To face contemporary challenges, priests need creativity, says Pope Francis.
Upon arriving in the southern Italian city of Caserta on Saturday afternoon, Francis told priests who had awaited his arrival in the city’s Palatine Chapel they must possess creativity in their vocation to overcome today’s contemporary challenges.
In typical Francis style, he set aside his prepared discourse and began a very intimate conversation with the priests, answering the questions they presented to him.
The Need for Creativity:
When asked: “How can we overcome the existential crisis born of the linguistic, semantic and cultural revolution in evangelical witness,” the Pope responded, “With creativity.”
Saying creativity is found in prayer, the Pontiff noted, “A bishop who does not pray, a priest who does not pray, has closed the door to creativity.”
Unity, Not Uniformity:
Bishops must give an example of unity, he also said, reminding the priests that was what Jesus had asked of His Father for the Church.
“This cannot be done speaking badly about each other. The unity of bishops is important to the unity of the Church”, he said, adding that the devil revels in and profits from internal conflict.
“The bishops must be in agreement in unity, but not in uniformity. Each one has his charisma; each one has his way of thinking and his point of view.” Though he admitted at times this is the result of mistakes, often it is the result of the Spirit.
“A unity in diversity,” is what’s needed, “in which no-one loses his own personality.”
Proper Spiritual Foundations:
At the center of a diocesan priest’s spirituality, the Pope said, must be maintaining a relationship with the bishop and with the rest of the priests, which he admitted sounds “simple,” but “isn’t easy.”
Gossip is the greatest enemy of these relationships, he declared. “The devil knows that this seed bears fruit, and he sows it well” in his efforts “to impede that evangelical, spiritual and fruitful relationship between the bishop and the presbytery.”
Therefore, he said it is better to say things clearly and openly, rather than give satisfaction to the devil who, in this way, “attacks the center of the spirituality of the diocesan clergy.”
Francis described the priest’s dual capacity for contemplation: towards God and towards man. “He is a man who looks, who fills his eyes and heart with contemplation: with the Gospel before God, and with human problems when among men. The priest must be contemplative in this way.” However, the Pope pointed out, this must not be confused with monastic life, “which is something else.”
Afraid to “Mortify” Popular Piety:
When responding how the primacy of the Gospel can be relaunched without mortifying popular piety, he clarified that true popular piety “was born of that Sensus Fidei described in the Encyclical Lumen Gentium” and is “guided by devotion to the Saints, to the Virgin, and also by folkloric expressions, in the positive sense of the word.”
“The agnosticism that has entered into the Church in groups of intimist piety” are not good, but are instead a form of heresy, he exclaimed. Popular piety, he clarified, “cannot be produced in a laboratory, aseptic,” for it is “inculturated” and “always born of life.”
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