of doctrine


Vatican Council II
– The obligation to give an example of holiness

Congregation for Bishops
– The Bishop should receive the sacraments in an exemplary way

Benedict XVI
– People listen more willingly to witnesses than to teachers

John Paul II
– Unless the episcopal office is based on the witness of holiness, it loses credibility

Paul VI
– We cannot be faithful administrators of the divine mysteries without first having availed ourselves of their richness

John Paul II
– The ideal figure of the bishop: the Pastor who is configured to Christ in holiness of life
-The bishop who does not live what he teaches gives the community a contradictory message

Saint Alphonsus Liguori
– The Bishop’s hearers will put but little faith in him if he does not before set the example

Saint Augustine
– Wicked shepherds kill their sheep by their wicked lives and by giving bad example

Saint Thomas Aquinas
– Prelates are worthy of as many deaths as the many examples of damnation they pass on


I – To be suitable for the episcopacy, the candidate has to be a prince in many ways


Sacred Scripture

  • A bishop should exhort with sound doctrine and refute opponents

For a bishop as God’s steward must be blameless, not arrogant, not irritable, not a drunkard, not aggressive, not greedy for sordid gain, but hospitable, a lover of goodness, temperate, just, holy, and self-controlled, holding fast to the true message as taught so that he will be able both to exhort with sound doctrine and to refute opponents. (Titus 1:7-9)

Code of Canon Law

  • A candidate for the episcopacy should be outstanding in solid faith, and truly an expert in sacred scripture, theology, or canon law

In regard to the suitability of a candidate for the episcopacy, it is required that he is:
1. outstanding in solid faith, good morals, piety, zeal for souls, wisdom, prudence, and human virtues,
and endowed with other qualities which make him suitable to fulfill the office in question;
2. of good reputation;
3. at least thirty-five years old;
4. ordained to the presbyterate for at least five years;
5. in possession of a doctorate or at least a licentiate in sacred scripture, theology, or canon law from an institute of higher studies approved by the Apostolic See, or at least truly expert in the same disciplines. (Code of Canon Law, Can. 378 §1)

Saint Cyprian of Carthage

  • We ought to choose none but unstained and upright ministers

Having which things before our eyes, and solicitously and religiously considering them, we ought in the ordinations of priests to choose none but unstained and upright ministers, who, holily and worthily offering sacrifices to God, may be heard in the prayers which they make for the safety of the Lord’s people, since it is written, God hears not a sinner; but if any man be a worshipper of God, and does His will, him He hears (Jn 9:31). On which account it is fitting, that with full diligence and sincere investigation those should be chosen for God’s priesthood whom it is manifest God will hear. (Saint Cyprian of Carthage. Epistle 67, to the Clergy and People Abiding in Spain, no. 2)

Saint Hilary of Poitiers

  • An innocent minister is profitable to himself alone, unless he be instructed also

The Blessed apostle Paul in laying down the form for appointing a Bishop and creating by his instructions an entirely new type of member of the Church, has taught us in the following words the sum total of all the virtues perfected in him: Holding fast the word according to the doctrine of the faith that he may be able to exhort to sound doctrine and to convict gainsavers. For there are many unruly men, vain talkers and deceivers. For in this way he points out that the essentials of orderliness and morals are only profitable for good service in the priesthood if at the same time the qualities needful for knowing how to teach and preserve the faith are not lacking,   for a man is not straightway made a good and useful priest by a merely innocent life, or by a mere knowledge of preaching. For an innocent minister is profitable to himself alone unless he be instructed also: while he that be instructed has nothing to support his teaching unless he be innocent. (Saint Hilary of Poitiers. Treatise on the Holy Trinity, VIII, I)

Benedict XVI

  • Candidates for the episcopate should be models of life in the faith

Finally, as to the choice of candidates for the episcopate, while knowing your difficulties in this regard, I would like to remind you that they should be worthy priests, respected and loved by the faithful, models of life in the faith, and that they should possess a certain experience in the pastoral ministry, so that they are equipped to address the burdensome responsibility of a Pastor of the Church. (Benedict XVI. Letter to members of the Catholic Church in the People’s Republic of China, no. 9, May 27, 2007)

Saint Thomas Aquinas

  • He who chooses for the episcopate whom he prefers and not those who are more useful to the Church, commits a grave sin

Hence Jerome, commenting on Titus 1:5, says against certain persons that ‘some seek to erect as pillars of the Church, not those whom they know to be more useful to the Church, but those whom they love more, or those by whose obsequiousness they have been cajoled or undone, or for whom some person in authority has spoken, and, not to say worse than this, have succeeded by means of gifts in being made clerics.’ Now this pertains to the respect of persons, which in such matters is a grave sin. Wherefore a gloss of Augustine [Ep. 167 ad Hieron] on James 2:1, ‘Brethren, have not… respect of persons,’ says: ‘If this distinction of sitting and standing be referred to ecclesiastical honors, we must not deem it a slight sin to ‘have the faith of the Lord of glory with respect of persons.’ For who would suffer a rich man to be chosen for the Church’s seat of honor, in despite of a poor man who is better instructed and holier?’[…] This statement refers to the pursuits of the man who is placed in authority. For he should aim at showing himself to be more excellent than others in both knowledge and holiness. Wherefore Gregory says (Pastor. 2, 1) ‘the occupations of a prelate ought to excel those of the people, as much as the shepherd’s life excels that of his flock.’ (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Suma Theologica, II-II, q. 185, a. 3)


II – The elevated dignity of the episcopate constitutes a true spiritual princeship


Sacred Scripture

  • The nobility of the espiscopate

This saying is trustworthy: whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task. (1 Tim 3:1-2)

Saint Ignatius of Antioch

  • Let all reverence the bishop as Jesus Christ

In like manner, let all reverence the deacons as an appointment of Jesus Christ, and the bishop as Jesus Christ, who is the Son of the Father, and the presbyters as the Sanhedrin of God, and assembly of the apostles (Saint Ignatius of Antioch. Letter to the Trallians, III)

Vatican Council II

  • Among those various ministries the chief place belongs to the episcopate

Among those various ministries which, according to tradition, were exercised in the Church from the earliest times, the chief place belongs to the office of those who, appointed to the episcopate, by a succession running from the beginning (1Cor 7:7, cf. S. Augustine, De Dono Persev. 14, 37), are passers-on of the apostolic seed (cf. S. Augustine, D Praed. Sanct. 14, 27). (Vatican Council II, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, no. 20, November 21, 1964)

  • Men with a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit for the supreme power of the sacred ministry

In the bishops, therefore, for whom priests are assistants, Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Supreme High Priest, is present in the midst of those who believe. […] These pastors, chosen to shepherd the Lord’s flock of the elect, are servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God (cf. 1Cor 4:1), to whom has been assigned the bearing of witness to the Gospel of the grace of God (cf. Rom 15:16; Acts 20:24), and the ministration of the Spirit and of justice in glory (cf. 2Cor 3:8-9). For the discharging of such great duties, the apostles were enriched by Christ with a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit coming upon them (cf. Acts 1:8, 2:4, Jn 20:22-23), and they passed on this spiritual gift to their helpers by the imposition of hands (cf. 1Tim 4:14; 2 Tim 1:6-7), and it has been transmitted down to us in Episcopal consecration (Denz. 959). And the Sacred Council teaches that by Episcopal consecration the fullness of the sacrament of Orders is conferred, that fullness of power, namely, which both in the Church’s liturgical practice and in the language of the Fathers of the Church is called the high priesthood, the supreme power of the sacred ministry. (Vatican Council II, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, no. 21, November 21, 1964)

  • Bishops are to be respected by all as witnesses to divine and Catholic truth

Bishops, teaching in communion with the Roman Pontiff, are to be respected by all as witnesses to divine and Catholic truth. In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent. (Vatican Council II, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, no. 25, November 21, 1964)

  • Bishops: true and authentic teachers of the faith, pontiffs, and pastors

The bishops themselves, however, having been appointed by the Holy Spirit, are successors of the Apostles as pastors of souls. Together with the supreme pontiff and under his authority they are sent to continue throughout the ages the work of Christ, the eternal pastor. Christ gave the Apostles and their successors the command and the power to teach all nations, to hallow men in the truth, and to feed them. Bishops, therefore, have been made true and authentic teachers of the faith, pontiffs, and pastors through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to them . (Vatican Council II, Decree Christus Dominus, no. 2, October 28, 1965)

Synod of Bishops

  • The Bishop is responsible for proclaiming and bearing witness

The Bishop is Doctor veritatis and magister fidei. First of all he is responsible for proclaiming and bearing witness, proclamation and witness of hope for the world, in particular for the poor. Hence his commitment of holiness, which he builds day after day ‘inside’ the joy and fatigue of the pastoral ministry, in praying intimacy with his Lord, always faithful to the Gospel, also when situations are difficult, courageous defender of the Truth. (Synodus Episcoporum, Bulletin of the Commission for information of the X Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, 30 September-27 October 2001)

Pius XII

  • The fullness of the apostolic dignity resides in the Bishops

It is an undoubted fact that it was to Peter alone and to his successors, the Roman Pontiffs, that Jesus Christ entrusted the entirety of his flock: ‘Feed my lambs; feed my sheep’ (Jn 21:16-18). But even though each bishop is the pastor of that portion only of the Lord’s flock entrusted to him, nevertheless as lawful successor of the Apostles by God’s institution and commandment he is also responsible, together with all the other bishops, for the Apostolic task of the Church, according to the words of Christ to the Apostles: ‘As the Father has sent me, I also send you’ (Jn 20:21).This mission, or ‘sending forth,’ embraces ‘all nations . . . even unto the consummation of the world’ (Mt 28:19-20), and certainly did not cease with the death of the Apostles. Nay, it still continues in the bishops who are in communion with the Vicar of Jesus Christ. For in them, as being specifically named ‘those who are sent,’ namely, Apostles of the Lord, the fullness of the apostolic dignity resides, which as Saint Thomas Aquinas testifies ‘is the chief dignity in the Church’ (Expos. in Ep. ad Rom., cap. 1, lect. 1). (Pius XII. Encyclical Fidei Donum, no. 42-43, April 21, 1957)

Saint Augustine

  • A higher place was given the Bishops, that they might the guardians of the people

The Bishops also do this. For a higher place was for this reason given the Bishops, that they might be themselves the superintendents and as it were the guardians of the people. For the Greek word Episcopus, and the vernacular Superintendent, are the same; for the Bishop superintends, in that he looks over. As a higher place is assigned to the vinedresser in the charge of the vineyard, so also to the Bishops a more exalted station is alloted. (Commentary on Psalm 127, no. 2)

Synod of Bishops

  • The episcopal insignia are symbols of the nobility of the bishop’s vocation

The ring is the symbol of faithfulness, through integrity of faith and purity of life, towards the Church whom he must watch over as the Spouse of Christ. The miter recalls episcopal holiness and the crown of glory which the Chief Shepherd will confer on his faithful servants. The crosier is the symbol of the office of the Good Shepherd, who watches over and leads with care the flock entrusted to him by the Holy Spirit . The pallium, […] woven from wool and decorated with crosses, it is a sign of the Bishop, identified with Christ the Good Shepherd, who lays down his life for the sheep and who bears the lost sheep on his shoulders. Moreover, it stands for his care of all, especially those who have wandered from the flock. This significance receives support in both Eastern and Western tradition. The cross which the Bishop wears around his neck is a powerful sign of his belonging to Christ, his confession of faith in him and the constant power which he draws from the Lord’s cross through the gift of life (Gal 6:14). (Synod of Bishops, Instrumentum Laboris of the 10th Assembly, no. 41, June 1, 2001)


III – The triple mission of bishops, a true office of princeship


Code of Canon Law

  • Through episcopal consecration, bishops receive the function of sanctifying, teaching and governing

Bishops, who by divine institution succeed to the place of the Apostles through the Holy Spirit who has been given to them, are constituted pastors in the Church, so that they are teachers of doctrine, priests of sacred worship, and ministers of governance.Through episcopal consecration itself, bishops receive with the function of sanctifying also the functions of teaching and governing; by their nature, however, these can only be exercised in hierarchical communion with the head and members of the college. (Code of Canon Law, no. 375, § 1-2)

Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

  • A bishop governs with the authority of his own sacred power exercised in the name of Christ

A bishop to whom a particular Church has been entrusted governs that Church with the authority of his own sacred power which is ordinary and immediate and exercised in the name of Christ, the Good Shepherd, in communion with the entire Church and under the guidance of the Successor of Peter. (Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 187)

Catechism of the Catholic Church

  • The bishop receives a grace of strength to guide and defend the Church

The grace of the Holy Spirit proper to this sacrament is configuration to Christ as Priest, Teacher, and Pastor, of whom the ordained is made a minister. For the bishop, this is first of all a grace of strength (‘the governing spirit’: Prayer of Episcopal Consecration in the Latin rite), the grace to guide and defend his Church with strength and prudence as a father and pastor, with gratuitous love for all and a preferential love for the poor, the sick, and the needy. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1585-1586)

Vatican Council II

  • Bishops: principal dispensers of the mysteries of God, governors, promoters, and guardians of the liturgical life

Therefore bishops are the principal dispensers of the mysteries of God, as well as being the governors, promoters, and guardians of the entire liturgical life in the church committed to them. They should, therefore, constantly exert themselves to have the faithful know and live the paschal mystery more deeply through the Eucharist and thus become a firmly-knit body in the unity of the charity of Christ. ‘Intent upon prayer and the ministry of the word’ (Acts 6:4), they should devote their labor to this end that all those committed to their care may be of one mind in prayer (cf. Acts 1:14 and 2:46) and through the reception of the sacraments may grow in grace and be faithful witnesses to the Lord. (Vatican Council II, Decree Christus Dominus, Chapter 2, no.15, October 28, 1965)

John Paul II

  • A decisive mission for the life of the Church is confided to bishops: the sanctification of the People of God

Indeed, to the the grandeur of the ‘lofty ministry’ received from Christ as successors of the Apostles, corresponds their responsibility as ‘Ministers of Christ and administrators of the mysteries of God’(cf. 1Cor 4:1). As administrators who direct the mysteries of God to distribute them in the name of Christ, bishops should be closely united and firmly faithful to their Master, who has not doubted to confide to them, as to the Apostles, a decisive mission for the life of the Church of all times: the sanctification of the People of God. (John Paul II. General audience, no. 4, September 30, 1992)

Benedict XVI

  • The ministry of the Bishop is not human, administrative or sociological

This is a profound perspective of faith and not merely human, administrative or sociological, into which fits the ministry of the Bishop who is not a mere ruler or a bureaucrat or a simple moderator and organizer of diocesan life. It is fatherhood and brotherhood in Christ which give the person in charge the ability to create an atmosphere of trust, of welcome and of affection but also of frankness and justice. (Benedict XVI. Address to recently appointed bishops who took part in the meeting organized by the Congregation for Bishops, September 13, 2010)


IV – The knowledge of doctrine is an obligation inherent to the episcopal ministry


Saint Thomas Aquinas

  • Doctrine is the first, for it is proper to the prelate

He then says: Since you are young of age, ‘show yourself to be a model in good works’; because the prelate should be an living example for his disciples. ‘Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ’ (1Cor 11:1), ‘I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do’ (Jn 13:15). In saying then ‘in doctrine’, he resumes in which things, especially he is to show himself an example. Doctrine is the first, for it is proper to the prelate shepherd wisely and prudently’ (Jer 3:15). […] He then shows what is to be his doctrine and words, and says that they should be healthful, not corrupt with falsehoods (2Tim 1): ‘Take as your norm the sound words that you heard from me’ etc. (Prov 17:7): ‘lying ords are out of place in the mouth of the prince’. Also, as for the mode, saying ‘irreprehensible’, that is, that it may be said timely, with all decency, and inducing correction. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Commentary on the Letter to Titus, Chapter 2, lect. 2)

  • It is necessary for the bishop to be well versed and instructed, to shepherd his flock with true doctrine and protect it from heretics

The material for study should not be fables nor temporal banalities, but rather the faithful word, that is true (Ps144), or of the Faith, in which it is necessary for the bishop to be well versed and instructed. But some study just to learn and to make effective that which they learned: but this is not sufficient for the bishop, for the bishop it is necessary to communicate to others what he learned this is why he says: ‘as they have taught him’. […] The utility of this faculty is to fulfill his function, and the office of the prelate is like that of a pastor (Jn 21) who has to shepherd the flock (1Pet5) and ward off the wolf; so also the bishop should shepherd his flock with true doctrine (Jer 3); so he says: ‘so that he may be capable to instruct in the true doctrine’. He does not say exhort and instruct, but rather that he may be capable of doing so when it be necessary […]Also to protect the flock from the heretics: so says: ‘and contest to those who contradict’, that is, convince. And this is achieved by the study of the Sacred Scripture, as is said in 2Tim 3:16: ‘All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation’. And these two things, in the Philosopher’s opinion, pertain to the work of the wise man, namely, tell no lies, and unmask the one who tells lies. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Commentary on the Letter to Titus, Chapter 1, lect. 3)

Congregation for Bishops

  • The Bishop has an obligation to deepen his intellectual and theological preparation for the enlightenment of the People of God

Conscious of his responsibility for the entire ministry of the Word in his particular Church (cf. Code of Canon Law, c. 756 § 2), where he has been commissioned to proclaim the faith, to teach with authority and to bear witness to divine and catholic truth, the Bishop has an obligation to deepen his intellectual preparation through personal study, with a serious commitment to keeping abreast of cultural developments. […] Keeping up to date in theology is necessary if the Bishop is to explore the inexhaustible riches of revelation, faithfully to guard and expound the deposit of faith, and to establish a respectful and fruitful working relationship with theologians. […] Through his theological reading, the Bishop can give an ever firmer foundation to his magisterial task for the enlightenment of the People of God. His knowledge of current theology also enables him to monitor the conformity of new theological ideas with the content of Tradition, countering objections to sound doctrine and correcting any distortions. (Congregation for Bishops, Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops – Apostolorum Successores, no. 52)

John Paul II

  • The bishop is responsible for the ongoing formation of his priests

The bishop […] is responsible for ongoing formation, the purpose of which is to ensure that all his priests are generously faithful to the gift and ministry received, that they are priests such as the People of God wishes to have and has a ‘right’ to. This responsibility leads the bishop, in communion with the presbyterate, to outline a project and establish a program which can ensure that ongoing formation is not something haphazard but a systematic offering of subjects, which unfold by stages and take on precise forms. The bishop will live up to his responsibility not only by seeing to it that his presbyterate has places and times for its ongoing formation, but also by being present in person and taking part in an interested and friendly way. (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis to the bishops, clergy and faithful on the formation of priests in the circumstances of the present day, March 25, 1992)


V – Giving good example: a primordial duty of bishops in coherency with the sanctity of doctrine


Vatican Council II

  • The obligation to give an example of holiness

As those who lead others to perfection, bishops should be diligent in fostering holiness among their clerics, religious, and laity according to the special vocation of each. They should also be mindful of their obligation to give an example of holiness in charity, humility, and simplicity of life. (Vatican Council II, Decree Christus Dominus, Ch 2, no.15, October 28, 1965)

Congregation for Bishops

  • The Bishop should receive the sacraments in an exemplary way

The Bishop, as leader and model for priests and lay faithful, should receive the sacraments in an exemplary way. They bring necessary nourishment for his spiritual life, as they do for every member of the Church. Above all, the sacrament of the Eucharist, which the Bishop celebrates daily, preferably cum populo, should be the centre and source of his ministry and of his personal sanctification. He should have frequent recourse to the sacrament of penance as a means of reconciliation with God, and he himself should be a minister of reconciliation among the People of God (cf. Code of Canon Law, c. 276 § 2; John Paul II, Pastores Gregis, 13). If he is ill and in danger of death, he should be prompt to receive the sacrament of the anointing of the sick and sacred Viaticum, with due solemnity and with the participation of clergy and faithful, for the edification of all. (Congregation For Bishops, directory for the pastoral ministry of Bishops Apostolorum Successores, February 22, 2004)

Benedict XVI

  • People listen more willingly to witnesses than to teachers

To you, Pastors of God’s flock, is entrusted the mandate of safeguarding and transmitting faith in Christ, passed on to us through the living tradition of the Church and for which so many have given their lives. To carry out this task, it is essential that first of all you show you are ‘in all respects a model of good deeds, and in your teaching show integrity, gravity and sound speech that cannot be censured’ (Tit 2: 7-8). ‘Modern man’, wrote my Predecessor of venerable memory, the Servant of God Pope Paul VI, ‘listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses’ (Evangelii Nuntiandi, n. 41). For this reason, it is only right that you give priority in your episcopal ministry to prayer and to the constant aspiration to holiness. (Benedict XVI. Address to the bishops taking part in the formation update meeting organized by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, September 23, 2006)

John Paul II

  • Unless the episcopal office is based on the witness of holiness, it loses credibility

The Bishop’s personal holiness, however, is never limited to the purely subjective level, since in its efficacy it always proves beneficial to the faithful entrusted to his pastoral care. In the practice of charity, as the content of the pastoral ministry he has received, the Bishop becomes a sign of Christ and acquires that moral authority needed for the effective exercise of his juridical authority. Unless the episcopal office is based on the witness of a holiness manifested in pastoral charity, humility and simplicity of life, it ends up being reduced to a solely functional role and, tragically, it loses credibility before the clergy and the faithful. (John Paul II. Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Gregis, October 16, 2003)

Paul VI

  • We cannot be faithful administrators of the divine mysteries without first having availed ourselves of their richness

We cannot forget the   solemn exhortations that were directed to us on the occasion of our Episcopal consecration. We cannot exempt ourselves from the practice of an intense interior life. We cannot announce the word of God without having meditated on it in the silence of the soul. We cannot be faithful administrators of the divine mysteries without first having availed ourselves of their richness. We should not dedicate ourselves to apostolate, if we do not know how to corroborate it with the example of Christian and priestly virtues. […] Blessed are these times of ours, tormented and paradoxical, that almost oblige us to sanctity to correspond to our office which is so representative and so full of responsibility, and obliges us to recuperate in the contemplation and the asceticism of the ministers of the Holy Spirit that intimate treasure of personality, from which the extremely demanding dedication of our office almost expels us. (Paul VI. Homily, Inauguration of the General Assembly of Bishops of Latin America, August 24, 1968)

John Paul II

  • The ideal figure of the bishop: the Pastor who is configured to Christ in holiness of life

At the dawn of the third millennium the Church continues to rely on the ideal figure of the bishop, that of the Pastor who, configured to Christ in holiness of life, expends himself generously for the Church entrusted to him, at the same time carrying in his heart the solicitude for the churches spread over the face of the earth (cf. 2Cor 11:28). (John Paul II. Homily, Conclusion of the Synod of Bishops, October 27, 2001)

  • The bishop who does not live what he teaches gives the community a contradictory message

He teaches with an authority exercised in the name of Jesus Christ the word which is heard in the community; were he not to live what he teaches, he would be giving the community a contradictory message. One could say that, in a Bishop, mission and life are united in such a way that they can no longer be thought of as two separate things: we Bishops are our mission. […] It is in the transmission of our faith that our lives become a visible sign of Christ’s presence in our communities. The witness of his life becomes for a Bishop a new basis for authority alongside the objective basis received in episcopal consecration. ‘Authority’ is thus joined by ‘authoritativeness’. Both are necessary. The former, in fact, gives rise to the objective requirement that the faithful should assent to the authentic teaching of the Bishop; the latter helps them to put their trust in his message. (John Paul II. Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Gregis, October 16, 2003)

Saint Alphonsus Liguori

  • The Bishop’s hearers will put but little faith in him if he does not before set the example

It is not sufficient for the Bishop to be lucerna ardens – a shining light as to his own interior; he should also be lucens exteriorly by his good example if he wishes to see the flock walking the road of virtues. In order that they may ascend the mountain, the shepherd must go before them within sight of them. The bishop is this light placed by God himself on the candlestick, ‘that it might shine to all that are in the house’. In vain will he preach and recommend the practice of the evangelical maxims: if he does not before set the example, it will happen what is said by the Council of Vercelli, that the hearers would put but little faith in him, because ‘Men believe more with their eyes that their ears.’ (Saint Alphonsus. The Complete Ascetical Works, Vol. XVII, Reflections Useful for Bishops, p. 455-6)

Saint Augustine

  • Wicked shepherds kill their sheep by their wicked lives and by giving bad example

The defects of the sheep are widespread. There are very few healthy and sound sheep, few that are solidly sustained by the food of truth, and few that enjoy the good pasture God gives them. But the wicked shepherds do not spare such sheep. It is not enough that they neglect those that are ill and weak, those that go stray and are lost. They even try, so far as it is in their power, to kill the strong and healthy. Yet such sheep live; yes, by God’s mercy they live. As for the wicked shepherds themselves, they kill the sheep. ‘How do they kill them?’ you ask. By their wicked lives and by giving bad example. Or was God’s servant, who was high among the members of the chief shepherd, told this in vain: Show yourself as an example of good works toward all men, and, Be an example to the faithful? […] I appeal to your love, and again I say, even if the sheep have life and if they are strong in the word of the Lord, and if they hold fast to what they have heard from their Lord, Do what they say but not what they do. Still, as far as he himself is concerned, the shepherd who lives a wicked life before the people kills the sheep under his care. Let such a shepherd not deceive himself because the sheep is not dead, for though it still lives, he is a murderer. […] Therefore anyone who lives wickedly before those who have been placed under his care kills, as far as he himself is concerned, even the strong. Whoever imitates him, dies; whoever does not, has life. But as for him, he kills both of them. (Saint Augustine. Sermon 46 on Pastors, no. 4/9English)

Saint Thomas Aquinas

  • Prelates are worthy of as many deaths as the many examples of damnation they pass on

Prelates should know that they are worthy of as many deaths as the many examples of damnation they pass on’ (Saint Gregory the Great); […]. – But it seems that a person must render an account for himself only: ‘All of us must be manifested before the tribunal of Christ, that everyone may receive the proper things of the body’ (2 Cor 5:10). I answer that everyone will give an account mainly for his own deeds, but he will give an account for others to the extent that his acts pertain to others. But the acts of prelates pertain to others according to Ezekiel (3:17); ‘Son of man, I have made you a watchman to the house of Israel; and you shall hear the word from out of my mouth and shall tell it to them.’ Then he continues that if the prelate, who is understood by the name of the watchman, has not told it to the wicked, the wicked man will, of course, die in his sin, but his blood will be required at the hand of the watchman. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, chap. 13, lec. 3: Hb 13, 17-25)


Discover another innovation:

For a christian, progress means humbling himself ?