79 – The candidates to the episcopate must be pastors, close to the people: this is the first criterion. A great theologian, a learned mind: let him go to the university! They must not have the mindset of princes

‘The sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice’ (Jn 10:4). The suggestive imagery of the shepherd with his flock is almost a synonym of the Episcopal ministry in the Church. The faithful who hear the voice of the Bishop are the good sheep, docile to the action of God made present to them in the person of the prelate. On the other hand, the rebellious sheep represent the faithful who prefer to follow their own whims rather than submitting to ecclesiastical authority. The shepherd, in turn, has the responsibility to lead the sheep to good pasture, defend them from ferocious wolves, and protect them from thieves. This is how the bishop should proceed with his flock; teaching, governing, sanctifying and most especially being the perfect example of virtue.

Well then, if the owner of numerous flocks had to choose several shepherds to care of them, he would, without a doubt, hire the most experienced and zealous…Only a madman would prefer those who don’t have even the basic notions of the job at hand, and have no desire to learn more, but rather consider it sufficient to linger unconcerned nearby the flock, without taking precautions against the dangers that surround it.

In the great flock of Christ which is the Church, what are the criteria for the selection of shepherds, especially at this point in time when demagogy and populist socialism seem to strut around with impunity?



Quote A

Teachings of the Magisterium

Enter in the various parts of our study

I – To be suitable for the episcopacy, the candidate has to be a prince in many ways
II – The elevated dignity of the episcopate constitutes a true spiritual princeship
III – The triple mission of the bishops, a true office of princeship
IV – The knowledge of doctrine is an obligation inherent to the Episcopal Ministry
V – Giving good example: a primordial duty of the bishops in coherency with the sanctity of doctrine

I – To be suitable for the episcopacy, the candidate has to be a prince in many ways

Sacred Scripture

A bishop should exhort with sound doctrine and refute opponents

Code of Canon Law

A candidate for the episcopacy should be outstanding in solid faith, and truly an expert in sacred scripture, theology, or canon law

Saint Cyprian of Carthage

We ought to choose none but unstained and upright ministers

Saint Hilary of Poitiers

An innocent minister is profitable to himself alone, unless he be instructed also

Benedict XVI

Candidates for the episcopate should be models of life in the faith

Saint Thomas Aquinas

He who chooses for the episcopate whom he prefers and not those who are more useful to the Church, commits a grave sin

II – The elevated dignity of the episcopate constitutes a true spiritual princeship

Sacred Scripture

The nobility of the espiscopate

Saint Ignatius of Antioch

Let all reverence the bishop as Jesus Christ

Vatican Council II (Ecumenical XXI)

Among those various ministries the chief place belongs to the episcopate
Men with a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit for the supreme power of the sacred ministry
Bishops are to be respected by all as witnesses to divine and Catholic truth
Bishops: true and authentic teachers of the faith, pontiffs, and pastors

Synod of Bishops

The Bishop is responsible for proclaiming and bearing witness

Pius XII

The fullness of the apostolic dignity resides in the Bishops

Saint Augustine of Hippo

A higher place was given the Bishops, that they might the guardians of the people

Synod of Bishops

The episcopal insignia are symbols of the nobility of the bishop’s vocation

III – The triple mission of bishops, a true office of princeship

Code of Canon Law

Through episcopal consecration, bishops receive the function of sanctifying, teaching and governing

Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

A bishop governs with the authority of his own sacred power exercised in the name of Christ

Catechism of the Catholic Church

The bishop receives a grace of strength to guide and defend the Church

Vatican Council II (Ecumenical XXI)

Bishops: principal dispensers of the mysteries of God, governors, promoters, and guardians of the liturgical life

John Paul II

A decisive mission for the life of the Church is confided to bishops: the sanctification of the People of God

Benedict XVI

The ministry of the Bishop is not human, administrative or sociological

IV – The knowledge of doctrine is an obligation inherent to the episcopal ministry

Saint Thomas Aquinas

Doctrine is the first, for it is proper to the prelate
It is necessary for the bishop to be well versed and instructed, to shepherd his flock with true doctrine and protect it from heretics

Congregation for Bishops

The Bishop has an obligation to deepen his intellectual and theological preparation for the enlightenment of the People of God

John Paul II

The bishop is responsible for the ongoing formation of his priests

V – Giving good example: a primordial duty of bishops in coherency with the sanctity of doctrine

Vatican Council II (Ecumenical XXI)

The obligation to give an example of holiness

Congregation for Bishops

The Bishop should receive the sacraments in an exemplary way

Benedict XVI

People listen more willingly to witnesses than to teachers

John Paul II

Unless the episcopal office is based on the witness of holiness, it loses credibility

Paul VI

We cannot be faithful administrators of the divine mysteries without first having availed ourselves of their richness

John Paul II

The ideal figure of the bishop: the Pastor who is configured to Christ in holiness of life
The bishop who does not live what he teaches gives the community a contradictory message

Saint Alphonsus Liguori

The Bishop’s hearers will put but little faith in him if he does not before set the example

Saint Augustine

Wicked shepherds kill their sheep by their wicked lives and by giving bad example

Saint Thomas Aquinas

Prelates are worthy of as many deaths as the many examples of damnation they pass on

Related studies

  • 152 – “The Catholic Church has acted again and again as a mediator in finding solutions to problems affecting peace, social harmony, the land, the defense of life, human and civil rights”

  • 150 – “Unity of teaching and practice is certainly necessary in the Church, but this does not preclude various ways of interpreting some aspects of that teaching or drawing certain consequences from it”

  • 140 – “Do we love the Church as we love our mothers, also taking into account her defects? All mothers have defects. The Church also has her defects”

  • 138 – “The Church is woman. Women, in the Church, are more important than bishops and priests”

  • 115 – The Council Fathers strongly perceived a need to talk about God to men and women of their time in a more accessible way. The time had come to proclaim the Gospel in a new way


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