Benedict XVI to minor seminary: What has withered in Germany still blossoms in Poland

Pope Benedict XVI on Aug 28 2010 Credit LOsservatore Romano CNA 2 Pope Benedict XVI on Aug. 28, 2010. | L'Osservatore Romano.

Pope emeritus Benedict XVI has written to a minor seminary in Poland, saying that he is delighted to see “how in Poland still blossoms what in Germany has withered.”

The retired German pope sent the letter, dated May 7, to the Minor Seminary of the Archdiocese of Częstochowa, located in the southern Polish city that is home to the venerated icon of the Black Madonna.

The 94-year-old pope emeritus wrote: “The letter from your seminary, signed by the two prefects and the dean, brought great joy to my house. It is wonderful to see how in Poland still blossoms what in Germany has withered.”

He continued: “I particularly liked the illustration which shows my brother and me talking about the seminary and the invitation to me to visit the Minor Seminary of the Archdiocese of Częstochowa.”

“Even if, given my age and state of health, it is no longer possible for me to visit you in person, I am your guest with my heart.”

The illustration, shown on the minor seminary’s website, features a photograph of Benedict XVI as pope, walking beside his late older brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger.

In a speech balloon, Benedict reminisces about the brothers’ time at a minor seminary in Bavaria, southern Germany. Msgr. Ratzinger, in reply, wonders if there are any such places these days.

At the foot of the illustration, it says: “In fact, there are! Come and see. The Minor Seminary of the Archdiocese of Częstochowa invites you.”

The minor seminary, for high school-age students, dates back to 1951.

CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, noted that this was not the first time that Benedict, who served as pope from 2005 to 2013, has highlighted the decline in priestly vocations.

In a 2019 essay on the crisis in the Church, the pope emeritus wrote: “On the problem of preparation for priestly ministry in seminaries, there is indeed a widespread breakdown of the previous form of this preparation.”

The theologian said that after the Second Vatican Council, “in not a few seminaries, students who were caught reading my books were viewed as unsuitable for the priesthood.”

He added: “My books were hidden like bad literature and only read under the desk, as it were.”

CNA Deutsch reported that the number of priestly ordinations has fallen by 60% in Germany in the past 20 years.

In 2019, the country saw a record low of 55 ordinations. When the future Pope Benedict XVI received the sacrament of Holy Orders in 1951, there were 45 ordinations within his Archdiocese of Munich and Freising alone.

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