Pope tells Calabria’s bishops to work together and combine seminaries
March 28, 2023
On March 27, Pope Francis received seminarians from the Italian province of Calabria (map), but devoted most of his reflections—some of them pointed—to the bishops of the province’s 11 dioceses (and one eparchy).
Quoting Christ’s question to the first disciples—“What do you seek?” (John 1:38)—the Pope asked the seminarians:
What do you seek in the priesthood? We must ask ourselves this, because sometimes it happens that “behind the appearance of piety and even love for the Church”, in reality we seek “human glory and personal well-being” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 93). It is very sad when you find priests who are officials, who have forgotten they are pastors of the people, and have turned into State clerics, like those of the French courts, Monsieur Abbé, they were State clerics. It is bad when you lose the priestly sense; perhaps we are looking for priestly ministry as a refuge behind which to hide ourselves, or a role for prestige, instead of wishing to be pastors with the same compassionate and merciful heart of Christ.
“Here, let us remember this: the Seminary is the time to be true with ourselves, setting aside the masks, the disguise, appearances,” the Pope continued. “And in this process of discernment, let yourselves be worked upon by the Lord, who will make you pastors according to his heart, because masking, disguising, appearing is the opposite, it is proper to functionaries, not to shepherds of the people but of state clerics.”
Turning to the bishops, he said that “a certain Christianity of the past has waned, a new ecclesial season has opened up in front of us” that demands a common response in the province—including a common vision of priestly formation and a common seminary:
Therefore, I would like to ask you, bishops, to make a clear choice regarding priestly formation: to guide all human, spiritual and theological energies in a single Seminary. I say single, there could be two, but to add them up: to be oriented towards unity with all the variables there can be, but there. This does not mean annihilating the seminaries, no: see how you can make this unity...
A seminary of four, five, ten, is not a seminary, it does not form seminarians; a seminary of one hundred, so anonymous, does not form seminarians. It takes small communities, even within a large seminary or a seminary of moderate size that are then the reflection of the presbyteral college.
At the same time, the Pope insisted that Rome should not make decisions for local bishops:
It will not be Rome to tell you what you should do, no: because you have the charism. We have the ideas, the orientations, the advice, but you have the charism, you have the Holy Spirit for this. If Rome were to begin to make the decisions it would be a blow to the Holy Spirit, who works in the particular Churches.
Pope Francis has appointed ten of the eleven bishops who govern Calabria’s dioceses. The Pope’s comments to the province’s bishops were at times pointed:
- “I emphasize: the culture of legality. How are your courts doing? How is the exercise of justice in your diocese?”
- “This process [of uniting seminaries] is initiating in many parts of the world, and it is natural that there be some resistance—it is natural—and some difficulty in taking this step. But remember that attachment to our history and to the meaningful places of our tradition must not prevent the newness of the Spirit from tracing paths, especially when the Church’s journey requires it.”
- “Please do not allow yourselves to be paralyzed by nostalgia and do not remain prisoners of the provincialism that does so much harm!”
- Addressing bishops emeriti, the Pope said, “Without going back to snoop around, learn to take leave and maintain that absent presence, that distant presence in which one knows that the emeritus is there, but prays for the Church, he is close but does not enter the game.”
- “Beware of the courts, because there at times a great deal of corruption is born. Beware… beware. Beware of the courts. And may there also be a change in the courts.”
- “And please do not forget to pray for me, for me, not against me!”
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