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Pope urges Armenians to elect bishops who are pastors

Pope Francis tells Armenian Catholic bishops' synod to select those 'devoted to the flock... not driven by personal ambition'
Pope Francis with the Armenian Catholic bishops.

Pope Francis with the Armenian Catholic bishops. (Photo: Vatican News)

Published: February 29, 2024 05:08 AM GMT
Updated: February 29, 2024 06:57 AM GMT

Pope Francis asked the Armenian Catholic bishops responsible for selecting their episcopal colleagues to choose bishops who are more interested in the people they serve than in advancing their church careers.

Meeting with the Armenian Catholic bishops' synod at the Vatican on Feb. 28, the pope asked them to select bishops who are "devoted to the flock, faithful to pastoral care and not driven by personal ambition."

Church law gives the patriarchs and synods of the Eastern churches a large degree of autonomy and decision-making power over the territory of their traditional homelands, including electing bishops, but gives the pope power over their dioceses in the rest of the world.

He warned them against selecting bishops who see their eparchy -- an eastern rite ecclesial unit equivalent to a diocese -- as "a stepping-stone" before reaching another, more prestigious posting. Such bishops, he wrote, risk committing "pastoral adultery."

Still suffering from a mild cold, an aide read the pope's prepared remarks to the bishops. The pope briefly went to a Rome hospital after his general audience later in the day for medical tests, the Vatican said.

"The children of your dear people need the closeness of their bishops," Pope Francis wrote. "I know that they are in diaspora throughout the world in great numbers and sometimes in vast territories, where it is difficult for them to be visited, yet the Church is a loving Mother and she cannot fail to seek every possible means of reaching them and offering them God's love in their own ecclesial tradition."

The pope wrote that although their church may be small in numbers, "God loves to work wonders in those who are small," and he asked them to care for the poor "by exemplifying an evangelical life far removed from the pomp of riches and the arrogance of power, by welcoming refugees and by supporting those in the diaspora as brothers and sisters, sons and daughters."

He asked that they have a "pastoral care of vocations" by ensuring that seminarians and others formed in religious life "be solidly grounded in an authentic Christian life, far from any 'princely pretensions.'"

Through closeness to their bishops, seminarians must learn how to be docile to the Holy Spirit and serve the people of God "with joy born of charity, not with the unbending and insensitive attitudes of bureaucrats," he wrote.

The pope also recalled the people fleeing Nagorno-Karabakh, an Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan that was taken back by the local military in September 2023, causing more than 100,000 ethnic Armenians residing in the territory to flee into Armenia. "Let us all take up the cry for peace, so that it may touch hearts, even hearts untouched by the sufferings of the poor and lowly," he said.

Pope Francis asked the bishops to pray with him "in anticipation of the day when God willing, we will be able to celebrate him at the same altar with our brothers and sisters of the Armenian Apostolic Church," an Oriental Orthodox church.

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I am the Good Shepherd - says the Lord. I know my own and my own know me.
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