Pope Francis on Thursday said that “all priestly formation, particularly that of future pastors, is at the heart of evangelization.”
In cases where a seminary lacks a sufficient number of seminarians, the pope said, “the creation or consolidation of interdiocesan, provincial, or regional seminaries” was necessary.
Speaking to rectors and formators from Latin America currently in Rome, the pontiff said: “How necessary is a quality formation for those who will be the sacramental presence of the Lord in the midst of his flock, nourishing and healing it with the Word and the sacraments!”
“The vocation to the priesthood, in fact, is a gift of God to the Church and to the world; it is a way to sanctify oneself and to sanctify others, a path that is not followed in an individual way, but always having as a reference a concrete portion of the People of God,” he said in prepared remarks Nov. 10.
Pope Francis praised the contributions of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI to the formation of priests and pointed to the Church’s emphasis on “unique, integral, communitarian, and missionary characteristics.”
For seminaries to be “true Christian communities,” he added, required “an adequate number of seminarians and formators.”
Alluding to the reality of dwindling vocations in some regions, the pope said it was “necessary to leave inertia and protagonism behind and begin to dream together, not longing for the past, not alone, but united and open to what the Lord desires today as formation for the next generations of priests inspired by the current orientations of the Church.”
The pontiff assured formators he was “aware that the service you render to the Church is not simple and not infrequently challenges your own humanity, because the formator has a heart that is 100% human and that not infrequently he can feel frustration, weariness, anger, and impotence.”
For this reason, it was all the more important to turn “every day to Jesus, getting down on our knees and in his presence learning from him who is meek and humble of heart, so that little by little our heart learns to beat to the rhythm of the Master’s heart.”
The pope concluded his remarks with a prayer: “May Mary Most Holy, Mother of priests, encourage them and watch over them in their mission.”
AC Wimmer is founding Editor-in-Chief of CNA Deutsch. A former senior executive with public broadcaster SBS and graduate of the University of Melbourne and Monash University (Australia), he has worked as a journalist across the globe. Before joining EWTN News, the Australian with Bavarian roots was Editor-in-Chief of the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Munich.
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