Pope Francis: A bishop serves, not dominates

by Joshua J. McElwee

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Pope Francis on Thursday reiterated his view of the role of church leaders, telling two new archbishops they had been selected for their roles "to serve, not to dominate."

Taking part in the consecration of the new archbishops at St. Peter's Basilica, Francis told them a bishop is similar to the head of a family.

"Always [be] in service," the pope said, according to Vatican Radio. "Keep in mind that you were selected to serve, not to dominate." 

A bishop, the pope said, should love those he serves and should respond immediately when they call upon him. 

The pope was consecrating Thursday two new members of the Vatican diplomatic corps: Archbishop Jean-Marie Speich, who was named the Vatican's ambassador to Ghana in August; and Archbishop Giampiero Gloder, who in September was named the president of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, the Vatican training school for priests who serve as diplomats on behalf of the Holy See.

UPDATE: The Vatican on Friday issued a short press release concerning the pope's homily at the consecrations Thursday, giving more of Francis' text.

“It is Christ who, in the bishop's ministry, continues to preach the Gospel of salvation and to sanctify believers, through the sacraments of the faith," the pope said. “Indeed, 'episcopate' is the name of a service, not an honor. It is the bishop's responsibility to serve rather than to dominate, according to the commandment of the Master: 'the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves'”.

The pope also encouraged the new archbishops to continually pray.

"A bishop who does not pray is a bishop who arrives only half way along the path," he said. "And if he does not pray to the Lord, he falls prey to worldliness."

“Love, with the love of a father and of a brother, all those whom God entrusts to you," the pope also told the archbishops. "Above all, love the priests and deacons. They are your collaborators, the nearest of the near for you." 

"Never make a priest wait," the pope continued. "He asks for an audience? Answer immediately! Be close to them. But also love the poor, the defenseless and those who need welcome and help. Encourage the faithful to co-operate in the apostolic task and listen to them willingly."

[Joshua J. McElwee is NCR national correspondent. His email address is jmcelwee@ncronline.org. Follow him on Twitter: @joshjmac.]

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