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Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear priests, dear sisters, friends
I extend a warm welcome to all of you! I affectionately greet your President, Archbishop Beniamino Stella, and I thank him for the kind words he addressed to me on your behalf, remembering the welcome visits that I have made in the past to your Casa. I also remember the friendly insistence with which Bishop Stella convinced me, now two years ago, to send to the Academy a priest of the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires! Archbishop Stella knows how to knock at the door! The problem was on my end, because I did not find a priest to send, and I chose a marathoner . . . I sent him. A grateful thought goes also to his colleagues and to the Sisters and staff, who offer their generous service in your community.
Dear friends, you are preparing for a particular ministry of commitment, which will place you in the direct service of the Successor of Peter, of his charism of unity and communion, and of his solicitude for all the Churches. The work that is done in the Pontifical diplomatic service requires, like any type of priestly ministry, a great inner freedom. Live these years of your preparation with commitment, generosity, and greatness of soul, so that this freedom can really take shape in you!
But what does it mean to have this interior freedom? First of all it means being free from personal projects, being free from personal projects: from some of the concrete ways in which perhaps one day, you had thought of living your priesthood, from the possibilities of planning for the future; from the perspective of remaining for a long time in a your place of pastoral action. 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.
Above all, it means vigilance in order to be free from ambition or personal aims, which can cause so much harm to the Church, taking care to always put in the first place not your own self-fulfillment, or the recognition that you could get whether inside and outside of the ecclesial community, but the greater good of the cause of the Gospel and the fulfillment of the mission that has been entrusted to you. This freedom from ambition or personal aims, for me, is important, its important! Careerism is leprosy! Leprosy! Please, no careerism! For this reason, each of you must be willing to integrate your vision of the Church, however legitimate, every personal idea or assessment, within the horizons seen by Peter, of his particular mission at the service of communion and the unity of the flock of Christ, of his pastoral charity which embraces the whole world, and that, thanks also to the action of the Pontifical diplomatic service, wishes to make itself present especially in those places, often forgotten, where the needs of the Church and of humanity are greatest.
In a word, the ministry for which you are preparing because you are being prepared for a ministry, not a profession: it is a ministry! This ministry calls you to go out of yourself, to a detachment from self that can only be achieved through an intense spiritual journey and a serious unification of your life around the mystery of the love of God and of the inscrutable plan of His call. In the light of the faith, we are able to live the freedom from our own projects and our own will, not as a cause of frustration or emptying, but as an opening to the superabundant gift of God, that makes our priesthood fruitful. Living the ministry in service to the Successor of Peter and to the Church to which you are called may appear demanding, but it will allow you, so to say, to be and to breathe within the heart of the Church, of its catholicity. And this constitutes a special gift, because, as Pope Benedict recalled when speaking to your community, wherever there is openness to the objectivity of catholicity, there is also the principle of authentic personalization (Speech to the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, 10 June 2011).
Have great care for the spiritual life, which is the source of inner freedom. 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. Here I am happy to recall the figure of Blessed John XXIII, the fiftieth anniversary of whose death we celebrated a few days ago: his work in the Pontifical diplomatic service was one of the places, and not the least significant, in which his sanctity was formed. Rereading his writings, one is impressed by the care he always took in guarding his soul, in the midst of the most varied ecclesial and political occupations. Here was born his inner freedom, the joy that he conveyed outwardly, and the effectiveness of his pastoral and diplomatic action. As he said 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 . . . and to go directly to that which is truth, justice, charity, above all charity. Any other [way] of doing things, is nothing but posturing and grasping at personal affirmation, which betrays itself and becomes cumbersome and ridiculous.” (Cinisello Balsamo 2000, p. 497). He wanted to prune his vineyard: to chase out the foliage, to prune. . . And some years later, joined to the end of his work in the Pontifical diplomatic service, when he was already Patriarch of Venice, he wrote, “Now I find myself completely in the ministry of souls. Truly I have always held that for an ecclesiastic, diplomacy, so to say, should always be permeated by a pastoral spirit; otherwise, it counts for nothing, and makes a holy mission ridiculous (ibid., pp. 513-14).” But this is important! Listen well: When in the Nunciature there is a secretary or a nuncio that doesnt 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! 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.
I would also like to say something to the Sisters thank you for coming! Who undertake their daily service among you with a religious and Franciscan spirit. They are good Mothers who accompany you with prayer, with their simple and essential words, and above all by the example of loyalty, dedication and love. Along with them I would like to thank the lay staff who work in Casa. Their hidden, but important presence, allows you to spend your time in the Academy with serenity and commitment.
Dear priests, I hope that you will undertake the service to the Holy See with the same spirit as Blessed John XXIII. I ask you to pray for me, and I commend you to the safekeeping of the Virgin May and of Saint Anthony the Abbot, your patron. May the assurance of my prayers and of my blessing which I cordially extend to all your loved ones go with you. Thank you!