Benedict XVI Stresses Importance of Seminaries

Says Formation Is Key for Exemplary Priests

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 20, 2009 ( Years spent in seminary are decisive for discernment and preparation, says Benedict XVI, and the need for priests cannot lead to foregoing a painstaking discernment of the candidates.

The Pope affirmed this today when he addressed the Pontifical Commission for Latin America during their plenary assembly.

The Holy Father noted that last year, he met with many of the bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean during their five-yearly visit. «With them I spoke about the reality of the local Churches that have been entrusted to them, thus being able to know more closely the hopes and difficulties of their apostolic ministry,» he said.

The Pontiff encouraged the continental mission under way in the region, the main fruit of the 5th General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean, which he inaugurated in Brazil in 2007.

Church as home

Drawing from the theme of the plenary assembly, Benedict XVI emphasized the importance of the education future priests receive in the seminary.

«For all of us, the seminary was a decisive time of discernment and preparation,» he said. «There, in profound dialogue with Christ, our desire to be deeply rooted in him was strengthened. In those years, we learned to see the Church as our own home, accompanied by Mary, the Mother of Jesus and our most loving Mother, always obedient to the will of God. […]

«To have priests according to the heart of Christ, confidence must be placed in the action of the Holy Spirit, more than in human strategies and calculations. […] On the other hand, the need for priests to address the challenges of today’s world must not lead to the abandonment of a painstaking discernment of the candidates, or the neglect of necessary — even rigorous — demands, so that their formative process helps to make them exemplary priests.»

The Pope contended that «today more than ever, it is necessary that seminarians, with the right intention and beyond any other interest, aspire to the priesthood moved solely by the will to be genuine disciples and missionaries of Jesus Christ who, in communion with his bishops, make him present with their ministry and witness of life.»

He said that the students’ «human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral formation,» is key for this, as well as the «adequate choice of their formators and professors, who must be outstanding in their academic capacity, their priestly spirit and their fidelity to the Church, so that they can instill in the young men what the People of God need and expect from their pastors.»

The Bishop of Rome concluded by entrusting the initiatives of the assembly to the Virgin Mary, «praying that she will accompany those who are preparing for the priestly ministry following in the footsteps of her Divine Son, Jesus Christ, our redeemer.»

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