On the morning of March 27, Pope Francis met with seminarians from the Calabria region of Italy and bishops who came to report their work in the Vatican. He encouraged the bishops to take into account the signs of the times in the work of cultivating priests. Hand in hand.
(Vatican News Network)On the morning of March 27, Pope Francis received bishops, abbots, priests and seminarians from the Calabria region of Italy in the Vatican. The dean of the seminary, priests and seminarians met the Pope together with the bishops of the region when they came to report to the Pope.
In his speech, the Pope especially thanked the abbot of the seminary and the priests responsible for the training, pointing out that the training of seminarians is an “unknown and arduous work, which requires daily and uninterrupted companionship.” Calabria has a cultural and spiritual heritage that “links East and West,” despite its reputation for often making crime-related headlines, the pope said. Without “renewing the mission to promote evangelization and priestly formation”, the Pope emphasized, “it will only remain in the memory of a glorious history”.
Priesthood Pursuit of Fame Is a Plague
Next, the Pope shared with the bishops and priests and seminarians a sentence from the Gospel of John: “They dwelt with him” (cf. Jn 1:39). This sentence reminds priests that this is the root and basis of their mission, the Pope said. “Your vocation” is a path with the love of God, but “be careful not to fall into the pursuit of fame and fortune, which is a plague”. “It’s the most ugly form of secularization the priesthood can have.”
Priests are shepherds, not officials
The Pope pointed out that when Jesus realized that they were following him, Jesus posed the initial question to the two disciples: “What are you looking for?” The Pope reminded all the seminarians present to ask themselves what they are looking for in their priestly vocation: yes Do you aspire to be “a priest who does not know how to appreciate the suffering of a weak human being, or, like Jesus, a sign of the Father’s tenderness”?
So the pope said: “It is very sad when you find priests becoming officials, forgetting that they are shepherds of the people, and becoming bureaucratic priesthood.”
Join hands to meet new pastoral challenges
The Pope then turned to the bishops present, inviting them to reflect on what kind of Church they dream of, what they think priests should be like as sheep. The pope said this distinction is “more necessary than ever” at a time when the influence of Christianity is waning. “A new church season is unfolding before us”. “This also requires reflection on the pastoral mission of the priest”, we can no longer think of the priest as “an individual shepherd, confined to his parish”.
“We must work together and pool our ideas so that we can meet some of the pastoral challenges facing all parishes in the region. I am thinking of the evangelization of young people; Christian initiation courses in the faith; the local richness of civil worship,” said the Pope. Gospel-inspired unanimous decisions are needed; but I also think of the need for charity and the promotion of a law-abiding culture.”
All this, the Pope pointed out, therefore requires the nurturing of priestly institutes with different backgrounds to promote a common vision for the region, with a coherent human, spiritual and theological formation.
The formation of priests should take into account the signs of the times
With this in mind, the Pope invited them to “make a clear choice regarding the formation of priests”, concentrating on a smaller number of seminaries, rather than “dispersing forces” by increasing the number of seminaries. Although this requires a complex process of discernment, these are necessary decisions that bishops need to make with the support of the local Church and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The pope urged the bishops of Calabria not to allow themselves to be “paralyzed by nostalgia and trapped in local ethos”.
“Let us remember that attachment to important places of our history and our traditions should not prevent the newness of the Holy Spirit from taking the path he wants to take, especially when the path of the Church requires it,” said the Pope. We need to keep our eyes open, with a focused heart, to appreciate the signs of the times and to look to the future!” In this regard, the Pope also invites the bishops emeritus, “with prayer and silence”, without interfering with the process. way to support this effort.
Compassion, Unity and Friendship
In closing, Pope Francis urged the seminarians, and especially the bishops, to be “courageous” to carry out the necessary changes and to always act together and walk hand in hand “in mercy, unity and fraternity”.
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