Bishops must be good listeners, says Vatican nun who helps select them

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – If the perfect bishop does not exist, he must be a person who knows how to involve others in the life of the Church and listen to everyone, including those with whom he may disagree, says a new member of the Dicastery for Bishops.

French Salesian Sister Yvonne Reungoat told Vida Nueva, a Spanish publication reporting on the Catholic Church, that “the ideal bishop does not exist.” But he must be a pastor “close to the people entrusted to him, he must know how to involve priests, lay people and religious, and people of different generations”.

“The way of synodality” is essential for this process, and “it must be the usual way of animating the church to foster collegiality,” she told the publication in an interview posted online on 24 July.

Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, who heads the dicastery, once told Vida Nueva that “30% of people chosen to be bishops reject the appointment.” The publication asked Sister Reungoat what could explain this situation.

“It can be difficult to accept the responsibility of being a bishop of a particular church, with all the joys, challenges and complaints that entails,” she said.

“That’s why I think that in order to be a bishop, you have to have the ability to listen, both to those who have the same ideas and to those who protest. It’s not easy. You just have to think about the question of abuse, which has marked the life of the Church in various parts of the world in recent years,” she added.

In mid-July, Pope Francis appointed 14 new members to the dicastery tasked with helping the pope choose bishops for Latin Rite dioceses outside the Church’s mission territories. For the first time, the members included women: two nuns and one laywoman. Before Pope Francis’ reform of the Roman Curia took effect in June, the members of the dicastery were only cardinals and a few bishops.

The members meet twice a month to review the files submitted by the Vatican nuncios on potential candidates and to vote on the names they recommend to the pope.

Sister Reungoat, a former superior general of her order, told Vida Nueva that it is important for women to have a role in the appointment of new bishops.

The presence of women in the dicastery will enable visions and sensitivity or awareness that are both common to men and women and “complementary”, she said.

Women are more likely to work very closely and have “direct contact” with people and situations “on the ground”, she said. “We have knowledge that starts from reality. This experience is also about listening to and talking to this reality.”

Having this “complementary vision” can help to “get closer to reality, which is complex” and varied since the bishops serve in different parts of the world, and the dicastery must study and discern a lot of information coming from the different nunciatures, a- she declared.

Seeing more women represented at high levels in the church can inspire women to feel more involved, she said. However, having a woman in a particular position “does not mean that the situation will automatically change. There needs to be a reciprocal openness”.

It is a path that opens by “walking together”. We have to give women their place, but we also have to accept our position, because sometimes we back down because we think we are not up to it or that it does not concern us. We must also have the courage and simplicity to be ourselves to enter a path that is opening up,” Sister Reungoat said.

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