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Pope to US Jesuit magazine: Don’t confuse bishops with bishops’ conference


Antoine Mekary | ALETEIA

Isabella H. de Carvalho - published on 11/28/22

In an interview with America media, Pope Francis talks about the unique role of bishops and the place of women in the Church.

In an interview published November 28, 2022, with the US Jesuit media outlet, America, Pope Francis commented on many topics currently trending in the news concerning the Church. Notably, he highlighted the unique and important role that bishops play and spoke about the different functions that women can have within the Church.

“Jesus did not create bishops’ conferences”

In answering a question concerning a survey showing American Catholics’ lack of trust towards the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Pope Francis emphasized that the “bishops’ conference is not the pastor; the pastor is the bishop.”

“Jesus did not create bishops’ conferences. Jesus created bishops, and each bishop is pastor of his people,” the Pontiff said.

While the bishops’ conference is an important “symbol of unity” the “grace of Jesus Christ” rests in the bishop’s unique authority, relationship, and pastoral responsibility vis-a-vis his people and diocese, Pope Francis explained. 

This role cannot be reduced to the power of the bishops’ conference or to political dichotomies of left and right or liberal and conservative, he continued. In fact, the Pontiff also insisted that “polarization is not Catholic,” as a Catholic should always “harmonize differences” and think in terms of “both-and,” not “either-or.” 

The Pope cited Bishop of El Paso, Mark Seitz, pointing to him as a “bishop about whom I do not know if he is conservative, or if he is progressive, if he is of the right or of the left, but he is a good pastor …”

Bishops’ relationship with the people also on sensitive issues 

On sensitive topics such as abortion or racism, Pope Francis emphasized that above all a pastor needs to exercise the “sacramental part of the pastoral ministry” by developing a relationship with his people. 

“A bishops’ conference has, ordinarily, to give its opinion on faith and traditions, but above all on diocesan administration and so on,” the Pope emphasized, responding to a question on whether the bishops’ conference should prioritize the fight against abortion above other issues. 

In responding to a question on how to encourage Black Catholics to stay in the Church, Pope Francis explained that a more “mature pastoral development is needed.” Church members and leaders need to be close to those being discriminate against, and help continue to fight this issue, he said. 

The role of women in the Church 

In responding to a question on how to comfort women who are active in the Church, but feel called to be priests, Pope Francis encouraged them to think of other roles in the Church, aside from ordained ministry, which includes deacons and priests. 

“Why can a woman not enter ordained ministry? It is because the Petrine principle has no place for that,” the Pontiff stated clearly. He emphasized instead the “Marian principle, which is the principle of femininity (femineidad) in the church, of the woman in the church, where the church sees a mirror of herself because she is a woman and a spouse.” 

Pope Francis underlined that this Marian principle is just as or more important as the Petrine one because the Church is “more than a ministry, it is the whole people of God.”

The Pontiff contrasted these two theological principles, of Mary and Peter, with a third administrative role, which he explained is not theological, but concerns the management of the Church. He encouraged giving more space to women in this sphere, saying that when he placed women in leadership positions in the Vatican, such as in the Council for the Economy, there were positive and constructive improvements. 

To read the full interview, which also touched on topics such as the war in Ukraine, the Holy See’s relationship with China and the abuse crisis, click here to go to America’s website. 

InterviewsPope FrancisVaticanWomen
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