Pope Francis has instructed Italian bishops to respect the strength of the laity and behave more like pastors rather than “pilots” ordering the faithful around.
At the start of the Italian bishops’ conference plenary meeting this week the Pope said: “Laypeople with an authentic Christian formation should not need a bishop-guide or a ‘monsignor-pilot’ or clerical input to assume their own responsibilities at all levels, political to social, economic to legislative. Instead they need a bishop-pastor.”
Part of a bishop’s role is “reinforcing the indispensable role of the laity willing to take on the responsibilities that belong to them”, said Francis, who also urged bishops to show more humility, compassion, mercy and wisdom and go “where the Holy Spirit asks them to go”.
He also used the occasion to renew his condemnation of corruption. Italy has been mired in scandals this year with investigations into the football leagues, the Milan Expo trade fair, and the city administrations of Rome and Venice.
Despite repeated attempts to clean up politics and business, Italy still ranks 69 out of 175 countries in Transparency International’s corruption index, below most European nations.
Francis said that bishops must not be “timid … in denouncing and fighting against a widespread mentality of the public and private corruption that shamelessly impoverishes families, pensioners, honest workers and Christian communities, discarding the young, who are systematically deprived of any hope for their future, and above all marginalising the weak and the needy”.