This meeting served to give an account of the results of the apostolic visit to the Spanish seminaries Photo: Spanish Episcopal Conference

Five Hours with the Pope in the Vatican and “It Wasn’t to Pull Ears”: Thus Was the Meeting with the Entire Spanish Episcopate

The long conversation with Pope Francis, which lasted over two hours, focused on the Seminaries. Topics addressed, among others, were formation in the Seminaries, the pastoral experience of seminarians, and the importance of the different dimensions of formation: pastoral, spiritual, theological, human, etc.

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(ZENIT News / Vatican City – Rome, 28.11.2023).- On Tuesday morning, November 28, Pope Francis and officials of the Holy See’s Dicastery for the Clergy met with members of the Spanish Episcopal Conference(SEC) in the New Hall of the Synod in Vatican City.

The SEC’s President, Cardinal Juan José Omella; the Secretary General, Monsignor Francisco César García Magán and the President of the Episcopal Sub-Commission for Seminaries, Monsignor Jesús Vidal, explained during a press conference the details of the meeting.

This meeting, called in the last week of October, was an occasion to inform on the result of the Apostolic Visit to Spanish Seminaries, which was held in the first quarter of 2023. The Bishops had a long conversation with the Holy Father on the Seminaries and the necessary formation. Then they were handed the Working Document prepared by the Dicastery for the Clergy.

A Five-Hour Meeting

The meeting began at 08:00 am with a time of prayer led by Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, the Papal Household Preacher, who offered a meditation based on the Pentecost event, on the need and importance of priests and seminarians having a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. Pope Francis joined them in the course of the meditation.

After the meditation, the SEC’s President, Cardinal Omella, greeted the Holy Father, thanking him for the invitation to this meeting and for the Apostolic Visit.

Immediately after, a long conversation of over two hours began with the Pontiff, which focused on the question of Seminaries. Among others, the topics addressed were the formation in Seminaries, seminarians’ pastoral experience, and the importance of the different dimensions of formation: pastoral, spiritual, theological, human, etc. In the press conference after the meeting, Cardinal Omella underscored that it wasn’t to “pull their ears” [to reprimand them].

Conclusions of the Working Document

 After the meeting with the Pope and a brief pause, the meeting took place with the Members of the Dicastery, who shared with the Spanish Bishops the conclusions of the Working Document.

The Dicastery’s Members pointed out the important points of the text on the formation of seminarians, approved by the Episcopal Conference, already in place, and what  must be emphasized henceforth.

With the text in hand, a conversation began between the Spanish Bishops and the Dicastery’s Members, to reflect on the mentioned recommendations, whose objective is to form missionary priests for a Church going forth. Monsignor Jesús Vidal, President of the Episcopal Sub-Commission for Seminaries was appointed as Reference Bishop for the process of discernment and boosting of formation in Seminaries.

The Working Document highlighted some of the criteria pointed out by “Ratio Fundamentalis” of Spanish Seminaries, which is entitled “To Form Missionary Pastors.” The Document requires that, in the forthcoming years, this project be addressed with flexibility, without rigours, adapted to the circumstances of each Ecclesiastical Province, diocese, etc.

The Dicastery’s officials expressed their willingness to collaborate in the implementation of these measures in the different Dioceses and Seminaries.

The Apostolic Visit to the Seminaries

It was the Dicastery for the Clergy that promoted the Apostolic Visit to the Spanish Seminaries, and which was entrusted to two Uruguayan Bishops: Monsignor Arturo Eduardo Fajardo, Bishop of Salto, and Monsignor Milton Luis Tróccoli, Bishop of Maldonado-Punta del Este – Minas.

The Visit took place from January 11 to March 3, 2023. During this time, they got to know 55 Spanish Formation Centers , in addition to the Bidasoa International College and the Comillas Formation Center.

On their arrival in Spain, the Visitors were received by the President of the Episcopal Commission for the Clergy and Seminaries, Monsignor Joan Enric Vives, Archbishop  of Seo de Urgell; and by the President of the Sub-Commission of Seminaries, Monsignor Jesús Vidal, Auxiliary Bishop of Madrid, as well as the Secretaries of the Episcopal Conference’s Commission and Sub-Commission, Juan Carlos Mateos and Sergio Requena. The Visits were carried out on two simultaneous routes, each one with one of the Visiting Bishops.

The Spanish Seminaries

There are 86 Seminaries in Spain, distributed in different Houses of Formation. There is an inter-diocesan Seminary in Cataluña, 14 Seminaries that welcome in their Houses of Formation seminarians from other dioceses, and 40 Seminaries that receive their own seminarians. Of these forty, 29 are of the dioceses and 15 of the Redemptoris Mater Seminaries. There is also a formation community of an ecclesial reality of the diocesan ambit.

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