A humble and meek servant, not a prince. This is what a bishop should be according to Pope Francis. Celebrating Holy Mass, Monday morning, at the Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican, he delivered a homily outlining the qualities of a bishop.
He took his cue from the Letter of St. Paul to Titus in the day’s Mass, that describes in detail the figure of a bishop, to bring order in the Church.
Church not born in complete order
The Pope pointed out that the Church was born amidst zeal and disorder but also “admirable things” were accomplished. He noted that there is always confusion and disorder with the power of the Holy Spirit but we must not be afraid because it is a beautiful sign.
Speaking in Italian, the Pope explained that the Church was never born with everything in order, in place, without problems, or confusion – never. However this confusion, this disorder, he said, must be resolved and put in order. As an example, he pointed to the first Council of Jerusalem where there was a struggle between judaizers and non – judaizers , but the Council finally fixed the problem.
Bishop, administrator of God not of goods
Pope Francis said that St. Paul leaves Titus in Crete to set things right, reminding him that “the first thing is faith“. At the same time, he provides some criteria and instructions on the figure of the bishop.
The Pope outlined the definition of a bishop as a “steward of God”, not of goods, power, mutual self-interest but only the interest of God. The bishop always has to correct and ask himself, “Am I an administrator of God or a businessman?” The bishop, the administrator of God must be irreproachable – something that God asked of Abraham: “Walk in my presence and be irreproachable”. This, the Pope said, is the basic quality of a leader.
Qualities of bishop
Pope Francis also spoke about what a bishop should not be. He should not be arrogant or conceited, ill-tempered or giving in to drinking, one of the most common vices in Paul’s time, not a businessman or attached to money. He said it would be a calamity for the Church if a bishop had only one of these defects. Instead, a bishop should be able to “give hospitality”, a “lover of good”, “sensible, just, holy, master of himself, faithful to the Word worthy of the faith that he was taught”.
The Holy Father said it would be nice to ask these questions at the beginning of an investigation before the election of bishops, before going ahead with other inquiries.
According to Pope Francis, a bishop, above all must be humble and meek, a servant not a prince. This, he said, is the Word of God. This, he said, is not something new after Vatican II but goes back much earlier to the time of Paul. This is from the beginning when the Church realized that it had to fix the problem of bishops.
What counts before God is not being nice and preaching well but humility and service. The Pope concluded urging for prayers for bishops so that “they may be, or we may be, as Paul asks us to be”.