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Pastores Gregis:
Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation of John Paul II

10/16/2003 - 11:30 PM PST

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Pastores Gregis

POST-SYNODAL

APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION

PASTORES GREGIS

OF HIS HOLINESS

POPE JOHN PAUL II

ON THE BISHOP,

SERVANT OF THE GOSPEL

OF JESUS CHRIST

FOR THE HOPE OF THE WORLD

INTRODUCTION

1. The shepherds of the Lord's flock know that they can count on a special divine grace as they carry out their ministry as Bishops. In the Roman Pontifical, during the solemn prayer of episcopal ordination, the principal ordaining Bishop, after invoking the outpouring of the Holy Spirit who leads and guides, repeats a phrase already found in the ancient text of the Apostolic Tradition: "Grant, O Father, knower of all hearts, that this your servant, whom you have chosen for the office of Bishop, may shepherd your holy flock. May he fulfil before you without reproach the ministry of the High Priesthood.".1 In this way there continues to be carried out the will of the Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Shepherd, who sent the Apostles even as he himself was sent by the Father (cf. Jn 20:21), and who wishes that their successors, the Bishops, should remain shepherds in his Church until the end of time.2

The image of the Good Shepherd, so dear also to ancient Christian iconography, was very much present to the Bishops from throughout the world who gathered from 30 September to 27 October 2001 for the Tenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. At the tomb of the Apostle Peter, they joined me in reflecting on the figure of Lumen Gentium and in the Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops The Bishop, Servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the Hope of the World.10 In doing so, I send my fraternal greetings and the kiss of peace to all the Bishops in communion with this See, first entrusted to Peter so that he might be a guarantee of unity and, as is recognized by all, preside in love.11

To you, venerable and dear Brothers, I repeat the invitation that I addressed to the whole Church at the beginning of the millennium: Duc in altum! It is Christ himself who repeats these words to the Successors of those Apostles who heard them from his lips and who, putting their trust in him, set forth on mission along the byways of the world: Duc in altum (Lk 5:4). In the light of this pressing command from the Lord, ''we may reread the triple munus entrusted to us in the Church: munus docendi, sanctificandi et regendi ... Duc in docendo! With the Apostle we will say: 'Preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke and exhort be unfailing in patience and in teaching' (2 Tim 4:2). Duc in sanctificando! The 'nets' we are called upon to cast among men are, first of all, the sacraments, of which we are the principal dispensers, moderators, guardians and promoters. They form a sort of saving 'net,' which sets free from evil and leads to the fullness of life. Duc in regendo! As pastors and true fathers, assisted by the priests and other helpers, we have the task of gathering together the family of the faithful and in it fostering charity and brotherly communion. As arduous and laborious a mission as this may be, we must not lose heart. With Peter and the first disciples we too with great confidence renew our heartfelt profession of faith: Lord, 'at your word I will lower the nets' (Lk 5:5)! At your word, O Christ, we wish to serve ...

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