Sunday, 29 April 2012

The Nuncio and the Pastoral Office of the Bishop

Fr Tim drew attention to the address given by the Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Antonio Mennini to the Bishops of England and Wales during their recent meeting. The full text of the Nuncio's address can be accessed from this page at the Bishops Conference website. The address has a particular resonance in a Diocese like mine where the appointment of a new bishop is awaited.

Looking at the full text of Archbishop Mennini's address has prompted for me a couple of reflections for "Good Shepherd" Sunday, a day of prayer for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. The first is the element of courtesy that is to be found in the text. This is explicitly apparent in the opening paragraph, but it is also implicit in the familiarity shown later in the text with the business being considered by the Bishops during their meeting. It can also be seen in his reference to "Mary's Dowry" at the conclusion of his address.

The second thought has been prompted by this paragraph, towards the end of the text:
In this regard I hope that you will allow me to remind you of how important it is to continue to grow in an effective and affective communion among yourselves, given the fact that this communion reveals itself as the first way, the first form of Mission. We all know very well that to talk is absolutely indispensable – but just talking is not of itself sufficient… and then we can also reflect on the Lord’s command Love one another. Such as my love has been for you, so must your love be for each other. This is how all will know you for my disciples: by your love for one another.”(Jn. 13:34-35). I believe that a stronger communion between you, between us, as brother bishops, would have very positive effects on your faithful and particularly upon your priests. One could quote the latin proverb: “exempla trahunt!”
This seems a particularly apt summary of the office of a Bishop - to be an instrument of "effective and affective" communion with his brother bishops and with the priests and lay faithful of his diocese. The Collect for the liturgy of the fourth Sunday of Easter contains a nuance in the Latin that even the 2011 Missal translation into English has not captured, and which it is useful to read in the light of Archbishop Mennini's text:
Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, deduc nos ad societatam caelestium gaudiorum ...
[Almighty eternal God, lead us into the society/fellowship/union of the joy of heaven...]
On another but not totally unrelated tack, the Nuncio's address represents an interesting exercise of the universal pastoral office of the Successor St Peter. In the opening paragraph of this address, Archbishop Mennini refers to his office as "representative of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI".  He then goes on, using the words of Pope Benedict himself, to affirm the (local) Bishops in their stance with regard to teaching the faith in a highly secularised environment and, in particular, with regard to the question of the legalisation of gay marriage. The Nuncio, as a representative of the Holy Father to the local Church, manifests that universal pastoral office on behalf of the Pope.

The paragraph in which Archbishop Mennini proposed a "clear and outspoken" expression of the teaching of the Church is as follows. Whilst the paragraph clearly has a reference to the Bishops to whom he was speaking, the reference to "testimony in public life" and the example of Her Majesty the Queen also suggests an application for all Catholics:
We all know how difficult it is to live in an increasingly secularised society but, that is why we need to express the teaching of the Church in a clear and outspoken way. This testimony in public life will affect the future of the young and will, God willing, also touch the hearts of all persons of goodwill who are seeking meaning in their lives and, often without realising it, are in fact, searching for God. In this regard, I cannot fail to express my admiration, as well as my congratulations, to Her Majesty the Queen, Elizabeth II, who has served as Monarch for sixty years and clearly manifests in all that she does, especially her Christmas Messages, the Christian Faith which inspires her.

No comments: