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Magisterial Documents: Pastores Gregis

Magisterial Documents: Pastores Gregis

John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Gregis on the Bishop, Servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the Hope of the World
October 16, 2003
The full document is available on the internet.

Brief Introduction

The post-synodal apostolic exhortation Pastores Gregis (The Shepherds of the Flock [PG]) is the result of the Tenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops from September 30-October 27, 2001, which reflected on “the Bishop, Servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the hope of the world." John Paul II published the exhortation on the 25th anniversary of his election as successor of St. Peter and Bishop of Rome. In a certain sense the synodal document builds a bridge between the second and third millennia, offering doctrinal, spiritual, and pastoral principles for the bishop as bearer and bringer of hope to the world.

Marian Aspects

Bishops are encouraged to take the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Hope, as their example (art. 3) and to entrust themselves to her, the perfect teacher of the spiritual life (art. 13). Both aspects are reinforced in articles 14 and 74 as a safeguard for the indissoluble bond uniting Mary and the successors of the Apostles as on Pentecost (cf. Acts 1:14). Towards this end, bishops are called upon to further Marian piety in their diocese. Individual and communal devotional practices, approved and recommended by the Church’s long Tradition, above all the recitation of the rosary, are to be promoted by the bishop who is likewise called to implement such devotions in his own spiritual life. During the liturgical year, bishops are to celebrate the sacraments as nourishment on the earthly pilgrimage and as foretaste of its glorious destination whereby the memory of the Blessed Virgin Mary is to be treasured (art. 33, 36, 40).


Introduction 1-5

Chapter One: The Mystery and Ministry of the Bishop 6-10

Chapter Two: The Spiritual Life of the Bishop 11- 25

Chapter Three: Teacher of The Faith and Herald of the Word 26-31

Chapter Four Minister: Of the Grace of the High Priesthood 32-41

Chapter Five: The Pastoral Governance of the Bishop 42-54

Chapter Six: In the Communion of the Churches 55-65

Chapter Seven: The Bishop Before the Challenges of the Present 66-72

Conclusion 73-74

Core Marian Passages

Mary, Mother of Hope and teacher of the spiritual life

The Bishop will also find support for his spiritual life in the maternal presence of the Virgin Mary, Mater spei et spes nostra, as the Church invokes her. The Bishop will therefore nourish an authentic and filial devotion to Mary, and feel himself called to make her fiat his own, re-experiencing and re-appropriating each day Jesus' entrusting of Mary at the foot of the Cross to the Beloved Disciple, and of the Beloved Disciple to Mary (cf. Jn 19:26-27). The Bishop is also called to reflect the unanimous and persevering prayer of Christ's disciples and Apostles with his Mother in preparation for Pentecost. This icon of the nascent Church manifests the indissoluble bond uniting Mary and the successors of the Apostles (cf. Acts 1:14).

The holy Mother of God will consequently be the Bishop's teacher in listening to the word of God and promptly putting it into practice, as a faithful disciple of the one Teacher, in firm faith, confident hope and ardent charity. As Mary was the ''memory'' of the incarnation of the Word in the first Christian community, so the Bishop must preserve and pass on the living Tradition of the Church, in communion with all the other Bishops, in union with, and under the authority of, the Successor of Peter.

The Bishop's solid Marian devotion will be constantly related to the liturgy, where the Blessed Virgin is particularly present in the celebration of the mysteries of salvation and serves as a model of docility and prayer, of spiritual oblation and motherhood for the whole Church. Indeed, it will be the Bishop's responsibility to ensure that the liturgy always appears ''as an 'exemplary form', a source of inspiration, a constant point of reference and the ultimate goal'' for the Marian piety of the People of God.64 While holding to this principle, the Bishop will also nourish his personal and communitarian Marian devotion by devotional practices approved and recommended by the Church, especially by the recitation of that compendium of the Gospel which is the Holy Rosary. Being himself completely familiar with this prayer, completely centred as it is on the contemplation of the saving events of Christ's life with which his holy Mother was closely associated, every Bishop is also called to promote diligently its recitation.65 14

© This material has been compiled by Danielle M. Peters, S.T.D.
Copyright is reserved for The Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute.
Most recently updated in 2017.

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