CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 8, 2009 (Zenit.org).- In a nation where there are more than 8,000 Catholics for every priest, Benedict XVI says the priority for bishops is fostering priestly vocations.
The Pope affirmed this Monday when he addressed bishops from two of Brazil’s 16 national regions within the episcopal conference. The prelates were in Italy for their five-yearly visit.
“As Successor of Peter and universal Pastor,” the Holy Father said, “I can assure you that my heart feels day by day your apostolic concerns and efforts, not ceasing to recall before God the challenges you face in the growth of your diocesan communities. In our days, and concretely in Brazil, the laborers in the Lord’s field continue to be few for a harvest that is large.”
Brazil has some 145.5 million Catholics, about 80% of the nation’s population. However, there are less than 17,000 priests (both diocesan and religious), meaning that each priest must be responsible for almost 9,000 Catholics.
The Pontiff acknowledged the marked shortage, but recalled that even in this context, “the adequate formation of those who are called to serve the people of God is truly essential.”
He went on to affirm, noting that the Church is celebrating the Year for Priests, that “the most important task of your episcopal ministry” is “fostering [the vocation] of new pastors.”
“Although God is the only one able to awaken in the human heart a call to the pastoral service of his people, all members of the Church should question if they see and feel the profound urgency of this mission and have a real commitment to it,” he said.
Benedict XVI affirmed that God, who “does not see as man does,” sees the urgency of the situation, “dictated by his desire that ‘all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.'”
The Bishop of Rome went on to discuss some of the changes that happened in the Church after the Second Vatican Council.
He lamented that “some interpreted the openness not as a demand flowing from the missionary ardor of the Heart of Christ, but as a step toward secularization” and that “many ecclesial communities fell into self-secularization. Hoping to charm those who were not joining, they saw many of their members leave, cheated and disillusioned.”
Youth now seeking the priesthood were born into this environment, the Holy Father observed. And thus, they “need to find formators who are true men of God, priests totally dedicated to formation, who give witness of the gift of themselves to the Church, through celibacy and an austere life, according to the model of Christ the Good Shepherd.”
With guidance like this, the Pontiff concluded, aspiring priests will “learn to be sensitive to the encounter with the Lord, in daily participation in the Eucharist, loving silence and prayer, working first of all for the glory of God and the salvation of souls.”
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Full text: www.zenit.org/article-26808?l=english