Careerism, ambition, lack of spiritual life. These three things, Pope Francis warned, would deter future diplomats from attaining the inner freedom that is necessary for their work. The Holy Father spoke today to members of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy which trains priests to serve in the diplomatic corps and the Secretariat of State of the Holy See.
The Holy Father began by reminding students that like all priestly ministries, the Pontifical diplomatic service requires “a great inner freedom.” The inner freedom, he said, means being free from personal projects, or how one thinks of living the priesthood or planning out their future.
“It means freeing yourself, in some way, even with respect to the culture and mindset from which you came, not by forgetting it, much less by denying it, but by opening yourself up, in charity, to understanding different cultures and meeting with people even from worlds very far from your own,” the Holy Father said.
Ambitions or personal aims, he continued, would only harm the Church by distracting from the mission entrusted to them, that is, ensuring “the greater good of the cause of the Gospel.”
“Careerism is leprosy! Leprosy!” the Pope exclaimed. “Please, no careerism!” Pope Francis called on the priests of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy to integrate their vision of the Church “within “the horizons seen by Peter” and of his mission “at the service of communion and the unity of the flock of Christ”, especially in areas where the needs of humanity and the Church are often forgotten.
The Holy Father, emphasizing that the students were preparing for a ministry and not a profession, conveyed the importance of detaching from one’s will and self in order to unify their lives “around the ministry of the love of God.”
The Need for Spiritual Life
Pope Francis also expressed the need for the future diplomats to care for their spiritual lives, saying that without prayer, “there is no interior freedom.”
“You can make a precious treasure of the instruments of conforming your priestly spirituality to Christ Himself, cultivating a life of prayer and making your daily work the gymnasium of your sanctification,” the Pope said.
Drawing from the example of Blessed John XXIII, who also served in the Holy See’s diplomatic corp prior to being named Patriarch of Venice, the 76 year old Pontiff said that the “good Pope” took great care in guarding his soul during his service.
The Pope recalled the writings of his predecessor who stated in his “Journal of a Soul”: “The more mature I become in years and in experience, the more I recognize that the surest means for my personal sanctification and for the greater success of my service to the Holy See, remains the vigilant effort to reduce everything principles, speeches, positions, affairs, to the greatest simplicity and calmness; in my vineyard, always to prune that which is simply useless foliage.”
The Holy Father warned the priests of being involved in what he described as “spiritual worldliness” which only serves in making them look “ridiculous.”
“When in the Nunciature there is a secretary or a nuncio that doesn’t go along the way of sanctity, and gets involved in so many forms, in so many kinds of spiritual worldliness, he looks ridiculous, and everyone laughs at him!” the Pope said. “Please don’t be ridiculous: either [be] saints or go back to the diocese and be a pastor, but don’t be ridiculous in the diplomatic [service], in the diplomatic life, where there is so much danger of becoming worldly in spirituality.”
Pope Francis concluded his address, calling on the students of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy to “undertake the service to the Holy See with the same spirit as Blessed John XXIII.”
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For the full text of Pope Francis’ address, go to: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-s-address-to-the-pontifical-ecclesiastical-academy