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Pope Francis at Santa Marta: Bishops must focus on flock, not career

In his homily at Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis remembered when the Apostle Paul took a leave of absence from the Church Elders at Ephesus to go to Jerusalem. The pope said this difficult decision is one every bishop must make at the end of his tenure. 

“I ask the Lord for the grace of being able to bid farewell like that. And in the examination of conscience, I won't go out a victor like St. Paul who... but the Lord is good, He's merciful, but... I think about the bishops, all of the bishops. May the Lord give us all the grace of being able to bid farewell like that, with this spirit, with this love for Jesus Christ, with this trust in the Holy Spirit.”

Just as Paul realized his time to step down had come, the Holy Father urged bishops to hold a similar examination of conscience, placing their love for the Lord first. Until that time, he said their second love must be for their flock, who are more important than the advancement of the bishops' careers. 

(Source: Vatican Media)
Pope Francis noted how the Apostle made an examination of his conscience, telling the Elders what he had done for the community and leaving them to judge his work. Paul seemed “a bit proud,” said the Pope, but in actual fact “he is objective.” He only boasts about two things: “his own sins and the Cross of Jesus Christ which saved him.”

“This experience by the bishop, the bishop who can discern the Spirit, who can discern when it is the Spirit of God speaking to him and who knows how to defend himself when spoken to by the spirit of the world.”

Paul’s great love, said the Pope, “is Jesus Christ. His second love is for his flock. Take care of each other and of the entire flock. Keep watch over the flock: you are bishops for your flock, to take care of it and not in order to advance your ecclesiastical career.”

Noting how Paul entrusted the Elders to God, knowing that He will take care of them, the Pope stressed that the Apostle spoke of having no desire to have any money or gold for himself. He described Paul’s testament as “a witness, as well as an announcement and a challenge.” This was no worldly testament, said Pope Francis because Paul had nothing to leave to others, “only the grace of God, his apostolic courage, Jesus Christ’s revelation and the salvation that Our Lord had granted him.”