Letter to Bishop Melchior Carneiro

Epistolarium (10)

Aurelio Porfiri

Your Excellency,

You were the first Bishop of Macau. After you a long stream of Bishops has guarded this city striving to make the people meet with Jesus Christ. I use the word “guarded” and not by chance. The episcopos was the head of the Synagogue and the meaning of this Greek word is “custodian”. A Bishop is there to custody the “building” of the faith, a faith that Is not his own possession but that he guards for the faithful Christians.   If the guardian is ineffective the “building” has to be safeguarded in other ways, not always orthodox.

This is why, as you may teach me, the role of a Bishop is important, because he has to protect from dangerous deviations from the faith.  Indeed the Canon Law we have today guarantees the faithful the right to admonish those (including Bishops) that are not faithful to their own mission: “Those engaged in the sacred disciplines have a just freedom of inquiry and of expressing their opinion prudently on those matters on which they posses expertise, while observing the submission due to the magisterium of the Church” (Canon 218).  Now, it is evident that this code of canon law was written by priests or bishops, because the phrases sweat fear of revolt, but the concept is quite clear: 99% (lay people) of the Church has the right to question the actions of the 1%.

So, I guess the role of a Bishop is very difficult, because the respect of the people has to be earned. I know of many cases of Bishops who are not respected by their own faithful and that are there as a vulnus in the local Church. A Bishop has to learn to gain the trust of his fellow Christians. In his speech in 340 Saint Augustine said it well: “for you I am Bishop, with you I am Christian”. And I am sure your job was not an easy one, having to preach Christ in a land that did not know Him. But indeed it is not very different from the role of many Bishops in today’s life. They have to announce Christ in a spiritual desert.

Aurelius scripsit

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