Unity Is Task for New Bishops, Says Cardinal Bertone

Opens Conference for Prelates Ordained Over Last Year

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ROME, SEPT. 17, 2008 (Zenit.org).- A bishop's principal mission is fostering communion in the Church -- among his fellow prelates and among the people.



Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Pope's secretary of state, affirmed this Tuesday to a group of 120 bishops who were ordained over the last 12 months. The cardinal was celebrating a Mass to open a conference the bishops are attending at the Regina Apostolorum university, L'Osservatore Romano reported.

The Congregation for Bishops organizes the annual congress in cooperation with the Congregation for Eastern Churches. During the conference, the new bishops will meet leaders of the Roman Curia and hear from experts on matters of current importance in the Church.

Cardinal Bertone told the bishops that he hoped the conference "will help you better develop your episcopal ministry, an ever more arduous task given the complexity of modern globalized society and the needs of evangelization."

These challenges, explained the cardinal, do not call only for "adequate personal, doctrinal and pastoral formation," but above all for "a profound spirituality that cultivates intimate dialogue with the Lord Jesus and attentive listening to one's brothers."

He added: "It is necessary to make the culture and spirituality of unity grow within the Church, as well as an ever greater solidarity in the communion of bishops, called to be the first tireless builders, witnesses and ministers of unity and communion.

"The [role of the bishop] is to protect ecclesial communion attentively and to promote and defend it, constantly watching over the flock of which you have been made pastors.

"The Church is not a monolithic block, but a living unity capable of harmonizing and directing every function, charism and ministry toward the common good."

Cardinal Bertone also stressed the need for bishops to be the first witnesses of faith -- "an intrepid and courageous faith, able to follow Christ to the point of sacrificing one's life, if necessary."

"The Church, and above all its pastors, has the duty to inspire and educate in the faith," the cardinal concluded, "and, at the same time, the mission to proclaim and give tireless witness of the gratuitousness of salvation."