The pope’s new prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops shares a few thoughts with Vatican News: 

At the age of 67, Archbishop Robert Prevost is beginning his “novitiate” as prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops.

An Augustinian friar, Robert Francis Prevost was born in the US city of Chicago, and served first as a missionary and later as bishop in Chiclayo, Peru, before being chosen by Pope Francis to succeed Cardinal Marc Ouellet.

In the following interview with Vatican Media, he sketches a portrait of the type of bishop needed today.

Q: What has it mean for you to go from being a missionary bishop in Latin America to leading the dicastery that helps the Pope choose bishops?

Archbishop Prevost: I still consider myself a missionary. My vocation, like that of every Christian, is to be a missionary, to proclaim the Gospel wherever one is.

Certainly, my life has changed a lot: I have the opportunity to serve the Holy Father, to serve the Church today, here, from the Roman Curia. [It is] a very different mission from before, but also a new opportunity to live a dimension of my life, which simply was always answering ‘Yes’ when asked to do a service. With this spirit, I ended my mission in Peru, after eight and a half years as a bishop and almost twenty years as a missionary, to begin a new one in Rome.

Q: Could you offer an “identikit” of a bishop for the Church of our time?

First and foremost, he must be ‘Catholic’: sometimes the bishop risks focusing only on the local dimension. But a bishop should have a much broader vision of the Church and reality, and experience the universality of the Church.

He also needs the ability to listen to his neighbor and seek advice, as well as psychological and spiritual maturity.

A fundamental element of the portrait of a bishop is being a pastor, capable of being close to the members of the community, starting with the priests for whom the bishop is father and brother. To live this closeness to all, without excluding anyone.

Pope Francis has spoken of four types of closeness: closeness to God, to brother bishops, to priests, and to all God’s people. One must not give in to the temptation to live isolated, separated in a palace, satisfied with a certain social level or a certain level within the Church.

And we must not hide behind an idea of authority that no longer makes sense today. The authority we have is to serve, to accompany priests, to be pastors and teachers.

We are often preoccupied with teaching doctrine, the way of living our faith, but we risk forgetting that our first task is to teach what it means to know Jesus Christ and to bear witness to our closeness to the Lord. This comes first: to communicate the beauty of the faith, the beauty and joy of knowing Jesus. It means that we ourselves are living it and sharing this experience.

Q: How important is the bishop’s service of unity around the Successor of Peter in a time when polarization is also growing in the ecclesial community?

The three words we are using in the work of the Synod—participation, communion, and mission—provide the answer.

The bishop is called to this charism, to live the spirit of communion, to promote unity in the Church, unity with the Pope. This also means being Catholic, because without Peter, where is the Church? Jesus prayed for this at the Last Supper, ‘That all may be one,’ and it is this unity that we wish to see in the Church.

Today, society and culture take us away from that vision of Jesus, and this does so much harm. The lack of unity is a wound that the Church suffers, a very painful one.

Divisions and polemics in the Church do not help anything. We bishops especially must accelerate this movement towards unity, towards communion in the Church.

Read it all.