Pope urges bishops to be vigilant over who they admit to the seminary as world needs “mature and balanced” clergy
Priests must leave their “fortresses”, says Francis
Pope Francis has said vocations are best generated by pastorally minded priests living in the real world while begging bishops to carefully vet who they ordain.
Speaking at a Vatican conference today, Francis told an audience of cardinals, bishops and vocation experts to re-think their vocations ministry so it did not simply become a bureaucratic pastoral programme.
The Pope told the gathering that their work involves “going out” and listening to people: he pointed out that his own vocation was not the result of a “nice theory” but having experienced the “merciful gaze of Jesus over me.”
In order for this to happen, Francis explained, the Church should stop reducing Catholicism to a “recipe of rules” while clergy needed to break out of their closed worlds.
“It’s sad when a priest lives only for himself, enclosed in the safe fortress of the rectory, the sacristy or among a restricted group of loyal followers,” the Pope told the International Conference on Vocations, organised by the Congregation for Clergy. “On the contrary, we are called to be shepherds among the people, capable of showing pastoral care and taking the time to welcome and listen to everyone, especially young people.”
Francis stressed that the world needs “mature and balanced” priests and appealed to bishops to be vigilant when vetting candidates for ordained ministry.
“When it comes to vocations to the priesthood and those entering the seminary, I beg you to discern the truth, to have a shrewd and cautious look,” Francis explained. “I say this especially to brother bishops: vigilance and prudence.”
The Pope has told bishops in the past that it is better to focus on “quality” rather than “quantity” of vocations and wants to ensure seminaries offer rigorous training of priests
To that end he has appointed Mexican Archbishop Jorge Patron Wong as Secretary for Seminaries at the Congregation for Clergy who is preparing a major document on priestly formation.
The conference took as it’s theme the Pope’s own episcopal motto “Miserando atque eligendo”: this translates as “by having mercy and by choosing” and is taken from a homily on the call of Matthew by English saint, the Venerable Bede.
Francis said that Jesus “does not do long speeches” or “offer ready made answers” but, as he showed with Matthew the tax collector, simply says: “follow me.”