In the address to apostolic nuncios on 21st June 2013, Holy Father Pope Francis stressed the importance of finding bishops who will be good pastors and servants of the faithful in their dioceses.
The nuncios are diplomatic representatives of the Holy See, but in his talk the Pope downplayed their work as ambassadors and laid the heaviest emphasis on their role in identifying candidates for episcopal office. He urged them to be sure that “the candidates are pastors who are close to the people: fathers and brothers.”
“That they are gentle, patient and merciful; animated by inner poverty, the freedom of the Lord, and also by outward simplicity and austerity of life,” he added.
Hundreds of nuncios gathered at the Vatican for two days of prayer as part of an initiative for the Year of Faith. The meeting had been arranged by Benedict XVI and was announced in Oct. 2012 by Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone at the bishops' synod on the new evangelization.
Pope Francis asked his nuncios to choose bishops that do not to have “the psychology of princes” or that are ambitious, ensuring that “they do not seek the episcopate. Candidates to become bishops should be poor in spirit, he said; he warned sternly against those who have “the mindset of princes.”
Holy Father Pope Francis suggested that it is not always best that bishops be moved often from diocese to diocese. “Be careful … that they are married to a (local) Church without being in constant search of another.”
“That they are able to watch over the flock that will be entrusted to them, take care to keep it united, vigilant of the dangers that threaten it,” he advised.
“But above all that they are able to watch over the flock, to keep watch, imbue hope, that they have sun and light in their hearts. Saint Joseph, spouse of the Virgin Mary, may be taken as a model for bishops, he said, because of “his care for the family that God entrusted to him.” Like St. Joseph, a bishop should “lovingly and patiently support the plans which God brings about in his people.”
The Pope warned the nuncios against the same sort of “spiritual worldliness” in their own lives. “Giving in to the spirit of the world, which leads one to act for personal realization and not for the glory of God, is that kind of 'bourgeoisie of spirit and life' that urges one to get comfortable, to seek a calm and easy life,” he said
Pope Francis acknowledged the hardships involved in service in the Vatican diplomatic corps. “Your lives are nomadic,” he observed, since nuncios typically move from one country to another every few years. Accepting that sort of life, he said, is a “mortification, the sacrifice of stripping yourselves of things, friends, ties, and always beginning anew.” However, he suggested that it may be a means of spiritual growth, since “the goods and perspectives of this world end up disappointing, they push and are never satisfied. The Lord is the good that does not disappoint.”
“We are shepherds and we must never forget this! Dear pontifical representatives, you are Christ's presence, you are a priestly presence, as pastors. … Always do everything with profound love! Even in dealing with the civil authorities and colleagues: always seek the good, the good in everyone, the good of the Church, and of every person.”
“I do not want to address purely formal or perfunctory words to you; what I now say comes from deep within my heart,” he assured them. The Pope underscored that “giving in to worldly spirit exposes us pastors to ridicule.”
“There is always the danger … to surrender to what I call, taking an expression from De Lubac, 'spiritual worldliness': to surrender to the spirit of the world, which leads to action for self-fulfillment and not for the glory of God,” reflected the Bishop of Rome.
This spiritual worldliness, he called a “sort of 'bourgeoisie spirit and life' which leads people to settle, and seek a peaceful and comfortable life. Pope Francis said that Blessed John XXIII, who himself served in the Vatican's diplomatic corps for 28 years, found that “he had to continually prune the vineyard of his life from that which was merely useless foliage and go straight to the essentials, which is Christ and his Gospel; otherwise there was the risk of ridiculing a holy mission.”
The Pope noted the “nomadic” quality of their life, stressing the challenges of never being able to put down roots, never having their own flock, always having to begin anew in different cultures, “always with a suitcase at hand.”
Pope Francis said this is a sign of the pilgrim nature of the Christian life, always journeying towards our heavenly home.
A primary element in this, he said, was the “mortification” of “stripping oneself of things, friends, bonds, and of always beginning anew.”
The pontiff said their life is “of great worth when lived with an intensity of love.”
“We know that our stability does not lie in things, in our own projects or ambitions, but in being true pastors who keep our gaze fixed on Christ.”
“Goods, the prospects of this world, end up disappointing. They push people to never be satisfied,” he told the diplomats. “The Lord is the good that does not disappoint.”
He noted that this focus on the Lord “demands a self-detachment that can only be achieved through a constant relationship with the Lord and the unification of one’s life around Christ.”
“Familiarity with Jesus Christ must be the daily food of the papal representative because it is the food that comes from the memory of our first encounter with him, and also because it is the daily expression of loyalty to his call.”
“Always do everything with deep love!” he exclaimed. “Always seek the good, the good of all, the good of the Church and of every person.”