- Address to the La Sapienza Univeristy, 17 January 2008
02 February 2008
In the New Testament, the word “bishop” – episkopos –, the immediate meaning of which indicates an “overseer”, had already been merged with the Biblical concept of Shepherd: the one who observes the whole landscape from above, ensuring that everything holds together and is moving in the right direction. Considered in such terms, this designation of the task focuses the attention first of all within the believing community. The Bishop – the Shepherd – is the one who cares for this community; he is the one who keeps it united on the way towards God, a way which, according to the Christian faith, has been indicated by Jesus – and not merely indicated: He himself is our way. Yet this community which the Bishop looks after – be it large or small – lives in the world; its circumstances, its history, its example and its message inevitably influence the entire human community. The larger it is, the greater the effect, for better or worse, on the rest of humanity. Today we see very clearly how the state of religions and the situation of the Church – her crises and her renewal – affect humanity in its entirety. Thus the Pope, in his capacity as Shepherd of his community, is also increasingly becoming a voice for the ethical reasoning of humanity.