Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) - "Your places of origin are diverse and far from each other, and belong to the great constellation of so-called 'mission territories'. Therefore each of you have the great privilege and responsibility of being in the first line of evangelization", said the Holy Father, speaking to a group of recently appointed Bishops of mission countries at the end of a formation course organized in Rome by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (see Fides 02/10/2016).
"Just like the Good Shepherd - the Pope said -, you have to care for the flock and go in search of sheep, especially those that are far away or lost; seek out new ways of proclaiming, to reach out to people; to help those who have received the gift of Baptism to grow in faith, so that believers, even those who are 'lukewarm' or not practising, may discover anew the joy of faith and evangelising fruitfulness".
At the beginning of the speech, the Pope thanked Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, "for his words and for all the work he carries out with his collaborators" and recalled that in this Holy Year of Mercy, the Bishops have joined so many pilgrims from all over the world: "this experience is very good for us: it makes us aware that we are all pilgrims of mercy, and we are all in need of the grace of Christ to be merciful like the Father".
After pointing out that in the missionary work the Bishops can call upon various collaborators, including lay faithful, the Pope invited them in particular "to pay attention to the preparation of presbyters in the Seminary years, without neglecting to accompany them in their continuing formation after ordination... Do not forget that for the Bishop, the closest of the close is the presbyter".
Pope Francis concluded by exhorting the Bishops "to pay close attention to what can be done to favor evangelization and to ensure that the various pastoral activities they promote are not damaged or inhibited by divisions, either already present or that may be created. Division is the weapon the devil employs most to destroy the Church from within. It has two weapons, but the main one is division: the other is money... In particular, differences due to the presence of different ethnic groups in the same territory must not penetrate into the Christian communities to the point of prevailing over their own good... The Church is called to place herself above tribal and cultural connotations and the Bishop, the visible principle of unity, has the task of ceaselessly building up the particular Church in the communion of all her members".
The Pope concluded: "I am sure that what you have been able to share these days will help everyone to pursue their ministry with enthusiasm. Care for the people God has entrusted to you, care for priests, care for seminarians. This is your task. May Mary our Mother protect you and support you" (SL) (Agenzia Fides 10/9/2016)