Bishop Robert Francis Prevost was named prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Bishops on Jan. 30, 2023. / Credit: Frayjhonattan, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Vatican City, May 5, 2023 / 07:50 am (CNA).

A bishop should nurture closeness to Christ, share the beauty of the faith, use social media wisely, and have a universal vision, the new head of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Bishops shared this week.

Archbishop Robert Francis Prevost, who took up his new role in April, spoke to Vatican News about what he considers to be the “portrait of a bishop.”

“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,” he told Vatican News.

“This comes first: to communicate the beauty of the faith, the beauty and joy of knowing Jesus,” he added. “It means that we ourselves are living it and sharing this experience.”

Prevost was appointed prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops by Pope Francis in January. A member of the Order of St. Augustine, Prevost had been bishop of Chiclayo, Peru, since 2015.

Born in Chicago in 1955, he led the Augustinian order as prior general from Rome for more than a decade after serving as a missionary priest for the order in Peru in the 1990s. 

In addition to leading the office responsible for helping the pope choose the world’s Catholic episcopate, Prevost is also president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

In a May 4 interview, he told Vatican News that “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,” he added.

He also said a bishop must be “Catholic” in the sense that he looks beyond his diocese to have a “broader vision of the Church and reality, and experience the universality of the Church.”

Part of this, he explained, is promoting unity with the pope.

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

Commenting on social media use by bishops, the prefect said there are situations in which one really has “to think several times before speaking or before writing a message on Twitter.”

When writing on social media, you are “in full view of everyone,” he noted.

“Sometimes there is a risk of fueling divisions and controversy,” he said. “There is a great responsibility to use social networks, communication, correctly, because it is an opportunity, but it is also a risk. And it can do damage to the communion of the Church. That is why one must be very prudent in the use of these means.”

Prevost also said a bishop should be able to listen to others and seek advice, in addition to being psychologically and spiritually mature.

The archbishop said bishops should “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.”

Addressing the role of the bishop in the Synod on Synodality, the prefect said “we must be able to listen to one another, to recognize that it is not a question of discussing a political agenda or simply trying to promote the issues that interest me or others.”

“Sometimes it seems that we want to reduce everything to wanting to vote and then doing what was voted for,” he said. “Instead, it is something much deeper and very different: We need to learn to really listen to the Holy Spirit and the spirit of truth-seeking that lives in the Church.”

“Move from an experience where authority speaks and it’s all over, to a Church experience that values the charisms, gifts, and ministries that there are in the Church.”