Bishops should never change diocese

Author: ZENIT


Cardinal Gantin's Revolutionary Proposal

VATICAN CITY, 27 MAY 1999 (ZENIT).- In an interview published in the latest edition of the Italian magazine '30 Giorni,' Cardinal Bernardin Gantin made a revolutionary proposal: "In principle, once appointed to a specific see, a bishop should remain there forever."

The African Cardinal knows very well what he is talking about. He is Dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals and, from 1984 to 1998, was prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, the Vatican organism which helps the Pope in the appointment of successors to the apostles in a great part of the world. In mission territories, this task is carried out by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. In the Eastern Catholic Churches, the bishops are chosen by other methods.

"When he is appointed, the bishop must be a father and a pastor before God and to the people. And when one is a father, one is so forever. Therefore, in principle, once appointed to a particular see, the bishop should remain there forever. This must be clear. The relation between a bishop and his diocese is akin to matrimony and, according to the evangelical spirit, indissoluble. The new bishop must not have other personal plans," the most distinguished Cardinal of the Catholic Church said.

With these statements, Cardinal Gantin added weight to the same proposal made by Cardinal Vincenzo Fagiolo to L'Osservatore Romano last March 27.

"A bishop cannot say, 'I am here for two or three years and later I shall be promoted because of my ability, talents and gifts...' " Cardinal Fagiolo said that on one occasion a bishop requested to be transferred to a more important diocese because "he had already done everything that had been requested of him."

It is a principle which in the early years of the Church was strictly observed. '30 Giorni' published a letter dated 380 written by Pope Damasus to the bishops of Macedonia in which he said: "Do not allow someone to be transferred from one city to another, abandoning the people who have been entrusted to him, going to another Church because of ambition, contrary to what was established by our Fathers."

At present, the Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops is preparing the Synod for the whole Church in the year 2000, whose theme will be, precisely, the figure of the bishop. Therefore, it must not be coincidental that two such competent Cardinals have made this proposal at this time. ZE99052701

This article has been selected from the ZENIT Daily Dispatch
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