By Vatican News
Pope Francis told the Bishops: “Our mission is to be for the Church and for the world the ‘sacraments’ of God's closeness”. Our world seeks this divine closeness, he said. “The Church herself is lost when she loses the life-giving tenderness of the Good Shepherd”.
Closeness to God
“Closeness to God is the source of the Bishop's ministry”, said the Pope, and “we exist to make this closeness palpable”. But we cannot communicate God's closeness without experiencing it, Pope Francis continued. “Without the closeness to the Sower”, we cannot accompany the growth of the seed “with patient confidence”.
Closeness to God’s people
“Closeness to the people entrusted to us”, the Pope continued, “is our essential condition”. “Jesus loves to approach His brothers and sisters” through His Bishops, he said, through their comforting hands; through their words, proclaiming the Gospel, and not themselves; through their hearts, “when they are charged with the joys and sorrows of our brothers and sisters”.
“We have to proclaim with our lives a measure of life different from that of the world”, said Pope Francis: “the measure of a love without measure”.
Closeness of the Good Samaritan
“The closeness of the Bishop is not rhetoric”, continued Pope Francis.
It is not about “self-referential proclamations, but of real availability”. Closeness uses concrete verbs, he said, like those of the Good Samaritan: “not looking the other way, not leaving people waiting and not to sweeping problems under the carpet”. The Pope encouraged the new Bishops to “to stay in touch with people, to devote more time to them than to the desk”. The Good Samaritan bandages wounds, and gets his hands dirty. “To be close to the people of God is to identify with them”, said Pope Francis, to share their joys and their pains.
Closeness to the poor
“The thermometer of closeness is the attention to the least, to the poor”, continued the Pope. Living a simple life is “to witness that Jesus is enough for us and that the treasure we want to surround ourselves with is made up of those who, in their poverty, remind us of Him”.
The Pope insisted he was not speaking about poor people in terms of abstract “data and social categories, but concrete people, whose dignity is entrusted to us as their fathers”. Fatherhood, he said, means being able to see, to caress, to weep.
Closeness of listening
The Pope invited the new Bishops to be “Apostles of listening”, men who know how to listen to things that may not always be pleasant to hear. He told them not to surround themselves with “yes men”.
He encouraged them to make regular pastoral visits: to meet their people and their pastors; to visit following the example of Our Lady, who shows us how “to bring the comfort of the Lord”.
Closeness to priests
Finally, the Pope urged the new bishops to be especially close to their priests who need to be “loved, accompanied and encouraged”.
“The priest is the closest neighbor of the bishop”, said Pope Francis. “Embrace them, and thank them in my name”.