Being a bishop “is not a position of prestige, or an honorific post,” Pope Francis said Wednesday. “The episcopate is not an honor, it’s a service, and that is how Jesus wanted it,” he said.
“There should be no place in the church for a worldly mentality,” said the Pope. “The worldly mentality says, ‘This man has made a career in the church, he became a bishop.’ No, no, there should be no place in the Church for this mentality. The episcopate is a service, not an honor to brag about.”
Pope Francis addressed the tens of thousands of pilgrims and tourists that came to St. Peter’s Square to hear him on Wednesday morning for his weekly “General Audience,” which focused on the role of bishops in the church.
“Being a bishops means keeping ever before your eyes the example of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who came not to be served but to serve, and to lay down his life for the sheep,” the Pope said.
The many bishops who have become saints, said Francis, “show us that this ministry should not be sought, should not be requested, should not be bought or sold, but is embraced in obedience.” Men accept this office “not to be exalted but to become lowly, just as Jesus ‘humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, death on a cross,’” he said.
“It’s sad,” continued the Pope, “when you see a man who seeks this office, and does so many things to get there and when he gets there he doesn’t serve others, but struts about, living only for his vanity.”
The Pope also stressed the importance of unity and collegiality among the bishops. “When Jesus chose and called the Apostles,” he said, “he wasn’t thinking of them as separated from each other, each on his own, but together, they might be with Him, united as one family.”
The Pope encouraged his listeners to “recognize the bishop as a great gift,” and called on them “to nourish a sincere and profound communion with him, starting with priests and deacons.” There can be no healthy church, he said, “where the faithful, deacons and priests are not united to the bishop.”