By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Never try to tame the Holy Spirit, Pope Francis told new bishops.
Let the Spirit "continually turn your life upside down" and inspire you to challenge faithful Catholics, seek out those who have left the church and boldly meet with non-believers, he said.
The pope made his comments Sept. 10 in a written address to some 130 recently appointed bishops from around the world.
In the lengthy text, Pope Francis said he didn’t want to dwell too long on the "dramatic challenges" the bishops would have to face "because I don’t want to frighten you. You are still on your honeymoon" as newly ordained or newly appointed bishops.
However, the pope did remind the bishops of the fear, confusion and dejection many disciples felt after Christ was crucified.
Yet their shattered lives found meaning again when Christ showed them he had conquered death and was truly risen. He breathed the Holy Spirit on them, giving them their new mission of spreading God’s mercy and forgiveness, the pope said.
Never forgetting Christ is risen is key to remaining strong in the face of so much disarray. "Passing through the walls of your helplessness, he has joined you with his presence," he said. God is aware of their weaknesses, denials and betrayals, but he has still bestowed his Spirit on them, he said.
Safeguard the Spirit because it is a breath that will "turn your life upside down" and never be like it was ever before, the pope said. "I beg you not to tame such power," but let it constantly move them.
The bishop’s primary task is to be a witness of the Risen Christ, which is "the reality that upholds the entire edifice of the church," and which promises that all people can be reborn with him, Pope Francis said.
He asked the bishops to never exclude any aspect of human life or any person from their pastoral concern, instead encouraging them to teach and challenge faithful Catholics, actively seek out Catholics who have left the church and bring the Word to those who have always refused or do not know Jesus.
The pope said bishops should take by the hand those who are already part of the Christian community and lead them on a spiritual journey that reveals deeper mysteries about God and their faith than they "perhaps lazily have gotten used to listening to without seeing its power."
Bishops can inspire their priests to reawaken joy in their parishioners because "without joy, Christianity wastes away into toil."
Bishops must "intercept" those who are distanced from the church, let them "pour out" their sorrows and disappointments, and help them come to terms with the reasons they turned away from God.
"More than with words, warm their hearts with humble and engaged listening for their true good until they open their eyes and can turn things around and return to the One from whom they have been distanced," the pope said.
Keep an eye open for signs of pride that may "dangerously worm into your community," he said, thereby preventing parishioners from celebrating the return of those who were lost.
Finally, the pope said, bishops must be missionaries who "without fear or apprehension" can stand before people who do not know or have refused to believe in God and invite them to discover salvation has a place in their lives.
Showing concern for their true well-being, he said, might be what makes a tiny chink "in the walled perimeter they use to jealously protect their own autocracy."