FOSTERING VOCATIONS TO THE PRIESTHOOD IS A CONSTANT CHALLENGE FOR THE CHURCH
A press conference was held this morning in the Holy See Press Office to present the document “Pastoral Guidelines for Fostering Vocations to Priestly Ministry.” The conference was presented by Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski; Archbishop Jean-Louis Brugues O.P., and Msgr. Angelo Vincenzo Zani, respectively prefect, secretary and under secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education.
The cardinal explained that the document had been requested during the plenary of the congregation in 2005. Preparation began in 2008 on the basis of replies and suggestions from the various episcopal conferences, and the final text was approved by the Holy Father on 25 March 2012, twentieth anniversary of the Apostolic Exhortation “Pastores dabo vobis.”
The document is divided into three parts, of which the first examines the current situation of priestly vocations in the world today, and the relevant forms of pastoral care. Part two analyses the identity of the ministerial priesthood, while part three makes some suggestions for the pastoral care of vocations. The key to understanding the text, the cardinal said, lies in the idea that “fostering vocations to the priesthood is a constant challenge for the Church.”
Part one of the document identifies three factors which hinder vocational pastoral care, evident above all in Churches of ancient Christian tradition in the west: falling birthrates and the crisis in families, the spread of a secularized mentality, and the difficult conditions in which priests live and exercise their ministry.
“In the light of those difficulties,” said Cardinal Grocholewski, the document “lays down the conditions necessary to ensure that the grace of the call finds fertile terrain in the Church, and openness among young people to the priestly vocation.” This includes “creating a fruitful soil for Christian life in the ecclesial community; . . . the irreplaceable function of prayer; . . . the importance of integrated pastoral care; . . . a new drive to evangelization and the mission; . . . the central role of the family; . . . a coherent and joyful witness of life on the part of priests; . . . the educational effectiveness of voluntary work; . . . and the importance of schools and universities.”
For his part Archbishop Brugues explained that part two of the document covers certain specific elements which, he said, “must be highlighted, precisely because they are being threatened or put in the shade and set aside by the well-known difficulties in Church life and by contemporary culture. This risks provoking dangerous deviations in the value of vocations to priestly ministry.”
These elements include “a tendency towards the progressive transformation of the priesthood into a profession.” This can be associated with “the danger of exaggerated activism, an increasing individualism which not infrequently closes priests in a perverse and depressing solitude, and the confusion of roles in the Church which comes about when we lose the sense of distinction between roles and responsibilities, and not everyone comes together to collaborate in the one mission entrusted to the People of God.”
Part two also emphasizes the fact that priestly ministry is to be understood “in the framework of a dialogue of love between God and man which, though it exists in all Christian vocations, assumes the characteristic of a call to a typical, stable and demanding relationship with Jesus Himself, the one model of the priesthood in the New Testament. . . . This new and specific relationship with Jesus causes the person called to enter into an equally new and specific relationship with the Christian community.”
Finally, part three of the document focuses on certain aspects of formation for the priestly ministry. These include “a profound experience of community life in order to avoid new forms of clericalism; . . . complete integration and emotional maturity; . . . intense and obedient participation in the ecclesiastical context, with concrete love for one’s own particular Church; . . . generous openness to the universal dimensions of the mission; . . . the decisive role of those who accompany vocations and . . . the presentation of exemplary figures of priests.”
The conference ended with some words from Msgr. Angelo Vincenzo Zani, who explained how the text “reiterates the fact that a fruitful terrain for vocations is a Christian community which listens to the Word, prays with the liturgy, and demonstrates charity. The document calls the entire Church trustingly to redouble her efforts to educate people to welcome the call of God to priestly ministry, which still today we believe is spread by His Providence and adapted to the needs of the Church and of the evangelization of the world.”
POPE SPEAKS ABOUT ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST
This morning, Solemnity of the Birth of St. John the Baptist, Benedict XVI made his customary Sunday appearance at the window of his private study to pray the Angelus with faithful gathered below in St. Peter’s Square.
“With the exception of the Virgin Mary, John the Baptist is the only saint for whom the liturgy celebrates the day of birth,” said the Pope. “This is because his birth is closely connected to the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God. From the womb, in fact, John was the precursor of Jesus. His prodigious conception was announced by the Angel to Mary as a sign that ‘nothing will be impossible with God’. . . . The four Gospels give great importance to the figure of John the Baptist as the prophet who concluded the Old Testament, then opened the New by indicating Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah, the Anointed One of God. And indeed Jesus would speak of John in these terms: ‘This is the one about whom it is written: See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’”
“John’s father Zechariah,” the Holy Father went on, “was a priest of the Old Testament order. He did not immediately believe in such unexpected paternity and was therefore made mute until the day of the child’s circumcision.” On that day, “moved by the Holy Spirit, Zechariah spoke thus of his son’s mission: ‘And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins.’
“All this happened thirty years later,” Pope Benedict added, “when John began performing baptisms in the River Jordan, calling people to prepare themselves, by that act of penance, to the imminent coming of the Messiah, which God had revealed to him during the period he spent in the wilderness of Judea. For this reason he is called ‘Baptist;’ in other words ‘Baptiser.’ When one day Jesus Himself came from Nazareth to be baptized, John at first refused, then consented; he saw the Holy Spirit come to rest upon Jesus, and heard the voice of the heavenly Father proclaiming His Son.”
Yet the Baptist’s mission was not yet complete. “Shortly afterwards he was asked to precede Jesus also in violent death. John was decapitated in the prisons of King Herod, thus bearing compete witness to the Lamb of God Whom he had been the first to recognize and announce.”
SOLIDARITY OF CHURCH WITH EARTHQUAKE VICTIMS IN ITALY
After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father recalled the fact that today in Italy marks the Day of the Pope’s Charity and he thanked parish communities, families and faithful for their “constant and generous support which goes to help so many of our bothers and sisters in difficulty.”
In this context he also reminded the faithful that he will make a brief visit to areas recently affected by earthquakes in northern Italy. “I would like this to be,” he said, “a sign of the solidarity of the entire Church, and therefore I invite everyone to accompany me with their prayers.”
Finally, he also had words of greeting for Polish faithful who, with the archbishop of Poznan, the Oratorian Fathers and pilgrims at the shrine of the Mother of God in Gostyn, are celebrating the five hundredth anniversary of its foundation. “Let us thank God,” the Pope said, “for the grace which that place has showered upon generations of faithful through the intercession of the Virgin Mary. May her protection accompany you always.”
POPE PRESIDES MEETING OF HEADS OF DICASTERY OF ROMAN CURIA
This morning in the Bologna Hall of the Vatican Apostolic Palace, Benedict XVI presided at a meeting of heads of dicasteries of the Roman Curia.
HOLY SEE PRESS OFFICE DIRECTOR ON POPE’S MEETINGS WITH CARDINALS
Fr. Lombardi has provided journalists with information about meetings the Pope held on Saturday 23 June, first with heads of dicasteries of the Roman Curia, and subsequently with Cardinals George Pell, archbishop of Sydney, Australia; Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops; Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue; Camillo Ruini, vicar general emeritus of His Holiness for the diocese of Rome, and Jozef Tomko, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples.
“In the context of the circumstances that have arisen following the publication of reserved documents, the Holy Father is seeking to deepen his knowledge of the situation through continuous dialogue with those people who share with him the responsibility for governing the Church”, Fr. Lombardi said.
“Last Saturday, as has already been made public, he became more fully informed on the course of the investigations in a meeting with the Commission of Cardinals responsible for conducting them, led by Cardinal Julian Herranz.
“This morning he is participating in the meeting with heads of dicasteries which, as is customary, is focusing on the issue of coordinating the work of the Roman Curia, something which is particularly important and urgent today in order to bear effective witness to the spirit of union which animates it.
“In the afternoon he has chosen to meet with a number of members of the College of Cardinals who, by virtue of their vast and varied experience serving the Church, not only in Rome but also internationally, may profitably exchange ideas and suggestions with the Holy Father in order to help re-establish that climate of serenity and trust in the service of the Roman Curia.
“Naturally the Holy Father will, over coming days, continue his discussions and reflections, also taking advantage of the fact that many pastors have come to Rome for the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, which is an extraordinary opportunity for the community of the universal Church to feel united to the Pope in prayer, service, and the witness of faith for mankind in our time.”
COMMUNICATIONS ADVISOR FOR THE SECRETARIAT OF STATE
The American journalist Gregory Burke, who is currently Rome correspondent for Fox News, will shortly take up the post of “communications advisor” to the Secretariat of State, according to an announcement made by Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J.
“This new figure,” Fr. Lombardi explained, “will have the task of dealing with communications issues in the work of the Secretariat of State, and will oversee relations with the Holy See Press Office and other media institutions of the Holy See.”
The Holy Father today received in audience:
• Fra’ Matthew Festing, prince and grand master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, accompanied by an entourage.
• Cardinal Marc Ouellet P.S.S., prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.
• Cardinal Jose Manuel Estepa Llaurens, archbishop military ordinary emeritus of Spain.
On Saturday 23 June he received in audience: Cardinal George Pell, archbishop of Sydney, Australia; Cardinal Marc Ouellet P.S.S., prefect of the Congregation for Bishops; Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue; Cardinal Camillo Ruini, vicar general emeritus of His Holiness for the diocese of Rome, and Cardinal Jozef Tomko, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples.
OTHER PONTIFICAL ACTS
• The Holy Father appointed Fr. Pius Riana Prapdi, vicar general of the archdiocese of Semarang, Indonesia, as bishop of Ketapang (area 34,600, population 543,314, Catholics 101,593, priests 30, religious 91), Indonesia. The bishop-elect was born in Painiai, Indonesia in 1967 and ordained a priest in 1995. He studied in Rome and has worked, among other things, in pastoral care and as director of diocesan Caritas. He succeeds Bishop Blasius Pujaraharja, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.
On Saturday 23 June it was made public that he:
• Gave his consent to the canonical election by the Synod of Bishops of the Greek-Melkite Church of Bishop Jean-Abdo Arbach B.C., apostolic exarch for faithful of Greek-Melkite rite resident in Argentina, as metropolitan archbishop of Homs, Hama and Yabroud (Catholics 30,000, priests 19, permanent deacons 1, religious 29), Syria.
• Appointed Archbishop Alain Paul Lebeaupin, apostolic nuncio in Kenya and permanent observer to the United Nations Environment and Human Settlements Programs (UNEP and UN-Habitat), as apostolic nuncio to the European Union.
• Appointed as members of the Council of Cardinals for the Study of the Organisational and Economic Problems of the Holy See: Cardinal Polycarp Pengo, archbishop of Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania; Cardinal Telesphore Placidus Toppo, archbishop of Ranchi, India, and Cardinal John Tong Hon, bishop of Hong Kong, China.