by Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis, ordaining two Vatican officials as bishops, told them to remember that behind every letter they receive, there is a real person.
U.S. Archbishop Peter B. Wells, the new nuncio to South Africa, and Spanish Bishop Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, were ordained by the pope March 19, the feast of St. Joseph and the third anniversary of the formal inauguration of Pope Francis’ papacy.
The two men were prostrate on a rug before the main altar in St. Peter’s Basilica as the congregation chanted the litany of the saints, begging for their assistance to the new bishops and the entire church.
Then the two, beginning with Bishop Ayuso, knelt before the pope as he laid his hands on their heads and ordained them to the episcopacy. The other cardinals and bishops concelebrating the Mass also laid their hands on them.
As is his custom, Pope Francis read the ritual homily for episcopal ordinations, but added his own comments and cautions.
The prepared text includes a reminder that Christ continues to preach, teach and sanctify his followers through the ministry of the bishop. “Christ who preaches, Christ who makes the church, makes the church fruitful, Christ who guides: this is the bishop,” the pope added.
Bishops must be men of prayer, he said. “If a bishop doesn’t pray, he can do nothing.”
Being named a bishop is being chosen to be a servant; it’s not an honor, the pope said. “Be servants of all — of the greatest and the least. Of all.”
Although the two new bishops are not leading dioceses, Pope Francis still told them that they must model their ministry on the “Good Shepherd, who knows his sheep.”
“Behind every letter you receive, there is a person,” he told the new bishops. “May that person be known by you and may be you be capable of knowing him or her.”
Pope Francis urged them to show particular care and concern for priests. “It makes me cry when I hear that a priest has asked to speak to his bishop and the secretary tells him, ‘He is very busy; he cannot see you for at least three months.'”
“Look people in the eye,” the pope told Archbishop Wells and Bishop Ayuso. It is the only way to see into someone’s heart and let them see into yours, he said.
Archbishop Wells, a 52-year-old priest of the Diocese of Tulsa, Oklahoma, has been in the Vatican diplomatic service since 1999. Pope Benedict in 2009 named him “assessor for general affairs,” a position in the Vatican secretariat of state that is similar to be deputy chief of staff. In February, Pope Francis named him an archbishop and nuncio to South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho and Namibia.
Bishop Edward J. Slattery of Tulsa, who once had then-Father Wells as his personal secretary, was at the Vatican for the ordination. He told reporters the future archbishop’s “enormous talent and love for the church” was always obvious and, in fact, when the Vatican first asked Bishop Slattery to release him for studies at the Vatican diplomatic academy, the bishop said, “no.”
“I thought they would forget about him, but they didn’t,” Bishop Slattery told journalists March 21.
Bishop Ayuso, a 63-year-old Comboni Missionary, has been secretary of the council for interreligious dialogue since 2012. In addition to a degree from Pontifical Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies, he has more than 20 years of pastoral experience in Egypt and Sudan.