Just as the Year for Priests is about to begin on June 19, the Pontifical French Seminary in Rome is being handed over to the Bishops' Conference of France. Pope Benedict XVI took time on Saturday to speak with the seminarians and faculty about the importance of properly forming future priests.
The Pontifical French Seminary will be undergoing a once-in-a-lifetime transition as the Holy Ghost Fathers bring their 150-year tenure as the formators and administrators to a close. The French Bishops' Conference will now take over the running of the seminary.
Pope Benedict gave thanks to God in his address to the rector, staff and students for the "work accomplished by this institution, founded in 1853, where some 5,000 seminarians have been prepared for their future vocations."
The task of forming priests, the Pope noted, "is a delicate mission. ... Future priests require many aptitudes: human maturity, spiritual qualities, apostolic zeal and intellectual rigor."
"Those whose duty it is to discern and form [seminarians] must remember that the hope they place in others is, first and foremost, a duty they themselves must shoulder."
Benedict XVI also pointed out that the administrative change "coincides with the beginning of the Year for Priests," due to be inaugurated on June 19. "This," he said, "is a grace for the new team of priest formators from the Conference of Bishops of France."
In closing his remarks, the Pope expressed his hope that "during the period they spend in Rome, the seminarians may familiarize themselves with the history of the Church, discovering the true dimensions of her catholicity and her living unity around Peter's Successor, and always maintaining love for the Church alive in their hearts."