Some one-hundred priests were present in the House of the Pious Disciples of the Divine Master Photo: Vatican Media

Pope Francis’ Face to Face Conversation with Young Clergy of Rome: Issues Addressed

Pope Francis holds a meeting with priests of less than 10 years of priestly ordination in the diocese of Rome

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(ZENIT News / Rome, 30.05.2024).- Proximity is the word Pope Francis repeated several times on Wednesday afternoon, May 29, when meeting with young priests of the diocese of Rome, ordained between 2014 and 2024. Some one-hundred priests were present in the House of the Pious Disciples of the Divine Master, where Francis arrived around 4:30 pm. The Holy Father was welcomed by Monsignor Baldo Reina, Vice-Regent of the diocese of Rome, and Monsignor Michele Di Tolve, delegate of the Ambit for the care of the diaconate, the clergy and religious life.

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After greeting the Community of women religious and individuals and their families taking part in the institution’s services in the crypt, the Pope went up to the church where the meeting took place. After the Reading of the Word of God and a moment of prayer, and after Monsignor Di Tolve’s greeting, a conversation took place between the Pontiff and the priests present. Among the topics addressed was the young priests’ experiences during  the first years of priesthood, the happy discovery of the people’s faith, but also the challenge of serving the sick, to whom one must respond with closeness, compassion, tenderness, as well as the crises one goes through in the priestly life. “One never comes out of a crisis alone,” said the Pope.

They also talked about the diocese of Rome, its development, beauty and some weaknesses to which one must respond not with gossip but with dialogue, about the synodal way, the risk of reducing it to a slogan instead of living it as a way of living in the Church. In this connection, Pope Francis quoted Paul VI’s Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, “current, a jewel that sustains our pastoral care,” and the value of paternity, a charism that must grow in the priesthood. Addressed also during the meeting was closeness with others, including in difficult relations. Pope Francis stressed the importance  of being close to the elderly and, as proof of it, to ask oneself: “Do I go to see them? Do I listen to them?” — and to do so modestly.

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When greeting the young priests, the Pope invited them to the coming celebration of Corpus Christi on Sunday, June 2, and thanked them for their prayer and frank conversation.

“This is the Pope’s eighth meeting with priests: in the sectors, all together in January, with elderly priests , and now this one,” said Monsignor Reina. “As in the other meetings, the Holy Father expressed all his paternity. Today, here, in a special way, because he had before him the young clergy. He listened to the anxieties and testimonies of some of them. He gave advice, as a father does, a grandfather, we could say, to his grandchildren, to his youngest sons, related with his experience. He talked a lot about closeness: with the elderly, the sick, those living in helplessness. He also recommended closeness among themselves, among the priests, without yielding to chatter, which sometimes exhausts relationships and a healthy spiritual life. It was a very nice meeting, and very nice frankness with which the young priests asked the Holy Father questions, also about problematic issues and he answered them with naturalness, without hiding the problems but showing his willingness to address and resolve them positively.”

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Monsignor Di Tolve agreed: “The meeting was desired by the Holy Father who, little by little, is seeing all the incardinated presbytery in Rome. He has already seen the priests of 40 to 70 years of Ordination, now he has seen the recently ordained priests, from 2014 to 2024, and then the priests of the first ten years of Ordination. They are the years of “performance”: the formation in the Seminary isn’t enough, because one arrives at being a priest by really exercising the ministry. Our priests’ questions referred in fact to their becoming priests in the midst of the People of God, with the various assignments, with the time to live in relationship with God and with others, with the people’s needs.”

Among the topics that arose, the Bishop said was “what it means to be close  to the different human conditions. Also asked was how to go through people’s crises, because there are difficult situations: the time of the past pandemic, the time of war, the time of young people that are really trapped by mentalities that disorient them, people’s sickness, the loneliness of the elderly, the housing situation in Rome. We have elderly that live on the fifth, on the seventh floor and have gone years without being able to come down because there aren’t any elevators! They asked questions about everything, beginning with what they are living through and asking the Pope’s advice. It was a paternal conversation, truly between father and sons. The Holy Father recommended much closeness to God, to the Bishop, and to each one in fraternity and to the People of God. These are the four proximities that must be lived always,” he said.

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