Poverty Deemed a Key Ingredient in Life of a Bishop

Pope Dedicates a Passage of "Pastores Gregis" to Detachment

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 16, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II says that a life of poverty is one of the conditions necessary for a bishop to have a fruitful ministry.



The Pope stresses this imperative in the apostolic exhortation "Pastores Gregis" (Pastors of the Flock), in which he gathers the conclusions of a 2001 Synod of Bishops.

In that assembly, the bishops asked that "the evangelical beatitude of poverty should be considered an indispensable condition for a fruitful episcopal ministry in present-day circumstances."

The "bishop who wishes to be an authentic witness and minister of the Gospel of hope must be a 'vir pauper' (poor man)," the Pope writes in section No. 20 of the document. "This is demanded by the witness he is called to bear to Christ, who was himself poor. It is also demanded by the Church's concern for the poor, who must be the object of a preferential option,"

"The bishop's decision to carry out his ministry in poverty contributes decisively to making the Church the 'home of the poor,'" the exhortation says.

Moreover, such a "decision also provides the bishop with inner freedom in the exercise of his ministry and enables him to communicate effectively the fruits of salvation," the Pope writes. "Episcopal authority must be exercised with untiring generosity and inexhaustible liberality. On the bishop's part, this calls for complete trust in the providence of the heavenly Father, an openhearted communion of goods, an austere way of life, and continuous personal conversion."

"Only in this way will he be able to share in the struggles and sufferings of the People of God, whom he is called not only to lead and nourish but with whom he must show fraternal solidarity, sharing their problems and helping to build their hope," the Holy Father explains.

A bishop "will carry out his service effectively if his own life is simple, sober, and at the same time active and generous, and if it places those considered least important in our society not on the fringes but rather at the center of the Christian community," the Holy Father writes.

He adds that in this way a bishop "will foster a 'creativity in charity' which will bear fruit not simply in the efficiency of the assistance offered but also in an ability to live in a spirit of fraternal sharing."