Be Proclaimers of Christ

Author: Pope Francis

Be Proclaimers of Christ

Pope Francis

The Holy Father cautions priests against the temptations of duplicity and worldiness

Not preachers of complex doctrine, but proclaimers of the Christ. This is the composite of true priests outlined by the Pope on Monday morning, 23 January [2016], as he spoke to the community of the Pontifical Seminary of Lombardy in Rome. The audience took place in the Clementine Hall. The following is a translation of the Pontiff’s remarks, which were delivered in Italian.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I greet you affectionately and I thank Cardinal Scola for his kind words. I am pleased to meet with you on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of this institution. During the Holy Year of Mercy you are thus also celebrating a Jubilee of thanksgiving to God, the foundational rock of life, because “his faithfulness endures for ever” (cf. Ps 118[117]:2). Do not forget this: God is the Faithful One.

Bl. Paul VI blessed the Seminary of Lombardy on 11 November 1965, in order that this new house would be inhabited at the culmination of the Second Vatican Council, in which the Fathers strongly perceived that “the walls which had made the Church a kind of fortress were torn down and the time had come to proclaim the Gospel in a new way” (Misericordiae Vultus, n. 4). Hence, in your “Roman years”, which were not only characterized by study but by genuine priestly formation, you too are preparing to follow that impulse of the Spirit, so as to be the “future of the Church” according to the heart of God; not according to each person’s preferences or to passing fads, but as the proclamation of the Gospel requires, in order to be well prepared, in-depth work is necessary, but above all an inner conversion, which every day ingrains the minister in the first call of Jesus and rekindles him in the personal relationship with Him, as did the Apostle Paul, whose very conversion we recall today.

In this regard I would like to draw your attention toward a model whom you already know well: St Charles Borromeo. Fr De Certeau presented his life as a constant “movement of conversion”, tending to reflect on the image of the Pastor: “He identified with this image, nourished it with his life, knowing that the subject becomes real at the cost of blood: sanguinis ministri, they were for him the true priests. He thus realized this image by losing himself. He set his entire ‘passion’ to reproducing it” (Dizionario biografico degli italiani, XX, 1977, p. 263). Therefore, the great work of the theologians of the time, which culminated in the celebration of the Council of Trent, was implemented by holy Pastors like Borromeo. Dear friends, you are heirs and witnesses to a great history of holiness, which is rooted in your patrons, Bishops Ambrose and Charles, and in more recent times has seen, even among the students, three Blesseds and three Servants of God. This is the goal to aim for!

Often, however, there appears on the path a temptation to reject: that of the “normalcy", of a Pastor for whom a “normal” life is enough. This priest then begins to content himself with the attention he receives, he judges his ministry on the basis of successes and he settles on seeking out what he enjoys, becoming lukewarm and lacking true interest in others. “Normalcy” for us, however, is pastoral holiness, the gift of one’s life. If a priest chooses to be merely a normal person, he will be a mediocre priest, or worse.

St Charles wanted pastors to be servants of God and fathers for the people, especially for the poor. But — it is always good for us to remember — only one who makes of his own life a constant dialogue with the Word of God, or better yet with God who speaks to us, can proclaim the word of life. In these years you have been entrusted with the mission to train in this dialogue of life: the knowledge of the various disciplines that you study is not an end in itself, but is made concrete in the colloquy of prayer and in the real encounter with people. Formation “in stagnant compartments” is of no use; prayer, culture and pastoral care are the major cornerstones of an unparalleled edifice: they must always be firmly united in order to support one another, well cemented between them, so that today and tomorrow’s priests may be spiritual men and merciful pastors, unified within by the love of the Lord and capable of spreading the joy of the Gospel in the simplicity of life. Today, evangelization seems again to be called to the duty to truly travel the path of simplicity.

Genuine communion with the Lord and with brothers is enough for that simplicity of life which avoids all forms of duplicity and worldliness; simplicity of language: not preachers of complex doctrine, but proclaimers of the Christ who died and rose for us.

Another essential aspect that I would like to emphasize, in order to be a good priest, is the necessity of contact and closeness with the Bishop. The features of a diocesan priest is precisely the diocesan nature, and the cornerstone of the diocesan nature is set in frequently relating with the Bishop, in dialogue and discernment with him. A priest without an assiduous relationship with his Bishop slowly becomes isolated from the diocesan body and his fruitfulness diminishes, precisely because he does not engage in dialogue with the Father of the Diocese.

Lastly, I would like to tell you that I am pleased not only with your gainful commitment to your studies, but also for the global dimension of your community: you come from various regions of Italy, Africa, Latin America, Asia and other European countries. I hope that you cultivate the beauty of friendship and the art of establishing relationships, in order to create a priestly fraternity made stronger by its particular diversity. In this way you will make this house ever more welcoming and rich! From now on, when I come to the Basilica of St Mary Major, I will think of this meeting and I will remember you before the Virgin Mother. But I ask you too, please do the same for me! Thank you.

L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
5 February 2016, page 14

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