Pope encourages future priests to become prophetic witnesses of the Gospel
By Lisa Zengarini
Pope Francis has encouraged future North American priests studying in Rome to cultivate “constant dialogue” with the Lord, to foster communion in the Church, and to become prophetic witnesses bringing the Gospel of God’s love especially to those who are in need.
The encouragement came as he met priests, deacons, seminarians and staff of the Pontifical North American College on Saturday.
A “synodal journey”
Introducing his address in the Clementine Hall, the Pope highlighted their formation and preparation to priesthood as a “synodal journey”, in which they are called to listen to the Holy Spirit and to one another, ”in order to discern how to help God’s holy people live His gift of communion and become missionary disciples.”
Pope Francis then shared some reflections on three elements which, he said, are essential to priestly formation, recalling the Gospel of St. John on the first encounter between Jesus and two of his future disciples in the presence of John the Baptist (Jn 1:35-42).
The first element is dialogue. Like with St. Andrew and St. Simon Peter, the Pope noted, throughout their seminary formation the Lord enters into a “personal dialogue” with them, asking what they are looking for and inviting them to “come and see”, to speak with Him from their hearts and “give themselves to Him confidently in faith and love.”
This, he pointed out, involves fostering “a daily relationship with Jesus”, nourished “especially by prayer, meditation on the word of God, the help of spiritual accompaniment and listening to Him in silence before the Tabernacle.”
The second fundamental element of priestly formation is communion, “first with God, but also with those joined together in Christ’s body, the Church."
During their formation in Rome, Pope Francis invited the seminarians to keep their eyes open both to the “mystery of the Church’s unity manifested in legitimate diversity yet lived in the oneness of faith.”
He also urged them to “prophetic witness of charity that the Church expresses through her concrete acts of care for those in need”, so as to develop that “fraternal love capable of seeing the grandeur of our neighbour, of finding God in every human being, of tolerating the nuisances of life in common.”
Mission of serving the poor
Finally, mission was the third element highlighted by Pope Francis, that is, witnessing Jesus’ Gospel to others, particularly the vulnerable and those on the margins of society. “People nowadays," he noted, "need us to listen to their questions, anxieties and dreams so that we can better lead them to the Lord, who rekindles hope and renews the life of all.”
Wrapping up his address, Pope Francis prayed that their experience of studying in Rome and their formation at the Pontifical North American College will enable them “to grow in faithful love of God and humble service to our brothers and sisters”, and entrusted them to the maternal intercession of Mary Immaculate, Patroness of the College and of the United States.