Redemptoris Missio 63: Bishops

When Pope John Paul  II writes of “Those Primarily Responsible for Missionary Activity,” he means bishops.

Just as the risen Lord gave the universal missionary mandate to the College of the Apostles with Peter as its head, so this same responsibility now rests primarily with the College of Bishops, headed by the successor of Peter.(Cf. Ad Gentes 38) Conscious of this responsibility, I feel the duty to give expression to it in my meetings with the bishops, both with regard to new evangelization and the universal mission.

One of the reasons he was so well-travelled:

I have traveled all over the world in order “to proclaim the Gospel, to ‘strengthen the brothers’ in the faith, to console the Church, to meet people. They are journeys of faith…they are likewise opportunities for traveling catechesis, for evangelical proclamation in spreading the Gospel and the apostolic Magisterium to the full extent of the world.”(Address to Cardinals and those associated in the work of the Roman Curia, Vatican City and the Vicariate of Rome, June 28, 1980, 10)

Vatican II provided the modern foundation for the impulse for worldwide evangelization, so the citations here are from the 1960s. First, the Constitution on the Church:

My brother bishops are directly responsible, together with me, for the evangelization of the world, both as members of the College of Bishops and as pastors of the particular churches. In this regard the Council states: “The charge of announcing the Gospel throughout the world belongs to the body of shepherds, to all of whom in common Christ gave the command.”(Lumen Gentium 23)

This charge is not necessarily personal to any bishop. Each individual best judges how to recruit, hire, and inspire those who are practically responsible for the day-to-day work of ministry.

The 1965 document on missionary activity offered a bit more detail, first a note that the vision for episcopal ministry is not confined to a diocese. In other words, he’s not a regional manager:

It also stated that the bishops “have been consecrated not only for a particular diocese but for the salvation of the entire world.”(Ad Gentes 38)

One aspect of collegiality:

This collegial responsibility has certain practical consequences. Thus, “the Synod of Bishops … should, among the concerns of general importance, pay special attention to missionary activity, the greatest and holiest duty of the Church.”(Ibid., 29)

The role of conferences of bishops:

The same responsibility is reflected to varying degrees in Episcopal Conferences and their organisms at a continental level, which must make their own contribution to the missionary task.(Cf. ibid., 38)

Within the boundaries of a diocese, the missionary effort needs attention:

Each bishop too, as the pastor of a particular church, has a wide-ranging missionary duty. It falls to him “as the ruler and center of unity in the diocesan apostolate, to promote missionary activity, to direct and coordinate it…. Let him also see to it that apostolic activity is not limited only to those who are already converted, but that a fair share both of personnel and funds be devoted to the evangelization of non-Christians.”(Ibid., 30)

This document is available online here and is © Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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