Council Summary of Chapter on Pastoral Duties of Bishops

Following is the council press office’s summary of the report on chapter two of the schema on the pastoral duties of bishops, as delivered at the council hall by Bishop Narciso Jubany Arnau of Gerona, Spain:

At the request of certain Fathers, the concept and function of the bishops as teachers has been set forth with greater accuracy. A proposition has been added to emphasize the duties of bishops to gather together and teach their entire flocks, and a second proposition brings into bolder relief the rights and obligations of the faithful to work for the growth of the Mystical Body of Christ.

Thus, there is a clearer explanation of the obligation of the faithful to be active in the apostolate. Special mention is also made of the particular concern which should animate bishops regarding special groups such as exiles and refugees.

The text of article 21, dealing with the complicated question of episcopal retirement, has remained unchanged. In the previous session, the text received only 57 negative votes, and the suggestions presented by some Fathers shed no new light on the question. The text of the schema reflects a middle course.

The relationship of auxiliary bishops to their Ordinaries was the subject of much discussion. As now presented, the text, instead of referring to auxiliaries as being dependent on the Ordinary alone, now reads “dependent on his authority.” The new text will satisfy those who asked that the faculties of the auxiliary bishop be broadened. It will also satisfy those who called for a clear affirmation of the sole authority of the diocesan bishop.

The commission revising the schema approved a proposal providing for the reorganization of cathedral chapters where necessary.

The text recommends that bishops invite their priests to joint discussions, especially regarding pastoral activities. The previous text, which obliged bishops to create what appeared to be a juridical body, has been modified.

The schema, when discussing the retirement of parish priests, has been made to correspond with the text governing the retirement of bishops. Besides advanced age, other “serious causes” are grounds for retirement. It has been made clear that the bishop is not obliged to wait for a priest’s resignation, but he can issue an invitation that it be submitted.

Great care was devoted to the question of the relationship of Religious orders with diocesan authority. The text tries to eliminate undue discrimination between diocesan and religious priests by affirming that all of them are cooperators with the bishop and share in the one priesthood of Christ. Religious are urged to carry on an active pastoral ministry in keeping with the nature of their institute. The obligation is not applicable to strictly contemplative orders.

The schema states that all Religious, whether exempt or not, are subject to their local Ordinary in the exercise of the sacred ministry. Nevertheless, an allowance has been made for the proper autonomy of Religious in regard to schools under their direction, without prejudice to the general direction and vigilance which is the right of the bishop.

All these principles presuppose a harmony between bishops and Religious. The text recommends consultations between bishops and Religious superiors not only regarding the activities carried on by the Religious, but also to discuss the apostolate in a given territory.

The commission did not agree with suggestions that conferences of major religious superiors be suppressed. It said such conferences exist in several nations with the approval of the Holy See, and they cannot and should not be ignored by episcopal conferences.

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