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BIshops, Synodality, and Communion: Unity in Christ by Archbishop Anthony FIsher OP. Image: Book Cover
BIshops, Synodality, and Communion: Unity in Christ by Archbishop Anthony FIsher OP. Image: Book Cover

Bishops, Synodality, and Communion: Unity in Christ by Archbishop Anthony FIsher OP.

This is a book for bishops. I am one bishop who is grateful to have read it. It was a very beneficial source for personal reflection and offered much to ponder both from history and from current experience.

It is a book for bishops to assist them in being the bishops needed for our times, and it is a way for a bishop to have a personal retreat, quietly reflecting on his life and ministry.

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Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP has provided a valuable service to his brethren in the episcopate.

Archbishop Fisher was asked by Archbishop Jose Gomez, the then-president of the United States Conference of Bishops, to address a special assembly of the US bishops in 2022. He was asked to give a series of talks spanning the course of a week.

The decision to hold this special assembly was prompted by a perceived need for the bishops of the US to strengthen their communion with one another during a time when pressures threatened their unity.

The seven chapters of the book are the talks given over the week. At their heart is the call to fraternity, or in current church language, communio.

Archbishop Fisher explores the beginnings of episcopal communio among the twelve apostles and their efforts to work in collaboration with one another as the church evolved during its earliest times.

In particular, he examines the first real challenge to work together to resolve a pastoral issue threatening the unity of the church. He explores how the first bishops went about finding a solution to the question of the status of church vis-à-vis Judaism.

He examines the process involved in the Council of Jerusalem. Archbishop Fisher also offers some interesting insights into the relationship between St Peter and St Paul, which highlights how two very different characters can work in a complementary way for the building up of the church.

BIshops, Synodality, and Communion: Unity in Christ by Archbishop Anthony FIsher OP. Cover: Supplied
BIshops, Synodality, and Communion: Unity in Christ by Archbishop Anthony FIsher OP. Cover: Supplied

His treatment of the emerging understanding of the identity and role of the bishop in the early centuries is explored through the contributions of several outstanding figures in the early centuries: St Ignatius of Antioch, St John Chrysostom and St Cyril of Alexandria.

Moving to medieval times he speaks of the views on episcopal identity in St Albert the Great and, of course, St Thomas Aquinas. Here he offers many engaging insights into the changing understanding of the nature of episcopal leadership.

Moving to our contemporary understanding of the identity and role of the bishop, the book considers the teaching emerging from the Second Vatican Council where the term “collegiality” was promoted.

This, in turn, fostered an emphasis in ecclesiology on the concept of communio. The archbishop then considers the emphasis of Pope Francis on synodality and its implications for episcopal ministry.

Having laid these foundations, the book then moves to explore three keys for episcopal communion—the spiritual life of the bishop, the fostering of genuine friendships among bishops and the central task of bishops as preachers.

These chapters touch on the daily reality of being a bishop and speak directly to the challenges bishops face in being all that they are meant to be.

The book offers material worthy of reflection by current bishops. I found these chapters very helpful in my own evaluation of both my pattern of life and ministry.

His concluding chapter has a beautiful exposition of the friendship of two bishops from Cappadocia, St Basil of Caesarea and St Gregory Nazianzen, whose close friendship from their youth was at times tested by circumstances and personal views on various issues, but endured in quite a remarkable fashion.

It is a book for bishops as its genesis were the talks given to bishops in the United States.

However, it is also a book for those who love their bishops and are concerned for their welfare. It offers a window into the often-mysterious world of being a bishop in the Catholic Church.

It is a sympathetic exposition on the burden and blessing of being a bishop at this moment in history. I found it refreshing and stimulating, and would highly recommend it.

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