Cardinal Grocholewski on Priestly Formation

Prefect of the Education Congregation Speaks of the Church’s Priority

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By H. Sergio Mora

ROME, FEB. 8, 2012 ( Among the different types of formation, for the Church, the formation of priests is crucial.

On Monday ZENIT interviewed Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education. The interview took place in the context of a Week of Study under way at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, titled «The Ministry of Direction in Seminaries.»

ZENIT: Your Eminence, what have you hoped to transmit to the participants in this Week of Study?

Cardinal Grocholewski: That among all the types of formation, the Church knows that the formation of priests is the most important because upon them will depend both the apostolate of the laity — where the priest is the guide — as well as the realization of consecrated life, because the spiritual father of religious and consecrated persons is always a priest.

Hence, on the quality of these ministers will depend to a great extent the future of the Church and of the apostolate in general.

ZENIT: Are there fewer vocations today? People have to be very determined to choose the priestly life.

Cardinal Grocholewski: At the level of the whole Church, there aren’t fewer vocations, the numbers are even growing. We see this in Africa and Asia. I will give you a small example: in Thailand, the total number of Catholics is 300,000, hence, a small community. And, in the major seminary, there are 220 seminarians, 140 of whom are diocesan and the rest religious, also in Latin America, but not in the same proportion in all the countries. Even in Europe we find some examples: last year in Romania, where Catholics are 7% of the population, in a diocese of 220,000 Catholics, there were 140 candidates in the seminary.

ZENIT: The core is always holiness, isn’t it?

Cardinal Grocholewski: Of course. Holiness is the core of all spiritual formation, because human, intellectual and pastoral formation also depend on it. Hence, for us the core of the whole spiritual formation of priests is the spiritual. Let’s take, for example, the case of John Mary Vianney, who, without special preparation, in times of harsh persecution when so many priests were killed, when everyone was saying «nothing can be done,» created, instead, a center of spirituality in a small parish where people from all over France flocked to hear this parish priest.

He, a simple priest, did altogether more than one hundred others. What extraordinary thing did he do? Nothing, he was simply a real priest who, united to Christ, knew what he had to do as a priest.

ZENIT: The Pope is very interested in the formation of priests.

Cardinal Grocholewski: It is impressive the frequency with which Benedict XVI speaks of priests and of the gifts of holiness they must have. I think it is really exceptional. Every day, wherever the Pope speaks, he says something about seminaries and priests. And this is very significant. He realizes that many things depend on us, priests, that today it is more difficult to be a priest than in the past. Hence it is necessary to be rooted in prayer, in spirituality and in union with Christ.

[Translation by ZENIT]
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