Pope Benedict met with seminarians from Ethiopia on Jan. 29, encouraging them to continue in their path toward “sanctity.”
On Saturday morning, the Pope received priests and seminarians of the Pontifical Ethiopian College to mark the 150th anniversary of the death of the seminary's 19th century patron, St. Justin de Jacobis.
Born in Italy in 1800, St. Justin de Jacobis was a missionary to Ethiopia who – despite persecution from the local church – succeeded in building local outreaches to the poor and schools for training future priests in the country. The saint is credited with founding the beginnings of the Ethiopian Catholic Church and was canonized by Pope Paul VI in October 1975.
Pope Benedict said that St. Justin “crowned his fruitful contribution to the religious and civil life of the Abyssinian peoples with the gift of his own life, silently restored to God after much suffering and persecution.”
The saint “learned the local language, championed the centuries-old liturgical tradition of the rites of those communities,” and worked “effectively towards ecumenism,” Pope Benedict added. "His particular passion for education, especially the formation of priests, means that he can justly be considered as the patron of your college.”
Pope Benedict then said that St. Justin's “way of sanctity also lies open to you, dear priests and seminarians.”
"Sanctity lies at the very heart of the ecclesial mystery; it is the vocation to which we are all called,” he said. “Saints are not some exterior ornamentation of the Church; rather, they are like the flowers of a tree which testify to the endless vitality of the lymph flowing through it.”
“You are a sign of hope, especially for the Church in your countries of origin,” the Pope underscored. “I am certain that the experience of communion you have experienced here in Rome will also help you to make a precious contribution to growth and peaceful coexistence in your own beloved nations.”
Pope Benedict concluded by encouraging the members of the Pontifical Ethiopian College "to live this important period of your formation, in the shadow of the dome of St. Peter's, with joy and dedication.”
He exhorted the seminarians to return to their home communities following the example of St. Justin, who sparked “in everyone a love for God and the Church.”