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The ‘job’ of the bishop, the new volume by Father Sapienza


Father Leonardo Sapienza, regent of the Prefecture of the Papal Household, edited a new volume dedicated to the profession of the bishop through the enlightening thought of Paul VI. The book is entitled ‘Povero cuore di vescovo’ (Vivere In editions). Sapienza returns to June 11, 1973 when Paul VI inaugurates the tenth General Assembly of the Italian Bishops’ Conference. “While he sees many mitred heads parading in front of him – writes Sapienza speaking of Montini – he whispers kindly to Mons. Virgilio Noè, master of pontifical ceremonies: ‘How much holy spirit!’. Paul VI loved the Italian Bishops so much, that he could follow from close “. The text is very topical. “Knowing so many particular situations of tensions and pressures in many dioceses – writes Sapienza referring to Pope Montini – during that mass he asked: ‘… you say it is easy today to be a bishop?’. In Italy, heir to an excellent, but perhaps now a bit tired and usual religious formation, ‘nobody will mean that it is easy today to be a bishop!’ (11 April 70) “.” It takes courage, it takes faith – recalls the regent of the Prefecture of the Papal Household today – to respond to such a vocation. Perhaps this is why more and more cases of candidates for the episcopate are repeated. they do not accept such an investiture. Paul VI himself reminds us: ‘It is not surprising that we often notice … as candidates called to the episcopate try to decline this office, which today not only for intrinsic needs, but also for many extrinsic difficulties seems to be become unbearable ‘(April 11, 1970) “. The bishop, writes Father Sapienza, “is a shepherd: a total, supreme gift, a joyful gift. But, many times, also a painful gift!” The bishop – recalls Sapienza referring to a speech by Paul VI on 30 June 1974 – is a heart, where all humanity finds a welcome ‘”. Paul VI will say: “Poor heart of a bishop, how will he be able to take on such breadth?”. He clarifies Sapienza: “The bishop is the guarantor and promoter of plurality and unity. Always committed to curbing forward flight and stimulating those who slow down the journey.” In the volume, Father Sapienza reports the words of an elderly prelate who, recounting the his own experience, “he let himself go to bitter memories: ‘Even if there had been a hint of vagueness, in desiring the episcopate, the bitter experience after only a year brings you back to sad reality. Distrust, difficulty, hostility, adversity; divisions and oppositions in the clergy, refusal of commitment on the part of the laity … The great temptation is that of despair and mistrust. In the balance: the bishop is a victim! ‘”. Nonetheless, Father Sapienza considers, “there are still those who desire – with a certain amount of recklessness – ardently ‘make a career’ desiring the episcopate”. Leonardo Sapienza delivers an anecdote that can be a warning to those who still struggle for their career today as then: “It tells of an Official who was pawing to become a bishop. His superior had coined a good-natured advice that gave to collaborators: ‘Give him what he asks, so as not to give him what he wants. ‘And the person concerned, seeing his desire fade by now, kept repeating:’ I can’t bite, let me bark ‘”. Father Sapienza concludes in a summary of Montini’s thought:” presbyters, to form seminarians, to speak to the laity of today, fascination is not enough, oceanic gatherings are not enough; we need a doctrine. We need an example and an authoritative word “.



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