Formation of Priests Is Key for Africa, Says Pope

Urges Bishops to Select and Prepare Them Well

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 10, 2005 ( Among the priorities for evangelization, Benedict XVI urges the bishops of southern Africa to pay special attention to the selection and formation of candidates to the priesthood.

The Pope emphasized that point today when he received in audience the bishops of South Africa, Botswana, Swaziland, Namibia and Lesotho during their five-yearly visit to Rome.

«Bishops have a particular responsibility to ensure that these irreplaceable evangelizers are provided with the necessary spiritual, doctrinal and moral preparation,» said the Holy Father. «Many priests, religious and lay men and women who have given their lives to this noble task.»

After mentioning the marked increased in vocations to the priesthood in sub-Saharan Africa, the Bishop of Rome reminded the prelates that it «is your grave responsibility to help them develop into men of the Eucharist.»

«Priests are called to leave everything and become ever more devoted to the Blessed Sacrament, leading men and women to this mystery and the peace it brings,» he said.

Because of this, the Pontiff encouraged the pastors of southern Africa «to select conscientiously candidates for the priesthood.»

Embracing celibacy

«Likewise these young men should be formed with great concern to guarantee that they are prepared for the many challenges they will face, helping them manifest in word and deed the peace and joy of our Lord and Savior,» the Pope said.

He continued: «A world filled with temptations needs priests who are totally dedicated to their mission. Accordingly, they are asked in a very special way to open themselves fully to serving others as Christ did by embracing the gift of celibacy.»

Bishops should assist them by ensuring that «this gift never becomes a burden but always remains life-giving,» the Holy Father added. «One of the ways this can be achieved is by bringing ministers of word and sacrament together for continuing education, retreats and days of recollection.»

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