Directory 2004

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Congregation for Bishops, Apostolorum successores, “Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops.”

This “Directory” is available at the official Vatican web site.

Pope John Paul II, during an audience on 24 January 2004 with Cardinal Giovanni Battista (Prefect of the Congregation) and Francesco Monterisi (Secretary to the Congregation) approved the present Directory and ordered its publication. It was published in Rome on 22 February 2004.


“The present Directory, an updated and revised version of the one issued on 22 February 1973, has been prepared by the Congregation for Bishops in order to offer to the “Shepherds of Christ’s flock” a useful guide that will help them to exercise more fruitfully every aspect of their complex and difficult pastoral ministry in the Church and in the modern world. . . . Significantly, this Directory is being published shortly after the promulgation of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Gregis, which brought together the ideas and proposals of the Tenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, held in 2001 and devoted to a study of the episcopal ministry under the heading: “The Bishop, minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the hope of the world”.

122. Forms of Preaching

a) The Homily. As an integral part of the liturgy, which is the source and summit of the Church’s entire life (359), the homily is the most excellent and, in a certain sense, the sum of all forms of preaching. The Bishop should seek to expound Catholic truth in its fullness, in simple, familiar language, suited to the capacities of his hearers, focusing – unless particular pastoral reasons suggest otherwise – on the texts of the day’s liturgy. He should plan his homilies so as to elucidate the whole of Catholic truth.

b) Pastoral letters. On special occasions in the life of the diocese, the Bishop should also propose doctrine by means of pastoral letters and messages, addressed to the whole Christian community. These may appropriately be read out in Churches and oratories and also distributed in printed form among the faithful. In drafting these letters, the Bishop may wish to enlist the help of his advisers, of the presbyteral council and, if the case so warrants, of the diocesan pastoral council. These groups may suggest topics to be treated, present-day objections to be refuted, or they may point out issues arising in the diocese on which it is appropriate for the Bishop to speak authoritatively.

181. Diocesan Pastoral Structures

In order to ensure that the curia is also equipped to direct apostolic work (535), it is good to establish other offices or commissions, temporary or permanent, when there are sufficient resources available. These offices have the task of carrying out diocesan programmes and examining various pastoral and apostolic initiatives (such as those in the area of the family, education or the social apostolate). With the aid of the presbyteral and pastoral councils of the diocese, the Bishop studies the proposals put forward by these offices and makes the necessary decisions.
In order to determine which offices or commissions to establish, the Bishop will evaluate the particular needs and the local customs of the diocese, applying the guidelines of the Holy See and the recommendations of the Episcopal Conference. Whichever administrative model is adopted, it is important to avoid establishing and maintaining atypical structures of government that somehow replace or compete with those envisaged in canon law, since this would by no means promote the efficacy of pastoral governance. There is a corollary at parish level: the pastoral council and the parish priest should fulfil their respective roles effectively, avoiding any hint of congregationalism (536).

184. The Pastoral Council
Ideally, every diocese should establish a diocesan pastoral council, although not bound to do so by canonical discipline, thus expressing through this institution the participation of all the faithful, of whatever canonical state, in the Church’s mission. The pastoral council is composed of members of the faithful: clerics, members of institutes of consecrated life and especially laity (556). It falls to the council, under the authority of the Bishop, to “investigate and consider matters relating to pastoral activity and to formulate practical conclusions” (557). Its statutes are established and, when necessary, modified by the Bishop (558).
Even though the council does not, strictly speaking, represent the faithful, it should truly reflect the entire portion of the People of God which constitutes the particular Church. Its members should be chosen “with consideration given to the different areas of the diocese, social conditions and professions, and the role which they have in the apostolate whether individually or jointly” (559).
All the members of the pastoral council should be in full communion with the Catholic Church, outstanding in firm faith, good morals and prudence (560). It is for the Bishop to decide the method of electing members, by means of appropriate indications in the statutes: for example, by entrusting to parishes and other institutions the right to propose candidates. However, perhaps by the practice of confirming the election of members, the Bishop reserves to himself the right to exclude those who do not appear suitable.
The Bishop convokes the council at least once a year. He proposes the questions to be treated, he chairs the meetings, he decides whether or not it is appropriate to publish the themes considered and he determines how to reach conclusions (561). The council is therefore of a consultative nature (562). It should always be characterized by proper respect both for episcopal jurisdiction and for the autonomy of the faithful (as individuals or in associations). It should never claim the authority to direct or coordinate activities beyond its competence. Nevertheless, the Bishop should give due consideration to the opinions of the members of the council insofar as it is an expression of the responsible collaboration of the ecclesial community with his apostolic office.
The Bishop may propose themes for the council to discuss in connection with the pastoral activity of the diocese (563): these include the pastoral plan, various catechetical, missionary and apostolic initiatives, ways of improving the doctrinal formation and sacramental life of the faithful, assistance for the pastoral ministry of the clergy, and various means of raising public awareness regarding concerns of the Church.
For maximum effectiveness, the meetings of the council should be preceded by suitable preparation, arranged with the help of the pastoral institutions and offices of the diocese. It is helpful if the Bishops discuss the activity of diocesan pastoral councils at meetings of the Episcopal Conference, so that each Bishop in his own diocese can profit from the experience of others. The pastoral council ceases when a diocese is vacant (564) and it may be dissolved by the Bishop when it does not fulfil the tasks assigned to it.
(535) Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church Christus Dominus, 27.
(536) Cf. Code of Canon Law, cc. 519, 536.(556) Cf. Code of Canon Law, c. 512 § 1; JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, 45.
(557) Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church Christus Dominus, 27; Code of Canon Law, c. 511.
(558) Cf. Code of Canon Law, c. 513 § 1.
(559) Cf. Code of Canon Law, c. 512 § 2.
(560) Cf. Code of Canon Law, c. 512 § 1.
(561) Cf. Code of Canon Law, c. 514 § 1.
(562) Cf. ibid.
(563) Cf. Code of Canon Law, c. 511.
(564) Cf. Code of Canon Law, c. 513 § 2.