Pope Francis says priests, bishops should keep an open dialogue

Vatican City, Nov 26, 2018 / 10:14 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a meeting with seminarians Saturday, Pope Francis said it is necessary for priests to maintain an open and filial discussion with their bishop, since he is the unifying figure of the diocese.

“You cannot be a good priest without a filial dialogue with the bishop. This is something non-negotiable,” the pope said in the Vatican’s Consistory Hall.

“As someone likes to say, ‘No, I am an employee of the Church.’ You are wrong,” he continued. “Here there is a bishop, there is not an assembly where the position is negotiated. There is a father who unifies: like Jesus wanted things. A father who unifies.”

Pope Francis set aside his prepared speech during a Nov. 24 meeting with seminarians of the Diocese of Agrigento, in order to, he said, “speak a little spontaneously,” on the relationship between a diocesan priest and his bishop.

The bishop “is not the owner of a company;” he is not “the one who commands” while some obey, others pretend to obey, and still others do nothing, Francis said. “No, the bishop is the father, he is fruitful, he is the one who generates the mission.”

He noted that the term “mission” is a loaded one, signifying the will of God and the work of the Holy Spirit, advising seminarians to “learn to see in the bishop the father who was there to help you grow, to move forward and to accompany you in the moments of your apostolate.”

Whether the bishop is there “in beautiful moments, in bad moments,” he said, “but to accompany you always; in moments of success, in the moments of defeat you always have in life… This is something very, very important.”

The pope said the only way this accompaniment can happen, is if priests have a relationship with their bishop; that he knows them as they are, with their own virtues and faults, personalities, and ways of feeling and thinking.

Since it is the bishop who gives the priests of his diocese their parish or other assignment, Pope Francis emphasized the importance of the bishop knowing his priests, so he can make the right choice in the mission he assigns.

But do not meddle in the bishop’s decision, he warned. “Leave the bishop to sort it out: to organize [things] in the Spirit.”

He emphasized that this is not the same as arranging things into an “organizational chart,” though sometimes the Church may use organizational tools for functionality. “But the Church goes beyond the organizational chart, it is another thing: it is life, life ‘sorted’ in the Holy Spirit.”

The pope also made an analogy between the men in formation for the priesthood and the clay pot, which if not right, the potter can reshape or remake – but only before the clay has been baked.

The seminary is a time of training, he explained, and if they have a disagreement about something or do not understand, they should express it appropriately to the rector. “This is important, to say what you feel,” he advised.

This is so that they each can be truly become “a vessel full of grace,” he said, warning that if they “stay silent and do not talk, do not say your difficulties, do not tell your apostolic anxieties and all you want, a silent man, once ‘baked,’ cannot be changed.”

“And all life is like this,” he continued. “It is true that sometimes it is not pleasant for the potter to intervene decisively, but it is for your own good. Let yourself be trained, let yourself be formed.”

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