By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis asked Catholics to pray for their bishops and priests, asking God to help them be real shepherds who are poor, humble and meek.
“Pray for us bishops and priests,” he said May 15 during an early morning Mass with employees of Vatican Radio. “We need to remain faithful, to be men who watch over our flocks and over ourselves.”
Celebrating the Mass in the chapel of his residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the pope asked the employees to pray that God would defend bishops and priests from what St. Augustine defined as their principal temptations: money and pride.
“If we follow the path of riches, if we follow the path of pride, we will become wolves and not shepherds,” the pope said. “Pray for this.”
According to Vatican Radio, the pope’s brief homily focused on the initial verses of the day’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles (20:28-29) in which St. Paul tells the elders in Ephesus: “Keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock of which the Holy Spirit has appointed you overseers, in which you tend the church of God that he acquired with his own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come among you, and they will not spare the flock.”
The pope said the passage is one of the most beautiful in the New Testament, “full of tenderness and pastoral love” in explaining how bishops and priests must love God and the members of their flocks and how pastors and their people should love each other.
“A bishop isn’t a bishop for himself, but for his people; a priest isn’t a priest for himself, but for his people,” he said. They must serve the flock, help them grow and protect them from danger, he said.
“When the priest has this beautiful relationship with his people,” the pope said, love grows between them and the unity of the church increases.
However, Pope Francis said, “when a priest, a bishop, runs after money, the people don’t love him and this is a sign.”
St. Paul is a model for pastors, he said. The apostle reminded the early Christian communities that he worked with his own hands, “he didn’t have money in the bank, he worked. And when a bishop or a priest follows the path of vanity” or falls prey to “the spirit of careerism — which does much damage to the church — he ends up being ridiculous.”
The faithful, he said, have no love for a bishop or priest who “takes advantage, likes to be seen as all-powerful.”
So, pray for bishops and priests, he said, “that we would be poor, that we would be humble, meek and at the service of the people.”
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