Below is a translation of the Pope’s address to the diocesan priests of Cassano all’Jonio at noon today which took place in the diocesan cathedral:
I thank you for your welcome! I very much desired this meeting with you, who bear the daily weight of parish work.
I would like first of all to share with you the joy of being priests. The ever new surprise of having been called, in fact, of having been called by the Lord Jesus. Called to follow Him, to be with Him, to go to others taking Him, His Word, his forgiveness … There is nothing more beautiful for man than this, isn’t that true? When we priests are before the tabernacle, and we pause a moment there, in silence, then we feel Jesus’ look again on us, and this look renews us, it reanimates us …
Certainly, sometimes it is not easy to remain before the Lord; it is not easy because we are prey of so many things, of so many persons …; but sometimes it is not easy because we feel a certain discomfort, Jesus’ look disturbs us a bit, it puts us also in crisis … But this does us good! In the silence of prayer Jesus makes us see if we are working as good agents, or perhaps we have become somewhat like “employees”; if we are open, generous “channels” through which His love, His grace flow abundantly , or if instead we put ourselves at the center, and so, instead of being “channels,” we become “screens” which do not help the encounter with the Lord, with the light and strength of the Gospel.
And the second thing I wish to share with you is the beauty of fraternity: of being priests together, of following the Lord not on our own, not one to one, but together, also in the great variety of gifts and personalities; in fact, it is precisely this that enriches the presbytery, the variety of provenance, of age, of talents … And everything lived in communion, in fraternity.
This also is not easy, it is not immediate and taken for granted. First of all because we priests are also immersed in today’s subjectivist culture, this culture that exalts the “I” to the point of idolizing it. And then because of a certain pastoral individualism that, unfortunately, is diffused in our dioceses. Therefore, we must react to this with the choice of fraternity. I speak of “choice” intentionally. It cannot be something left to chance, to favorable circumstances … No, it is a choice, which corresponds to the reality that constitutes us, to the gift we received but which must always be gathered and cultivated: communion in Christ in the presbytery, around the Bishop. This communion calls for being lived, seeking concrete ways appropriate to the times and to the reality of the territory, but always in an apostolic perspective, with a missionary style, with fraternity and simplicity of life. When Jesus says: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35), he says it, certainly, for all, but first of all for the Twelve, for those He has called to follow him more closely.
The joy of being priests and the beauty of fraternity: these are the two things that I felt most important thinking of you. I mention only one last thing: I encourage you in your work with families and for the family. It is a work that the Lord asks us to do in a particular way at this time, which is a difficult time, both for the family as institution and for families because of the crisis. But precisely when the time is difficult, God makes His closeness felt, His grace, the prophetic force of His Word. And we are called to be witnesses, mediators of this closeness to families and of this prophetic force for the family.
Dear brothers, I thank you. And let us go forward, animated by our common love for the Lord and Holy Mother Church. May Our Lady protect and accompany you. We remain united in prayer. Thank you![Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]