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What is a Bishop?
What is a Bishop?

As the authoritative teacher of those entrusted to his care, the bishop interprets the Christian revelation to his flock. At his ordination he is asked to confirm his beliefs in the major tenets of the Creed. He must set forth the moral teaching of Christ and make judgments on conditions within the diocese to which principles of social justice apply.

The apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Nuntiandi” (the Gospel must be proclaimed) sums up the thought of the Church on this point: “In union with the successor of Peter, the bishops, who are successors of the Apostles, receive through the power of their episcopal ordination the authority to teach the revealed truth in the Church. They are teachers of the faith” (EN, 68).

When it says that episcopal ordination confers the three tasks of sanctifying, teaching and governing, the Second Vatican Council speaks of three distinct but not separate tasks. It is a question, in fact, of three aspects of the one office of the pastor, the successor of the Apostles. Each of these tasks presupposes the other two. As regards his teaching task, the bishop is not only the one who instructs but who leads. His word is not only based on the truth; it is the way. It marks out a path, for the bishop is the head of the flock which he governs in order to lead it to meet the Lord. His teaching is also sanctifying (the Council says deliberately that the bishop is a spiritual guide). Through the specific dynamism of conversion and deepening of religious life, he gathers and constitutes the Christian community which reaches its culminating point in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist (SC,4l).

The bishop, as the local chief shepherd, encourages a spirit of prayer, celebrates the liturgy for all, works for peace and justice, especially for the poor and disenfranchised, and strives to promote a healthy ecumenism.

He is also an administrator of a specific area known as a diocese. There are 32 archdioceses and 146 dioceses in the United States. Dioceses generally follow natural and civil boundaries. The Diocese of Buffalo comprises all eight counties of Western New York: Erie, Niagara, Orleans, Genesee, Wyoming, Allegany, Cattaraugus and Chautauqua.

But the chief work of the bishop is to help people attain Christian perfection. As the Apostles were, he is particularly concerned with communicating the love of God and neighbor which inspires better living.