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Be fatherly not overbearing pope tells bishops

PANAMA (CNS): Bishops should follow the example of St. Oscar Romero, who cared for his flock with the heart of a father rather than become authoritarians lording over those in their care, Pope Francis said at a meeting with Central American bishops in Panama on January 24.
After meeting with government officials earlier that day, the pope made his way by foot to the 17th century Church of St. Francis of Assisi near the historic section of Panama City, where he was greeted with cheers from hundreds of World Youth Day pilgrims gathered outside, including a group from El Salvador.
They held up a portrait of St. Oscar Romero, the recently canonised archbishop of San Salvador who is among the patron saints of the World Youth Day celebration, and chanted “Aqui esta San Romero y El Salvador” (St. Romero and El Salvador are here).
The pope was welcomed by Archbishop Jose Ulloa Mendieta of Panama, and Archbishop Jose Luis Escobar Alas of San Salvador, president of SEDAC, the Episcopal Secretariat of Central America.
The pope told the bishops that the World Youth Day celebrations offered them an opportunity to “encounter and draw even closer to the experiences of our young people, so full of hope and desires, but also many hurts and scars.”
He admonished them, “Snatch them from the streets before the culture of death can entice their young minds and sell its smoke and mirrors, or offer its chimerical ‘solutions’ to all their problems.” 
He stressed, “Do so, not paternalistically looking down from on high, because that is not what the Lord asks of us, but as true fathers and brothers to all.” 
The pope pointed out that St. Oscar Romero was neither an “ideologue or ideological” but was instead guided by the Second Vatican Council and showed that a pastor, “in order to seek and discover the Lord, must learn to listen to the heartbeat of his people.”
Pope Francis said, “It is important, brothers, that we not be afraid to draw near and touch the wounds of our people, which are our wounds, too, and to do this in the same way that the Lord himself does.” 
He urged bishops to be close to young people who often feel “boxed in” and seek easy solutions to difficult problems “that end up costing dearly.”
Bishops, he added, must also show great care for the well-being of their priests to ensure that compassion remains at the centre of their ministry.
“It is important that the parish priest encounter a father, a shepherd in whom he can see a reflection of himself, not an administrator concerned about ‘reviewing the troops,’” Pope Francis said.
“The joy of a father and pastor lies in seeing his children grow and become fruitful. Brothers, let this be our authority and the sign of our fruitfulness,” he said.
Departing from his prepared remarks, Pope Francis expressed his concern that compassion “has lost its centrality in the Church,” particularly within Catholic media.
“There is stigma, condemnation, viciousness, praising oneself, denunciations of heresy,” he said. “We cannot lose compassion in our Church, and bishops cannot lose the centrality of compassion.”

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