ROME — Church unity is endangered especially by certain tactics of division favored by the devil himself, Pope Francis told bishops of mission territories on Friday.
“Division is the weapon the devil employs most to destroy the Church from within,” the pope said Sept. 9.
“He has two weapons, but the main one is division: the other is money. The devil enters through our pockets and destroys with the tongue, with idle chatter that divides, and the habit of gossiping is a habit of ‘terrorism’.”
“The gossip is a ‘terrorist’ who throws a grenade – chatter – in order to destroy,” he added. “Please, fight against division, because it is one of the weapons that the devil uses to destroy the local Church and the universal Church.”
The pope addressed his remarks to the participants in a seminar for bishops of mission territories which was held in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace.
Among Pope Francis’s other concerns were ethnic divisions in missionary territories. These “must not penetrate into the Christian communities to the point of prevailing over their own good.”
“These are challenges that are difficult to resolve, but with the grace of God, prayer, penance, it can be done,” the Roman Pontiff continued. “The Church is called to place herself above tribal and cultural connotations and the bishop, the visible principle of unity, has the task of ceaselessly building up the particular Church in the communion of all her members.”
The pope exhorted the bishops “to care for the flock and to go in search of sheep, especially those that are far away or lost.”
For Pope Francis, the bishops must seek out new ways of proclaiming the gospel and reaching out to people. They must work “to help those who have received the gift of baptism to grow in faith, so that believers, even those who are lukewarm or not practicing, may discover anew the joy of faith and evangelizing fruitfulness.”
He encouraged the bishops “to encounter those sheep that do not yet belong to Christ’s fold.”
Evangelism has an essential connection to proclaiming the Gospel “to those who do not know Jesus Christ or have always rejected him,” he added.
Lay Catholics should be encouraged to collaborate in mission work.
“Many lay faithful, immersed in a world marked by contradictions and injustices, are willing to seek the Lord and to bear witness to Him. It is up to the bishop, first and foremost, to encourage, accompany and stimulate all the attempts and all efforts made to keep hope and faith alive.”
“Care for the people God has entrusted to you, care for priests, care for seminarians. This is your task,” the pope told the bishops.
He encouraged them to be particularly involved in priestly formation and with their priests.
“Do not forget that for the bishop, the closest of the close is the priest. Every priest must be aware of the closeness of his bishop,” he said. “When a bishop receives a telephone call from a priest, or a letter, he must answer immediately, immediately! The same day, if possible. But that closeness must begin in the seminary, in formation, and continue.”
According to Pope Francis, bishops have the mission to “observe carefully the problems and practical questions of the society to be evangelized.” These require that bishops “tend towards the fullness of maturity in Christ.”
Through their witness, spiritual and intellectual maturity, and pastoral charity he asked, “may Christ’s charity and the Church’s care for all mankind shine ever more brightly in you.”