JUST IN: Pope Francis has mandated that future Holy See diplomats spend a year in missionary service.
This news was expressed in a letter written by the Pope and published today by the Holy See Press Office to the President of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, the Church’s institution where those with a future in diplomatic service to the Holy See study in Rome.
Dated February 11, 2020, the Argentine Pontiff’s letter was addressed to American prelate, Archbishop Joseph Marino, President of the Academy.
In its text, the Holy Father requests to integrate into the curriculum of formation of priests and candidates to the Holy See’s Diplomatic Service, “a year of missionary commitment in a diocese of the particular Churches, in order to form in them an apostolic zeal to go to border territories outside their native diocese.”
Addressing Archbishop Marino as ‘brother,’ the Holy Father expressed that in the wake of the Vatican’s October 2019 Synod on the Amazon, he has decided to ask the academy to incorporate this element, which would go into effect for the next 2020/2021 academic year.
The Jesuit Pontiff emphasized how this year of experience in a diocese in need will help them in their future service.
Below is a full ZENIT working translation of Pope Francis’ Italian letter on ‘New Indications for the Formation of Priests and Candidates to the Holy See’s Diplomatic Service:’
At the conclusion of the works of the recent Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazonian Region, I expressed the desire that priests, who are preparing for the Holy See’s Diplomatic Service, dedicate a year of their formation to missionary commitment in a Diocese. I am convinced that such an experience will be useful to all young men who are preparing or are initiating priestly service but, in a particular way, to those who in the future will be called to collaborate with Pontifical Representatives and who, later, will in turn be sent by the Holy See to Nations and particular Churches. In fact, as I was already able to remind the community of this Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy: “The mission that you will be called one day to carry out will take you to all parts of the world: in Europe needy to awaken; in Africa thirsty for reconciliation; in Latin America hungry for nourishment and interiority; in North America intended to rediscover the roots of an identity that is not defined from exclusion; in Asia and Oceania, challenged by the capacity to ferment in the diaspora and dialogue with the vastness of ancestral cultures” (June 25, 2015).
To address positively these growing challenges for the Church and for the world, it is also necessary that future diplomats of the Holy See acquire, beyond a solid priestly and pastoral formation, and the specific offer of this Academy, a personal mission experience outside their native Diocese, sharing with the missionary Churches a period of walking together to their community, taking part in their daily evangelizing activity.
Therefore, I turn to you, dear Brother, who recently assumed the office of President of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, asking you to implement my desire to enrich the curriculum of the academic formation with a year dedicated entirely to the missionary service in the particular Churches around the world. This new experience will come into force beginning with the new students that will initiate their formation in the next academic year 2020/2021.
To elaborate this project more profoundly and to start it well, it is necessary first of all to have a close collaboration with the Secretariat of State and, more precisely, with the Section for the Personnel of Diplomatic Role of the Holy See, as well as with Pontifical Representatives, who certainly will not fail to give valid help in singling out the particular Churches that are ready to receive the students and to follow closely their experience .
I am certain that, by overcoming the initial concerns, which could arise in face of this new style of formation for future diplomats of the Holy See, the missionary experience that one wishes to promote will be useful not only to the young academics but also to the individual Churches with which they will collaborate and, I hope, will awaken in other priests of the universal Church the desire to make themselves available to engage in a period of missionary service outside their own Diocese.
In conclusion, entrusting to the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, this new way of formation of future collaborators in the Holy See’s Diplomatic Service. I send you, dear Brother and the whole community of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy a warm greeting and my Apostolic Blessing, asking you, please, to remember me in your prayers.
From the Vatican, February 11, 2020
FRANCIS[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]