Today is the very beautiful solemnity of St. Joseph, a holiday in the Vatican, and the onomastico, or name day, of Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, né Joseph Ratzinger. And, as I wrote yesterday, this is also Father’s Day in Italy!

In addition to being a day off for Vatican and Roman Curia employees, it was a very special morning for two priests who work at the Vatican and for large numbers of people whom they count as friends, yours truly included. You see, Pope Francis conferred episcopal ordination on two monsignori this morning in an always beautiful and moving ceremony that took place during Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.

I do not know Bishop Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, but I’ve known Oklahoma-born Msgr. Peter Wells for many years and he has graced my table for dinner a number of times. Peter now has a standing invitation to dinner whenever he returns to the Eternal City from his new assignment as Apostolic Nuncio to South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, and Namibia. Until February 9, he was the Assessor for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State, essentially a deputy to the Substitute for General Affairs, or deputy chief of staff.

Pope Francis embraces the new Archbishop Peter Wells –


The General Affairs section handles the normal operations of the Church such as organizing Roman Curia activities, making appointments to curia offices, publishing official communications, including papal documents, and handling diplomatic matters such as the concerns of embassies accredited to the Holy See and the concerns and activities of the Holy See embassies around the world.

Apostolic nuncios or papal ambassadors have the rank of archbishop.

I enjoyed the Pope’s homily so much this morning but cannot find the full text on the Vatican websites – probably because it is a holiday and few people are in the trenches.

Pope Francis spoke a number of times off the cuff, as is his wont on many occasions, and his words were so heartfelt and touching about the duties of a bishop. Three points were important for me: his insistence that a bishop’s ministry is to serve, not be served or seek favor or honor; that a bishop’s best friends and closest collaborators are his priests and he should always be close to them; that behind every piece of paper, every letter, every document that falls into a bishop’s hands there is a person, a human face. Be sure to see the person, said Francis, not the piece of paper

The only reference to the ordination and the papal homily that I found came from the ever faithful Vatican Radio personnel – there is always a small number in the trenches at VR. Here is a report Christopher Wells:

In Saint Peter’s Basilica on Saturday morning, Pope Francis ordained two priests to the episcopate and, in his homily, he reminded the new bishops that they are called to be servants to all.

Pope Francis based his homily on the sermon given in the Roman Pontifical for the Ordination of Bishops. He emphasized that when a bishop exercises his ministry, it is Christ Himself who acts: “Christ who preaches, Christ who makes the Church, Christ who makes the Church fruitful, Christ who leads.”

The Pope reminded the new bishops that they are “servants to all, … the great and the least, always servants, always at the service of others.”

“Do not forget,” he said, “that the first duty of the Bishop is prayer… the second duty, the proclamation of the Word.” Everything else follows. If a Bishop does not pray, Pope Francis said, he can do nothing.

The Pope also emphasized the importance of loving those the Lord has entrusted to their care, and especially the priests and deacons. They are the closest collaborators of the Bishop, his first “neighbor.” If the bishop does not learn to love those closest to him, he will not be able to love everyone.

And Pope Francis called on bishops to really look at the faithful – not obliquely, but looking them in the eye, so they can see them with the heart.

The Holy Father concluded his homily with the prayer that the Lord might accompany the new bishops, and be close to them on the new journey that they have begun.