.- While addressing the priests of the Diocese of Rome on Thursday, Pope Francis also responded to a question about married priests, underscoring that the Church has great concern for priests who leave ministry to get married and later want to return, but that on the other hand he does not know if the Church can find a way for this to happen.
The Bishop of Rome traditionally meets with the priests of his diocese during Lent, and the Feb. 19 encounter took place at the Vatican's Paul VI Hall.
The Holy See press office delivered eight minutes of audio from the two-hour meeting, but has yet to release an official summary or transcription: thus the only source of information is the testimony of priests who took part.
The theme this year was homiletics – the art of preaching – and to prepare for it, Pope Francis had the text of his 2005 address to the Congregation for Divine Worship sent to the priests.
The text – Pope Francis revealed – was a bit criticized by Cardinal Meisner and by Cardinal Ratzinger. “Ratzinger told me that the text lacked one thing on the homily, a sense of being before God. He was right: I did not speak about that.”
The Pope's address was followed by a series of questions from the priests.
According to L’Avvenire, the Pope also addressed the issued of married priests, following a question posed by Fr. Giovanni Cereti.
L’Avvenire wrote that Fr. Cereti mentioned how in the Eastern Catholic Churches, married men may be ordained priests, unlike the typical situation in the Latin rite.
Fr. Julio Lavin de Tezanos Pinto, deputy parish priest of the Roman parish of San Romano Martyr , told CNA that in fact “the conversation dealt with some specific cases … they were talking about priests who were dispensed from priesthood in order to get married: they actually got married, and they now wish to come back.”
Fr. Lavin then recounted that the Pope “responded that the question touched a wound, that he welcomed the question and that he touched this plague, and that he was not going to archive such a question … which meant that he wanted to express an understanding of the problem… probably, the phrase ‘I would not store this question in an archive’ was misinterpreted as ‘it is part of my agenda.’”
Fr. Walter Insero, spokesman of the Diocese of Rome, told CNA “the Pope said this is a plague of the Church, and he intended to say that the issue of the possibility of marriage for priests may cause pain to the people involved.”
“When the Pope said the issue was not going to be stored in an archive, he wanted to say that he will take the issue into account … but he also added that he does not know if the Church will be able to find a way for these people.”
Pope Francis also revealed that Feb. 10 he said Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae chapel together with seven priests who were celebrating the 50th anniversary of their priesthood, and that five priests who had left ministry to marry attended the Mass.
Fr. Insero added, “there many other important issues the Pope addressed during his meeting with the Roman clergy.”
“Pope Francis said it is important that a priest begs for the gift of tears because, he said, if the priest has not the ability to cry anymore, he cannot be on the side of people, to bear their sufferings, to accompany them in their life,” recounted Fr. Insero.
The spokesman of the Rome diocese said Pope Francis reflection “started from his 2005 address to the Congregation for Divine Worship… he focused on the importance of preaching… he stressed that the false prophet may be recognized by the fact that he speaks his own words, while the true prophet speaks God’s words… and so he explained that it is important to make space for the Word of God.”
“Pope Francis also higlighted that preparing a homily is a path. He said that you can’t prepare a homily in one hour, the very same day you give the homily ... you should bear the homily with prayer, so that your point of view becomes what the Spirit tells people.”
A priest also asked the Pope about how to help people to discover the beauty of liturgy, and the Pope, Fr. Insero said, praised Benedict XVI’s commitment to liturgy.
“He said Benedict XVI had liberalized the extraordinary rite, and that he did this because he is a man of communion, and wanted to keep the door open for everyone. But he also added that the Church remains in the ordinary rite, and that we have to foster that rite, to explain its beauty to people,” said Fr. Insero.
Pope Francis also recommended two books for priests to read: “Proclaiming God's Message: A study in the theology of preaching,” a 1963 volume by Fr. Domenico Grasso, S.J.; and “A Theology of Proclamation,” a 1958 work of Fr. Hugo Rahner, S.J.