Public approval ‘is not the criterion to which we submit’, he says
VATICAN CITY – In their task of leading people to the light of Christ, bishops must have the courage to face opposition and peacefully stand firm in the truth, Pope Benedict XVI said.
Meeting the approval of the wider public “is not the criterion to which we submit. Our criterion is the Lord himself,” the pope said on Jan 6 as he celebrated the feast of the Epiphany of the Lord with a Mass in St Peter’s Basilica.
“The fear of God frees us from the fear of men. It liberates,” he said.
During the three-hour ceremony, the pope also ordained four new archbishops, including his longtime secretary, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, 56, who became prefect of the papal household, a job that involves organising the pope’s daily round of audiences and meetings.
In his homily at the Mass, the pope looked at the figure of the Three Kings, the wise men who set out from the East in search of Jesus; the pope drew comparisons between them and the mission to which the new bishops are called.
Like the Magi, he said, the bishop, too, must not be content with his position, but want to be “seized by God” and “gripped by God’s concern for men and women”.
Prayer, in fact, helps “detach us from our false sense of security, from our being enclosed within material and visible realities” and gives “us a restlessness for God and thus an openness and concern for one another”.
Like the wise men, who probably were scorned or ridiculed for following a star in search of the promised king, a bishop must know that seeking the truth is more important than “the taunts of the world, so apparently clever”.
“The humility of faith, of sharing the faith of the Church of every age, will constantly be in conflict with the prevailing wisdom of those who cling to what seems certain,” he said.
But a bishop, who must guide today’s men and women to the way of faith, hope and love, must have “the courage to contradict the prevailing mindset” of agnosticism, which is “extremely intolerant regarding anything that would question it and the criteria it employs”.
However, “this courage or forcefulness does not consist in striking out or in acting aggressively, but rather in allowing oneself to be struck and to be steadfast before the principles of the prevalent way of thinking”.
“We are not provocative; on the contrary we invite all to enter into the joy of that truth which shows us the way,” the pope said. CNS