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Bishops are heralds of the Gospel

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Church
General Audience, Wednesday 4 November 1992 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. Having discussed how the Second Vatican Council described the mission of bishops, both as a college and as pastors personally assigned to various dioceses, we now want to consider the essential elements of this mission, as the same Council explained them. The first element is to preach authoritatively the Word of God. The Council says: "Among the principal duties of bishops the preaching of the Gospel occupies an eminent place" (LG 25). The pastoral mission of proclaiming the Word of God is the first function entrusted to the bishops, as it was to the apostles. Today more than ever the Church is very aware of the necessity of proclaiming the Good News, both for the salvation of souls and for spreading and establishing her own social and community organization. She recalls St. Paul's words: "For 'everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.' But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the Good News!'" (Rom 10:13-15).

2. For this reason the Council says that "Bishops are heralds of the faith," and that as such they make the faith of God's people grow and bear fruit (cf. LG 25). The Council then lists the responsibilities of bishops in relation to this primary function of theirs as "heralds": to provide religious instruction for young people and adults; to preach revealed truth, the mystery of Christ, whole and entire; to remind people of the Church's teaching, especially on points most open to doubt or criticism. We read in Christus Dominus: "In exercising their duty of teaching--which is conspicuous among the principal duties of bishops--they should announce the Gospel of Christ to men, calling them to a faith in the power of the Spirit or confirming them in a living faith. They should expound the whole mystery of Christ to them, namely, those truths the ignorance of which is ignorance of Christ. At the same time they should point out the divinely revealed way to give glory to God and thereby to attain to eternal happiness" (CD 12). At the same time, however, the Council urges bishops to present this doctrine in a way suited to the needs of the times: "The bishops should present Christian doctrine in a manner adapted to the needs of the times, that is to say, in a manner that will respond to the difficulties and questions by which people are especially burdened and troubled. They should also guard that doctrine, teaching the faithful to defend and propagate it" (CD 13).

3. In the context of preaching, it is also necessary, in the light of the mystery of Christ, to teach the true value of man, the human person and also of "earthly things." The Council recommends that bishops: "...should show, moreover, that earthly goods and human institutions according to the plan of God the Creator are also disposed for man's salvation and therefore can contribute much to the building up of the body of Christ. Therefore, they should teach, according to the doctrine of the Church, the great value of these things: the human person with his freedom and bodily life, the family and its unity and stability, the procreation and education of children, civil society with its laws and professions, labor and leisure, the arts and technical inventions, poverty and affluence. Finally, they should set forth the ways by which are to be answered the most serious questions concerning the ownership, increase, and just distribution of material goods, peace and war, and brotherly relations among all countries" (CD 12). The foregoing is the historical and social dimension of preaching and of the very Gospel of Christ handed on by the apostles in their preaching. We should not be surprised that the historical and social nature of man abound in preaching today, even though this preaching should be done on the religious and moral level that is proper to it. Concern for the human condition, which today is troubled and often distressed on the economic, social and political level, is translated into a constant effort to bring individuals and peoples the help that comes from the light and love of the Gospel.

4. The faithful should respond to the bishops' teaching by adhering to it in a spirit of faith. The Council says: "Bishops, teaching in communion with the Roman Pontiff, are to be respected by all as witnesses to divine and Catholic truth. In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent" (LG 25). Obviously, the Council specifies that an essential condition for the value and obligatory quality of the bishops' teaching is that they are in communion with the Roman Pontiff and speak as such. Certainly each bishop has his own personality and presents the Lord's teaching by using the talents at his disposal. But precisely because it is a question of preaching the Lord's teaching entrusted to the Church, he must always remain in communion of mind and heart with the visible head of the Church.

5. When a doctrine of faith or morals is universally and definitively taught by the Church's bishops, their Magisterium enjoys an infallible authority. The Council also states: "Although the individual bishops do not enjoy the prerogative of infallibility, they nevertheless proclaim Christ's doctrine infallibly whenever, even though dispersed through the world, but still maintaining the bond of communion among themselves and with the Successor of Peter, and authentically teaching matters of faith and morals, they are in agreement on one position as definitively to be held. This is even more clearly verified when, gathered together in an ecumenical council, they are teachers and judges of faith and morals for the universal Church, whose definitions must be adhered to with the submission of faith" (LG 25).

6. The Roman Pontiff, as head of the college of bishops, personally enjoys this infallibility. (We will discuss this in a future catechesis.) For now let us finish reading the conciliar text regarding bishops: "The infallibility promised to the Church resides also in the body of bishops, when that body exercises the supreme Magisterium with the Successor of Peter. To these definitions the assent of the Church can never be wanting, on account of the activity of that same Holy Spirit, by which the whole flock of Christ is preserved and progresses in unity of faith" (LG 25). The Holy Spirit, who guarantees the truth of the episcopal body's infallible teaching, also ensures the Church's assent of faith through his grace. Communion in the faith is the work of the Holy Spirit, the soul of the Church.

7. The Council says further: "And this infallibility with which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to be endowed in defining doctrine of faith and morals, extends as far as the deposit of revelation extends.... But when either the Roman Pontiff or the body of bishops together with him defines a judgment, they pronounce it in accordance with revelation itself, which all are obliged to abide by and be in conformity with, that is, the revelation which as written or orally handed down is transmitted in its entirety through the legitimate succession of bishops and especially in care of the Roman Pontiff himself, and which under the guiding light of the Spirit of truth is religiously preserved and faithfully expounded in the Church" (LG 25).

8. Lastly, the Council advises: "The deposit of revelation...must be religiously guarded and faithfully expounded" (LG 25).

The entire body of bishops in union with the Roman Pontiff is responsible for constantly and faithfully guarding the patrimony of truth Christ entrusted to his Church. "Guard what has been entrusted to you," St. Paul urged his disciple Timothy (1 Tim 6:20), to whom he had entrusted the pastoral care of the church in Ephesus (cf. 1 Tim 1:3). As bishops of the Catholic Church, we must all be aware of this responsibility. We all know that, if we are faithful in guarding this "deposit," we will always be able to maintain the faith of the People of God in its integrity and to ensure that its content will be spread throughout the world today and in generations to come.

After the Catechesis, Papa Giovanni Paolo II greeted the pilgrims in various languages

Ai fedeli di lingua francese 

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

J’accueille avec plaisir les pèlerins francophones présents. En parti culier, je salue cordialement le groupe de l’aumônerie militaire de Périgueux, les jeunes de Paris, de Charenton, ainsi que ceux de Saint-Louis des Français à Madrid. Que le Seigneur vous bénisse, qu’il vous fortifie dans votre foi et dans votre participation à la vie de son Église! 

Ai pellegrini di espressione inglese 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I extend a warm welcome to the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm celebrating their Silver Jubilee, and to the priests from the Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire. I also greet the parish pilgrimage groups from Brighton, England and from the Dioceses of Lexington, Erie and Galveston-Houston in the United States. Upon all the Englishspeaking pilgrims and visitors I cordially invoke the grace and peace of Christ our Saviour.

Ai pellegrini di lingua tedesca 

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder!

Mit dieser kurzen Betrachtung richte ich einen herzlichen Will kommensgrub an die deutschsprachigen Pilger und Besucher. Mein besonderer Grub gilt den Teilnehmern der ”Club 50 Seniorenreise“ aus Österreich, dem ”Chorus sine nomine“ aus Wien, den Lesern der Kirchenzeitungen aus der Erzdiözese Köln und dem Bistum Speyer sowie der ”Jagdhornbläsergruppe Hubertus - Lorup“ und den Pfarrangehörigen von St. Mariä Himmelfahrt in Lorup.

Euch allen, Euren lieben Angehörigen in der Heimat sowie den mit uns über Radio und Fernsehen verbundenen Gläubigen erteile ich von Herzen meinen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai fedeli di lingua spagnola 

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

Me complace saludar ahora a los peregrinos de lengua española; en particular, al grupo de Religiosas del Sagrado Corazón; al grupo de la Unión Iberoamericana de Padres de Familia y Padres de Alumnos, venidos de España. Saludo igualmente a los peregrinos procedentes de Argentina y de México. Exhorto a todos a seguir las enseñanzas de vuestros Obispos, a la vez que os imparto con afecto mi Bendición Apostólica. 

Ai fedeli di lingua portoghese 

Amadíssimos Irmãos e Irmãs,

Peço a Deus que os fiéis de língua portuguesa vindos a Roma para rezar junto do túmulo de São Pedro, saibam prestar um religioso assentimento às verdades ensinadas pelo Magistério da Igreja através dos seus Bispos, para que a fé em Jesus Cristo abunde em seus corações e seja penhor de paz e de felicidade nos próprios lares. 

Ai fedeli polacchi 

Pozdrawiam pielgrzymów z Polski: ks. bpa łomżyńskiego, pielgrzy mów z archidiecezji gdańskiej z ks. bpem Pawłowiczem, również z Gdańska - pielgrzymka z parafii bł. Urszuli Ledóchowskiej, ze Słupska - parafia św. Józefa, z Warszawy - chór “Harfa”, z Kielc - grupa kolejarzy, prócz tego Młodzieżowy Zespół Piłki Ręcznej z Tarnowa, grupa “Esperanto-Tour” z Bydgoszczy oraz inni jeszcze uczestnicy audiencji z kraju i z emigracji. 

Ai pellegrini italiani 

Rivolgo ora un cordiale benvenuto a tutti pellegrini italiani. In particolare, saluto il Gruppo dell’Apostolato della Preghiera della Diocesi di Concordia-Pordenone, ringraziando per la testimonianza che offre sul primato della preghiera nella vita dei credenti.

Saluto inoltre le componenti dell’“Associazione Impegno Donne” che, ispirandosi ai principi cristiani, svolge un’opera di sensibilizzazione ai valori morali, al servizio della famiglia e dell’educazione.

Un affettuoso pensiero va poi agli alunni della Scuola Elementare “Caterina Cittadini” di Roma, ai quali vorrei ricordare che il più grande Maestro di ogni uomo è Gesù: ascoltatelo, cari ragazzi, e imitatelo sempre! 

Ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli 

Infine, un saluto speciale va, come di consueto, ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli. Carissimi, esorto voi tutti a fare vostra quella virtù che San Carlo Borromeo scelse come proprio motto: humilitas: l’umiltà. Per voi, giovani, l’umiltà costituisca l’atteggiamento con cui cercate e servite la Verità e il Bene nel vostro itinerario di crescita umana e spirituale; per voi, cari ammalati, sia la dignitosa e coraggiosa accettazione del male in spirito di riparazione, unendovi al mistero della sofferenza e della morte del Signore; e voi, sposi novelli, abbiate sempre l’umiltà di imparare da Cristo e dalla Chiesa ad amarvi e onorarvi tutti i giorni della vostra vita. 

Deporre le armi e ritornare al dialogo e alla forza della ragione per un futuro di pace:

Desidero ora invitare alla preghiera per l’Angola, il caro Paese che ho visitato nel giugno scorso. Dopo anni di guerra civile, era nata la speranza di una convivenza pacifica, che le prime elezioni generali della fine di settembre avevano rafforzato. Avevo condiviso con quella popolazione tanto gravemente provata il desiderio di un futuro tranquillo, di un giusto ordine democratico e della sospirata pace. Purtroppo, ci pervengono da quella Nazione africana notizie di nuove lotte fratricide, con un nuovo tragico carico di morti, di divisioni e di sofferenze.

Mi unisco quindi alla voce dei Vescovi dell’Angola e formulo un pressante invito ai responsabili di tali azioni, perché depongano le armi e ritornino al dialogo e alla forza della ragione. Ancora una volta desidero ricordare a tutti che: la pace è possibile; la pace è un diritto dei popoli e un dovere per chi ne regge le sorti. “Beati i costruttori di pace”. Invochiamo l’intercessione della Vergine Santissima, perché ritornino in Angola la concordia e la pace.

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