If a picture is worth a thousand words, Pope Francis may have found a prayer that is worth at least a thousand speeches.
It is titled “Beatitudes for Bishops” and the Pope handed a copy to each member of the Italian Bishops’ Conference (IEC) on Monday at the start of their week-long plenary assembly in Rome.
The small prayer card bears an image of Jesus carrying “the lost sheep” on his shoulders and praises the shepherds of the Church for being humble servants of the People of God.
“Happy the bishop who makes poverty and shares his way of life”, says one of the beatitudes.
Another praised the bishop “who is not afraid to wet his face with tears, so that they reflect the pain of the people” and “the work of the priests”.
“Happy the bishop who considers his ministry as a service and not as a power,” said another.
“Happy the bishop who does not shut himself up in government buildings, who does not become a bureaucrat more attentive to statistics than to faces” and the one “who has the misery of the world at heart”.
“Happy the bishop who is not afraid to go against the grain for the Gospel,” said yet another.
“Blessed be the bishop who works for peace, who walks on the path of reconciliation, who plants the germ of communion in the hearts of priests, who accompanies a divided society on the path of reconciliation”, said another. in this list of tailor-made beatitudes for Church leaders.
“A competition to elect the most beautiful bishop?”
The “Beatitudes for Bishops” come from the homily delivered last month by Archbishop Domenico Battaglia of Naples during the ordination of his three auxiliary bishops.
After offering these “beatitudes” to members of the CEI, the Pope spent two hours with them behind closed doors.
François began by giving a speech (which has not been made public) then engaged in a conversation with the bishops, which several of them described as a “fraternal” and “family” moment.
Since the beginning of his pontificate, Francis has developed the habit of expressing his vision of the episcopate when he meets the Italian bishops.
“When I walked in, a bad thought occurred to me,” he told them at their spring meeting last May.
“Is it an assembly of bishops or a competition to elect the most beautiful bishop? He said, finishing his thought.
“Are there any journalists here? he then asked Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, president of the CEI.
“No, I don’t think so,” replied Bassetti.
“Well, then we can speak freely,” the Pope continued.
And then the broadcast of the speech was effectively interrupted.