This was Pope Francis’ request at morning Mass in the Casa Santa Marta.
The Pope reflected on the Acts of the Apostles where Paul exhorts the “elders” of the Church of Ephesus to watch over themselves and their flock, to be pastors attentive to the “ravenous wolves. ”
It is, he said, according to Vatican Radio reports, one of the “most beautiful pages of the New Testament, full of tenderness, of pastoral love” from which emerges the “beautiful relationship of the bishop with his people.”
Bishops and priests, he explained, are at the service of others, to preserve, build and defend the people of God. Theirs is, “a relationship of protection and love between God and the pastor and the pastor and the people”. ”
“In the end, a bishop is not a bishop for himself. He is for the people, and a priest is not a priest for himself. He, [too], is for the people: to serve [them], to nurture them, to shepherd them, that are his flock – in order to defend them from the wolves. It is beautiful to think this! When the bishop does this, there is a good relationship with the people, such as Paul the bishop did with his people, no? And when the priest [builds] that good relationship with the people, it gives us a love: a love that [unites] them, a true love, and the Church becomes united”.
“We [bishops and priests] need your prayers,” he said, “for, even the bishop and the priest may be tempted.” Bishops and priests should pray much, proclaim Jesus Christ Risen, and “boldly preach the message of salvation.”
However, he said, “We are men and we are sinners,” and, “we are tempted.”.
“St. Augustine, commenting on the prophet Ezekiel, speaks of two [temptations]: wealth, which can become greed, and vanity. He says, ‘When the bishop, the priest takes advantage of the sheep for himself, the dynamic changes: it is not the priest, the bishop, for the people – but the priest and the bishop who take from the people.’ St. Augustine says, ‘He takes the meat from the sheep to eat [it], he takes advantage; he makes deals and is attached to money; he becomes greedy and even sometimes practices simony. Perhaps he takes advantage of the wool for vanity, in order to vaunt himself.'”
So , the Pope observes, “when a priest, a bishop goes after money, the people do not love him – and that’s a sign. But he ends badly.” St. Paul reminds us that he worked with his hands. “He did not have a bank account, he worked, and when a bishop, a priest goes on the road to vanity, he enters into the spirit of careerism – and this hurts the Church very much – [and] ends up being ridiculous: he boasts, he is pleased to be seen, all powerful – and the people do not like that!” “Pray for us,” the Pope repeated, “that we might be poor, that we might be humble, meek, in the service of the people.”
Finally, he suggested to the faithful that they read Acts 20:28-30, where Paul says, “Take heed to yourselves, and to the whole flock, wherein the Holy Ghost hath placed you bishops, to rule the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. I know that, after my departure, ravening wolves will enter in among you, not sparing the flock.And of your own selves shall arise men speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them”.
“Read this fine passage, and while reading it, pray, pray for us bishops and priests. We have such need in order to stay faithful, to be men who watch over the flock and also over ourselves, who make the vigil their own, that their heart be always turned to [the Lord’s] flock. [Pray] also that the Lord might defend us from temptation, because if we go on the road to riches, if we go on the road to vanity, we become wolves and not shepherds. Pray for this, read this and pray. So be it”.