SPEECH OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS
TO THE COMMUNITY OF
PONTIFICAL REGIONAL SEMINAR FLAMINIO "BENEDETTO XV" IN BOLOGNA
Monday, 9 December 2019
Dear brothers in the episcopate and in the priesthood,
I welcome you to the centenary of the foundation of the Pontifical Regional Flaminio Seminary, commissioned by Saint Pius X. I greet you all from my heart; I thank Cardinal Matteo Zuppi for his words, and I greet with affection Mons. Luigi Bettazzi, who is almost the same age as the Seminar! This important anniversary is a happy occasion to reflect on the beauty of the call to the ministerial priesthood, which gives us the gift and the commitment to represent the Good Shepherd in the midst of his People and live as the Good Shepherd in the midst of his People.
To prepare for this mission, Mother Church asks to take a serious formative journey, which the environment of the Seminary can offer in the best way. In this perspective, I would like to indicate to you three aspects that identify this place and especially the time of formation and preparation for the priesthood, which is the seminary. It is a house of prayer, a house of study, a house of communion.
You are called to be evangelizers in your region, also marked by de-Christianization. Those who are more exposed to the cold wind of uncertainty or religious indifference need to find in the person of the priest that robust faith that is like a torch in the night and like a rock to which to cling. This faith is cultivated above all in the personal relationship, heart to heart, with the person of Jesus Christ. And the Seminary is first of all the house of prayer where the Lord again calls "his" in "a secluded place" (see Lk 9:18), to live a strong experience of meeting and listening. Through this way, he wants to prepare them to become "educators of the People of God in the faith", and to enable them to "proclaim the Word of God with authority", to "gather the People" and nourish them with the Sacraments to "lead them on the way of salvation". »And preserve it in unity (see Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, 68).
It is therefore necessary to dedicate adequate commitment to spiritual formation. These are the most favorable years to learn to "be with him", enjoying with astonishment the grace of being his disciples, learning to listen to him, to contemplate his face ... Here the experience of silence and prayer is fundamental: it is there, in the to remain in his presence, which the disciple can know the Master, as he is known from him - St. Paul would say (see 1 Cor 13:12). But the encounter with Jesus in the face and in the flesh of the poor is also essential. This too is an integral part of the spiritual formation of the seminarian.
The second aspect that identifies the Seminar is that of study. The study is part of an itinerary aimed at the education of a living faith, a conscious faith, called to become the pastor's faith. The study, in this journey, is a privileged instrument of a sapiential and scientific knowledge, capable of ensuring a solid foundation for the whole building of the formation of future priests. It is also an instrument of shared knowledge. Let me explain. The commitment to study, even in the seminary, is clearly personal, but it is not individual. Sharing lessons and studying with seminary companions is also a way to become part of a presbytery. In fact, without neglecting personal inclinations and talents, in fact, enhancing them, in the Seminar we study together for a common mission, and this gives a very special "flavor" to learning Sacred Scripture, theology, history, law and each discipline. The different personal sensitivities are compared in the common horizon of the call and of the mission; and this thanks to the service of teachers who, in turn, teach within this same ecclesial horizon, free from all self-centredness. It's nice to study like this, in this environment.
And we come to the third dimension: the Seminary as a house of communion. This aspect is also "transversal", like the other two. It starts from a human basis of openness to others, of listening and dialogue skills, and is called to assume the form of presbyteral communion around the Bishop and under his guidance. The pastoral charity of the priest cannot be credible unless it is preceded and accompanied by fraternity, first among seminarians and then among presbyters. A fraternity increasingly impregnated with the apostolic form, and enriched by the traits proper to diocesanity, that is, by those peculiar characteristics of the people of God and of the saints, especially of the holy priests, of a particular Church.
In this context, the Seminar qualifies as a path that educates candidates to evaluate their every action in reference to Christ and to consider belonging to the only presbyterate as a prior dimension of pastoral action and a testimony of communion, indispensable for effectively serving the mystery of the Church and its mission in the world.
Here I would like to stop for a moment to summarize the four "neighborhoods", the four attitudes of proximity of diocesan priests. Being close to God in prayer, I said, we begin with the seminary. Being close to the bishop, always close to the bishop: without the bishop the Church does not go, without the bishop the priest can be a leader but he will not be a priest. Third neighborhood: to be near the presbytery, among you. This is something that makes me suffer when I see fragmented presbyters, where they are one against the other, or all are courteous but then speak against each other. If there is not a united presbytery ... This does not mean that one cannot argue, no, one discusses, ideas are exchanged, but charity is that which unites. And the fourth closeness: closeness to the people of God. Please don't forget where you come from. Paul told Timothy: "Remember your mother and your grandmother", that is, of the roots; remember that you were taken by the flock and you came because the Lord chose you. You have not come to make an ecclesiastical career, as they used to say, in a literary style of other centuries. Proximity to God, closeness to the bishop, closeness to the presbytery, among you, and closeness to the people of God. If one of these is missing, the priest will not work and will slowly slip into the perversion of clericalism or into rigid attitudes. Where there is clericalism there is corruption, and where there is rigidity, under rigidity, there are serious problems.
Dear Seminarians, yesterday we celebrated the solemnity of the Immaculate. Mary shines in the Church for her unique vocation lived in the following of her Son, in humble and courageous obedience to God's plan of love. She, who was always united to Jesus from conception to death on the cross, helps you to discover every day the "treasure", the "precious pearl" which is Christ and his Kingdom, and to become joyful heralds of his Gospel. The Seminary is also the time when Mary as Mother is welcomed into her home, into her life, like the apostle John. Accompany you.
I thank you for your visit. I bless your journey, with the intercession of Saint Pius X and exemplary witnesses that the Archbishop recalled at the beginning. I pray for you. And you, too, please pray for me. Thanks.
Full Text + Image Source: Vatican.va - Unofficial Translation