Vatican City (Fides Service) – On Thursday 16 October, the 25th anniversary of his election as Pope, John Paul II signed and promulgated in the Paul VI Hall in the Vatican the post-synodal exhortation Pastores Gregis, which contains the fruits of the 10th Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the theme “The Bishop minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the Hope of the World,” held 30 September – 27 October 2001.
After listening to a brief introduction by Cardinal Jan Schotte Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops and signing the Document, the Pope gave an address in which he reflected on the figure of the Good Shepherd, the icon to which the Synod devoted its work. “The Synod assembly indicated concretely the spirit with which the Bishop is called to carry out his service in the Church: knowledge of the flock, love for all and care for each individual, mercy and searching for the lost sheep. These are some characteristics which distinguish the ministry of the Bishop. He is called to be a father, teacher, friend and brother to every person, following the example of Christ. Travelling faithfully this path he will reach holiness, holiness which must grow not alongside his ministry by through his ministry”.
Among the many duties of the Bishop, the Pope recalled that he must “teach the Christian faith with apostolic frankness, proposing it in an authentic way”; “ensure that liturgical celebrations are…expressions of the genuine nature of the Church, which renders worship to God actively through Christ in the Holy Spirit”; “strive to promote the participation of all the faithful in the building up of the Church”; “face the challenges of the present hour”; “ be a prophet of justice and peace, a defender of the rights of the little ones and the excluded”; “ proclaim to everyone the Gospel of life, truth and love”; “ show special concern for the multitude of poor on our earth”; “sustain the path of ecumenism”; “in the multi-ethnic society of this beginning of the third millennium, he will also be a promoter of interreligious dialogue”.
After his address the Pope consigned copies of the Exhortation to the Cardinal Presidents, General Relators of the Synod and to five Bishops representing the bishops on each of the five continents. He then led the singing of the Our Father and imparted his Apostolic Blessing on those present.
Part one of the exhortation Pastores Gregis outlines the identity and life of the bishop at the start of the third millennium, part two presents the ministry of the Bishop as shepherd of the diocese in the context of present day challenges which he must face. The underlying theme of the document is hope, which the Bishop is called to strengthen in the faithful and in the world. SL (Fides Service 17/10/2003 EM lines 34 Words: 456)