By Gabriella Geraso
Archbishop Joseph Marino, the new President of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, speaks to Vatican Radio about Pope Francis’ directives in relationship to the formation of Vatican nuncios.
He said that a missionary experience is one of conversion, which pushes us out of ourselves and opens us to the realities of those Churches and countries that are most in need of the presence of the Holy Father.
On Saturday, 1 February, I was received in audience by the Holy Father; during this audience he told me that he had already decided to make the missionary experience part of the formation that takes place in the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy. At that time, and as he did in his letter, Pope Francis made it very clear that the formation to which he refers is fundamentally priestly and pastoral and by extension must include missionary experience and formation. If we look at the pontificate of Pope Francis, since his election he has repeated several times that he dreams of a missionary Church, an outgoing Church. And I think that we must return to reading the “Evangelii gaudium” because this document contains the vision that Pope Francis has of the Church. And certainly, we as representatives must have the same spirit and the same vision. This vision actually has a transformative effect on all of us because it asks of us a true conversion of going out of ourselves, out of our personal interests and moves us to embrace those Churches, those countries even, which need the paternal presence of the Holy Father most. For this reason, the missionary experience - and I am reflecting a lot on this in the last few hours since I received this letter - can be considered a kind of spiritual exercise for our own conversion, to be able to serve in and for the Church.
Q: In his letter the Pope speaks of the growing challenges for the Church, for the world; growing challenges that await the students of the Academy. We must respond with priestly and pastoral formation, but also with the specific formation of your Academy. Can you explain to us more clearly how the Academy's formation process works?
Life in the Academy is first and foremost the life of a community of priests, and I like to consider the time spent in this institution as an opportunity to deepen our priestly life and to constantly develop a truly profound pastoral spirit. Only in this way, I believe, can we be true and effective ambassadors of the Church. I remember my study here, in the Academy, when one of the Readers said that before we were diplomats, we were priests, and that the people to whom we are sent, including our diplomatic colleagues, would look at us and examine us first of all as priests, before considering us diplomats. The Academy also provides courses in diplomacy, which are necessary in our work.
Q: The reform desired by the Pope will come into force in the year that begins, 2020-2021. Can you also tell us how many students it will be affected? Where they are from? And if you already know, what they think about it ...
In his letter the Pope clearly says that this new course will begin to be effective with regard to those students who will enter the Academy from the month of September 2020: these will be the first to participate directly in this missionary experience.
Q: How will the destination for the missionary experience be chosen? And with whom will the Academy be collaborating?
These elements are being worked on; I am confident that I can count on nuncios around the world to contribute to the formulation, implementation and support of this new aspect of Academy training. One thing is certain: by having this missionary experience in the different countries, we will be able to witness first-hand the joyful and dedicated work of the missionary, bringing the Gospel in all its facets. And I think that this will give us even more enthusiasm in our work as diplomats for the Holy See.