Pope Francis urges new Bishops to cultivate discernment
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday urged Bishops to cultivate what he called an “attitude of listening” and to avoid being “imprisoned by nostalgia.”
Addressing Catholic Bishops from across the globe who have been appointed during the past year, the Pope focused on the need for discernment.
The Bishops have just completed an annual training programme organized by the Congregation for Bishops.
“Authentic discernment,” the Pope said, “although definitive at every step, is always an open and necessary process, and can be completed and enriched”.
Insisting that discernment “can’t be reduced to repeating formulas” Francis pointed out that it is, in fact, an “antidote against rigidity, because the same solutions aren’t valid everywhere.”
You must have the courage to ask yourself whether yesterday’s proposals are still evangelically valid, the Pope said to the new Bishops, highlighting the importance for all pastors to not be stuck in the margins but to have the capacity of “evaluating God’s times.”
Saying that the gift of discernment cannot be taken for granted, he described it as the primary condition upon which to draw as the Bishops strive to “discern the paths of God” for the salvation of those entrusted to them.
The practice recommended by the Pope for achieving the right kind of balance in personal and ecclesiastical behavior is that of deep and regular prayer.
He also pointed out that discernment is not a private exercise by an individual priest, but an activity that unfolds in a community.
“The Bishop is not the ‘self-sufficient father-patron’ and still less the frightened and isolated ‘solitary pastor” he said.
Those to be consulted in the attempt to reach the right decisions, he continued, are the bishops’ own brother Bishops, their priests and the lay faithful.
Real people in concrete situations, he explained, wish to “draw from the treasure of the Church what’s most useful for the ‘today’ of their salvation”.
And insisting on the need for all clergy to always keep contact with ordinary people he warned that without such an exchange “the faith of the most cultivated can degenerate into indifference, and that of the humblest into superstition.”
Pope Francis also called on bishops to be attentive to the “the culture of religiosity of the people” noting that popular piety is often the “foundation of a people’s self-understanding,” and that discernment has to enter into dialogue with it.
“Remember that God was already present in your diocese before you got there” he told the new Bishops, “and he’ll still be there when you leave”.