By Vatican News
Pope Francis on Monday night addressed the Bishops of Italy, who are gathered at the Vatican for the annual meeting of the Italian Bishops Conference (Conferenza Episcopale Italiana, the “CEI”).
In his speech to the Bishops, the Holy Father spoke about several issues he is concerned about, stressing that he didn’t want to “beat them over the heads,” but to share his concerns so that they can be discussed by the ecclesial body. He emphasized that his thoughts were meant to be part of a discussion, with the Bishops responding with their own questions, anxieties, inspirations, and even criticisms – “It is not a sin to criticize the Pope here!” he said. “It is not a sin, it can be done.”
The Pope highlighted three main concerns: the crisis in vocations; evangelical poverty and transparency; and the reduction and consolidation of dioceses.
With regard to vocations, the Pope encouraged the Italian Bishops to be generous in sharing vocations, which he described as a gift of faith. Speaking of the need for transparency and evangelical poverty, he reminded them that their conduct with regard to the goods of the Church must be exemplary, as they will one day give an account of their administration. And concerning the reduction and consolidation of dioceses, he said this can and must be done, although with pastoral consideration for all those involved, especially in places where the people feel abandoned.
“These are my three preoccupations, Pope Francis said, “which I wanted to share with you as suggestions for reflection." And a he left them to consider his remarks, he thanked them for parrhesia, their willingness to speak openly and freely.