CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 5, 2002 ( John Paul II pointedly instructed bishops to be extremely careful in their selection of candidates for the priesthood, in order to avoid a repetition of the scandals linked to emotional disorders.

The Pope used strong words this morning when he met Brazilian bishops of dioceses near Rio de Janeiro, who were ending their quinquennial "ad limina" to Rome.

"It is my duty to stress a renewed attention to the selection of vocations to the seminary, using all available means to obtain a proper knowledge of the candidates, particularly from the moral and emotional point of view," the Pope said categorically.

"Let no bishop feel exempted from this duty of conscience. He will have to render an account directly to God," the Holy Father warned.

The Pope said that "it would be lamentable that, because of a misunderstood tolerance, immature youths or youths with obvious signs of emotional disorders, be admitted to ordination, which -- as is sadly known -- can cause grave scandal in the consciences of the faithful and obvious harm for the whole Church."

Hence, "a solid formation for the life of prayer and the liturgy is fundamental," the Pope said, adding that "fidelity to the doctrine on priestly celibacy for the Kingdom of heaven must be regarded with great esteem by the Church."

Especially, "when it comes to discerning, in candidates to the priesthood, the call to unconditional and full commitment," John Paul II emphasized.

"It is necessary to remind them that celibacy is not an extrinsic and useless element -- a superstructure -- to their priesthood, but a profound disposition to participate in the dignity of Christ and in the service of the new humanity," the Holy Father explained.

He focused on the roots of the problem: "The existence in some theological schools and seminaries of poorly prepared professors, [some of whom] are even in disagreement with the Church, causes profound sadness and concern."
<br> The Pope explained that it is not possible to let "those who are formed, to be exposed to the disorders of formators and professors who lack explicit ecclesial communion, and clear evidence of seeking holiness."

One of the means the Church has in promoting the selection and formation of candidates to the priesthood are apostolic visits, which in general the Church entrusts to representatives who verify the lifestyle and teaching in seminaries.

This instrument "would leave significant and lasting effects," the Pope acknowledged, "if the bishops assumed decisively and carried out immediately the changes requested by the visitor."