The Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, cautioned that some priests have an "inadequate and superficial" encounter with Christ and have turned their ministries into "a sort of ecclesiastical profession.”
According to L’Osservatore Romano, which quoted the Portuguese news agency, Ecclesia, Cardinal Hummes made his comments this week at the Fourth Symposium of the Clergy of Portugal which had as its theme, "Rekindle the gift that is in you," At the symposium held in Fatima, the cardinal encouraged the more than 800 priests in attendance to be missionaries and to nurture their own spirituality each day. This requires "maintaining a regular contact with the Word of God, living an authentic life of prayer that includes the Liturgy of the Hours and devotion to Mary, celebrating the Eucharist daily as the center of ministerial life and regularly making use of the Sacrament of Confession.”
The prefect also said that every priest must "live in ecclesial communion with the Pope, the local bishop and the presbytery; be completely and tirelessly devoted to pastoral ministry and to missionary efforts to evangelize; be a man of charity, brotherhood, kindness, forgiveness and mercy towards all; show solidarity with the poor by acting as their advocate and friend and seeing them as God’s favorites."
In this context, the cardinal said that while the number of priestly vocations has dropped, “We must not be discouraged or be fearful of today’s society, nor must we simply condemn it.”
Christ’s will for priests is for them to be pastors and to guide the community, he added. “This is an urgent task which the recent Popes have untiringly reiterated.”
Because of the “new paganism” that has become prevalent, the cardinal said, it is not enough to just preach to the choir. “We cannot limit ourselves to the care and evangelization of people who seek us out in the Church,” he stated.