54. It is advisable that the office of episcopal vicar for religious be set up in the diocese to render a service of collaboration, in this field, with the pastoral ministry of the bishop. This office, however, does not assume any role proper to the authority of superiors. It is up to each residential bishop to determine clearly the specific competencies of such an office and, after careful examination, entrust it to a competent person, well acquainted with the religious life, who knows how to appreciate it and desires to see it prosper.
A bishop’s authority is not transferred to such a post. We seem to be discussing an important go-between who can assist religious communities directly and maintain communication with the diocese. Contact with and input from these communities is more strongly recommended than the office of vicar:
As regards the discharge of such an office, it is strongly recommended that the various categories of religious: namely priests, brothers and women religious possessing the necessary qualities, have a part in it in a suitable way (for example, as consultors or under some other similar title).
The mandate, then, of episcopal vicar for religious congregations consists in helping accomplish a task which of its nature pertains exclusively to the bishop, that is, watching over religious life in the diocese and integrating it into its complex of pastoral activities. Wherefore, it would likewise seem desirable that bishops prudently consult religious on the choice of the candidate.
It would seem that such a post could be occupied by a lay person. It might be prudent to appoint a woman religious in many places.
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