Pope to Bishops: Train Priests to Be Close to People; Be Not Afraid in Welcoming Immigrants

Concludes Meeting With Prelates Giving ‘2 Recommendations Which Are Close to My Heart’

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Pope Francis this morning offered an extensive reflection for his brother bishops, proposing to them various keys for their ministry and for their work in the United States. At the end of his address, he asked to share «two recommendations which are close to my heart»: one on spiritual fatherhood and the other on immigrants.

The Pope told the bishops of the United States gathered in Washington’s St. Matthew’s Cathedral that they must be «pastors close to people, pastors who are neighbors and servants.»

This closeness, he said, should «be expressed in a special way towards your priests.»

Don’t let them grow content with half-measures, he warned. «Find ways to encourage their spiritual growth, lest they yield to the temptation to become notaries and bureaucrats.»

«Be vigilant lest they tire of getting up to answer those who knock on their door by night, just when they feel entitled to rest (Lk 11:5-8),» the Pope said. «Train them to be ready to stop, care for, soothe, lift up and assist those who, ‘by chance’ find themselves stripped of all they thought they had (Lk 10:29-37).»

Bearing gifts

Then, the Pope spoke of immigrants, saying in reference to his own history as the son of Italian immigrants, «I ask you to excuse me if in some way I am pleading my own case.»

The Holy Father praised the bishops for their care of immigrants, saying the Church here in the States «knows like few others the hopes present in the hearts of these ‘pilgrims.'»

«From the beginning you have learned their languages, promoted their cause, made their contributions your own, defended their rights, helped them to prosper, and kept alive the flame of their faith,» he said.

No one in America is helping immigrants more than the Church, the Pope declared, recognizing that the stream of immigration from Latin America «affects many of your dioceses.»

«Not only as the Bishop of Rome, but also as a pastor from the South, I feel the need to thank and encourage you,» he said. 

«Perhaps,» he continued, «it will not be easy for you to look into their soul; perhaps you will be challenged by their diversity. But know that they also possess resources meant to be shared. So do not be afraid to welcome them. Offer them the warmth of the love of Christ and you will unlock the mystery of their heart. 

«I am certain that, as so often in the past, these people will enrich America and its Church.»


On ZENIT’s Web page:

Full text: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-s-address-to-us-bishops

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Kathleen Naab

United States

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