Pope Francis lauded the commitment and service of priests while providing insights into the essential elements for shaping Christ-like clerics
The pontiff delivered an address to participants of the International Conference for Ongoing Priestly Formation organized by the Dicastery for the Clergy in collaboration with the Dicasteries for Evangelization and for the Eastern Churches, spanned from February 6 to 10.
Pope Francis expressed his gratitude for the dedicated work of priests in serving their dioceses and countries, underscoring the pivotal role of mercy in the sacrament of Reconciliation.
The Pope encouraged priests to listen to each other, drawing inspiration from the theme derived from the Apostle Paul’s exhortation to Timothy: “Fan into flame the gift of God that you possess” (2 Tim 1:6).
To address the challenge of how to cultivate and nurture the received gift, Pope Francis offered three recommendations for priestly formation.
Firstly, he emphasized the importance of cultivating the joy of the Gospel. The Pope asserted that the Gospel’s joy is fundamental to the Christian life, liberating individuals from the dreariness of individualism and a life devoid of meaning, love, and hope.
He urged priests to prioritize being witnesses to the love of God before assuming the role of teachers, stating, “Let us keep in mind the words of Saint Paul VI: we need to be witnesses before being teachers, witnesses to the love of God, the only thing that truly matters.”
Secondly, Pope Francis stressed the significance of priests fostering a sense of belonging to God’s people. He highlighted the need for priests to be missionary disciples collectively, avoiding detachment from the holy faithful people of God.
The Pope called for a priestly formation that draws upon the contributions of the people of God and promotes humble wisdom, fostering unity and walking together with the community.
He cautioned against detachment, stating, “Realizing that we are part of a people – never feeling separated from the journey of the holy faithful people of God – preserves us, sustains us in our efforts.”
Lastly, the Pope spoke of ‘generative’ service as a crucial identity for Christ’s ministers. He described service as an “identity card” and emphasized its role in forming priests.
Pope Francis urged priests to concentrate on others, bringing out their beauty and goodness while acknowledging their challenges.
A priest formed in this manner, he asserted, would willingly shoulder responsibility for all, putting himself at the service of the people of God.
He said, “Brothers and sisters, let us gaze upon the Cross. From there, by loving us to the end, the Lord begot a new people.”