Pope Francis to future Vatican diplomats: See St Charles de Foucauld as model

Charles de Foucauld Charles de Foucauld | Public domain

Pope Francis on Wednesday encouraged future Vatican diplomats to model themselves on the recently canonized St. Charles de Foucauld.

The pope urged students of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy to see the 19th-century French soldier, explorer, priest, and mystic as a model of holiness for diplomatic life.

He also proposed the 16th-century Jesuit St. Peter Faber as another model for priests called to represent the Holy See around the world.

He made the recommendation during a June 8 visit to the college in Rome that prepares Catholic priests for the Vatican diplomatic service.

The Holy See press office said on June 9 that “the pope stressed the importance of rootedness in a priestly spirituality nourished by prayer.”

He also highlighted “the role of the missionary year he wanted as an integral part of the path of preparation” to serve in the diplomatic corps.

The Vatican announced in February 2020 that Pope Francis had called for priests in formation for the Holy See’s diplomatic service to spend a year in missionary work.

He said it would be an opportunity for the priests to share “with the missionary churches a period of journey together with their community, participating in their daily evangelizing activity.”

Vatican News reported that the first four students will leave at the end of this academic year on yearlong placements in Brazil, the Philippines, Madagascar, and Mexico.

Charles de Foucauld, also known as Brother Charles of Jesus, served among the Tuareg people in the Sahara desert in Algeria. He was assassinated in 1916.

Benedict XVI declared him a blessed in 2005 and Pope Francis canonized him on May 15.

Days after the canonization, the pope disclosed that learning about the saint’s spirituality helped him during a period of crisis as a theology student.

“I would like to thank St. Charles de Foucauld, because his spirituality did me so much good when I was studying theology, a time of maturation and also of crisis,” the pope said on May 18.

He also paid tribute to him at the end of his 2020 encyclical Fratelli tutti, in which he described the Frenchman as a “person of deep faith who, drawing upon his intense experience of God, made a journey of transformation towards feeling a brother to all.”

He said that the saint “directed his ideal of total surrender to God towards an identification with the poor, abandoned in the depths of the African desert.”

“In that setting, he expressed his desire to feel himself a brother to every human being, and asked a friend to ‘pray to God that I truly be the brother of all.’ He wanted to be, in the end, ‘the universal brother.’ Yet only by identifying with the least did he come at last to be the brother of all. May God inspire that dream in each one of us,” the pope wrote.

St. Peter Faber was born in 1506 and studied at the University of Paris, where he met St. Ignatius Loyola and St. Francis Xavier. The three men went on to become the founders of the Society of Jesus.

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Pope Francis recognized Faber as a saint on his 77th birthday in 2013, using a rare process known as equipollent canonization.

The 85-year-old pope, who is making public appearances in a wheelchair due to knee pain, spoke at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy to 36 priests from 22 countries, reported Vatican News.

Also present was Archbishop Joseph Marino, who has served as the college’s president since 2019. The 69-year-old archbishop was born in Birmingham, Alabama.

This report was updated at 09:40 MDT with information from Vatican News.

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