CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (EWTN News/CNA)—Pope Benedict XVI told a gathering of new bishops Sept. 15 that they should encourage lay movements within the Church and seek the holiness of the laity.
“Bishops have the task of watching and working to ensure that the baptized increase in grace, in accordance with the charisms the Holy Spirit causes to arise in their hearts and communities,” the Pope told more than 100 new bishops gathered at the papal residence at Castel Gandolfo.
He added that such “charisms which the Spirit arouses” amongst the laity are “for the edification of the Church” and that bishops should accept them “gratefully, for the sanctification of the Church and the vitality of the apostolate.”
Recent decades have seen the rise of numerous new movements and apostolic initiatives throughout the Church. Many of these have been founded by laypeople and are not directly affiliated with a particular diocese.
The Pope made his comments at a gathering organized by the Congregation for Bishops. For the last 10 years, the congregation has invited new bishops to make a pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Peter in order to reflect on the main responsibilities of their episcopal ministry.
“The fundamental gift you are called to cherish in the faithful entrusted to your pastoral care is that of divine sonship,” said the Pope, urging the bishops to work for the personal holiness of laypeople.
“Through your ministry of sanctification, you educate the faithful to participate with increasing intensity in the priestly, prophetic and royal office of Christ, helping them to build the Church, actively and responsibly, according to the gifts they have received from God.”
The Pope said bishops have to strike a balance between their legitimate role of governance and not stifling the freedom enjoyed by laypeople.
Bishops should do this by judging “the genuineness of charisms and their proper use, not extinguishing the Spirit, but testing and retaining what is good.”
At the same time, the Pope said lay Catholics have to be respectful of the bishop’s authority, as “it must always be clear that no charism can dispense from deferring and submitting to the pastors of the Church.”
The Pope concluded by reminding the bishops that, first and foremost, they have to become saints themselves so that the sanctity of their lives “will be an example and support to your priests.”
Together they will form “the choral communion of the Church” that can “bear witness to Jesus Christ, that the world may believe.”