CORNWALL, Ont. (CCN) — Canada’s bishops were urged, they heard at their annual plenary, to build on the “moment of grace” and “fresh wind” of their ad limina visits to Rome earlier this year.
“I believe that for all, this was a moment of grace, a moment which you will keep as a living, tangible and unforgettable memory,” Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi told the more than 80 bishops and eparchs gathered for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ annual plenary.
The bishops travelled with their regional assemblies over the spring months to meet with Pope Francis and representatives of various dicasteries in Rome.
“It remains true — and we are witnesses to this each day — that the church is marked by many weaknesses and fragilities, for the simple reason that we who are the church are weak and fragile,” the nuncio said. “But, however weak it may be, the church has a very reliable guide given her by Christ.”
He quoted Pope Francis, who said during the Angelus Aug. 27, “Peter . . . is not a great stone; he is a small stone, but taken up by Jesus, he becomes the centre of communion.”
“Without any wish for triumphalism, but with a peaceful realism, we can say: ‘What other society has at this time a guide as authoritative and as recognized as Pope Francis?’ ”
The nuncio spoke of how the church is founded on the Apostles and Peter, their leader, and “on their successors, the bishops in union with the successor of Peter.”
“The Second Vatican Council teaches us that ‘in the person of bishops assisted by priests, it is the Lord Jesus Christ, supreme pontiff, who is present among believers.’ ”
It is important bishops “be always accompanied by this awareness,” the nuncio said.
“Are we up to the task? Are we capable?” he asked. “If we look at ourselves, if we look at our human capacities, the answer is certainly: no! But Christ Jesus, the Good Shepherd who called us, is himself well aware that we are radically inadequate. He knows perfectly well that we are poor sinners.”
“That is why he said to Peter and to the Twelve — and he is also saying to us, ‘Come with me. I will make you fishers of men’ (Mk 1:17). ‘I will make you,’ Jesus said. Poieo. “This verb indicates the creative action of God, the action of Jesus who performs the works of the Father,” the nuncio said.
“It is the efficacious word that brings about what it says,” he said. “It is not Peter and his companions who by themselves become fishers of men: it is Jesus who makes them fishers of men by his own power.”
“And it will be a slow and progressive work: ‘I will make you become,’ This is a formation that Jesus will accomplish day after day, living with his disciples, sharing with them, showing them the works that he himself is doing.”
Though a bishop becomes one at his ordination, the nuncio pointed out, “we are always in the process of becoming bishop, that every day we must learn — in order to grow within us, the stature of Christ the Good Shepherd, from whom we must learn each and every day the wise search” for the one thing necessary, the “salvation of souls.”
This requires a permanent, not an occasional, “spiritual apprenticeship,” both personal and “lived together,” he said.
He urged the bishops to be close to their priests with “brotherly and paternal love,” noting the priests are the bishops’ first neighbours. Their brother bishops are also their first neighbours.
“Let us support one another,” he said. “Let us commit ourselves to cultivating and growing among ourselves the episcopal fraternity. Let us help each other to remain in that ‘spiritual apprenticeship’; that will enable Jesus, in and through us, to continue, as Good Shepherd, to serve this land that is yours in Canada.”