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Pope’s Address to Pontifical Lombard Seminary

A temptation appears on the way that must be rejected: that of “normality,” of a Pastor for whom a “normal” life is enough. … for us “normality” is pastoral holiness, the gift of life. If a priest chooses to be only a normal person, he will be a mediocre priest or worse.

Today, Pope Francis received in audience the community of the Pontifical Lombard Seminary in Rome. Here is a ZENIT translation of his address:

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I greet you affectionately and I thank Cardinal Scola for his courteous words. I am happy to meet with you on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of this institution: so, you also celebrate in the Holy Year of Mercy a Jubilee of Thanksgiving to God, rock on which life is founded, because “His faithfulness endures for ever” (Cf. Psalm 117:2). Do not forget this: God is faithful.

Blessed Paul VI blessed the Lombard Seminary on November 11, 1965, so that this house would be inhabited at the end of Vatican Council II, in which the Fathers perceived strongly that, “the walls having been pulled down, which for too much time had shut the Church in a privileged citadel, the time had arrived to proclaim the Gospel in a new way” (Misericordiae Vultus, 4). Thus, in the “Roman years,” which are not only of study, but of true and proper priestly formation, you also are preparing yourselves to follow the impulse of the Spirit, to be the “future of the Church” according to God’s heart; not according to the preferences of each one or the fashions of the moment, but as the proclamation of the Gospel requires. To prepare oneself well one must work in depth, but above all one must undergo an interior conversion, which daily roots the ministry in Jesus’ first call, and revives it in a personal relation with Him, as the Apostle Paul did, whose conversion, in fact, we recall today.

In this connection, I would like to draw your attention to a model you already know well: Saint Charles Borromeo. Father de Certeau has presented his life as a constant “movement of conversion,” tending to reflect the image of the Pastor: “He identified himself with this image, nourished it with his life, knowing that the discourse passes in reality through the price of blood: sanguinis ministri, were the true priests for him. Therefore, he realized the image by losing himself. He put all his ‘passion’ into reproducing it” (Dizionario biografico degli italiani, XX, 1977, p. 263). Thus, holy Pastors, such as Borromeo, carried out the great work of the time, which culminated in the holding of the Council of Trent. Dear friends, you are heirs and witnesses of a great history of sanctity, which sinks its roots in your patrons, the Bishops Ambrose and Charles, and in most recent times has had among its pupils, three Blesseds and three Servants of God. This is the goal to which you should strive!

However, a temptation appears on the way that must be rejected: that of “normality,” of a Pastor for whom a “normal” life is enough. Thus this priest begins to be contented with some attention received, he judges the ministry on the basis of his successes and he abandons himself to research of what pleases him, becoming tepid and without a real interest in others. Instead, for us “normality” is pastoral holiness, the gift of life. If a priest chooses to be only a normal person, he will be a mediocre priest or worse.

Saint Charles wanted Pastors that were servants of God and fathers of the people, especially of the poor. But — it always does us good to remember this – he can only proclaim the words of life who makes of his own life a constant dialogue with the Word of God, or, better, with God who speaks to us. Entrusted to you during these years is the mission to train yourselves in this dialogue of life: knowledge of the various disciplines that you study is not an end in itself, but is concretized in the colloquy of prayer and in a real encounter with persons. It does no good to be formed “in watertight compartments”; prayer, education and pastoral care are bearer stones of one building: they must always be solidly united to support one another, well cemented between them, so that the priests of today and tomorrow are spiritual men and merciful pastors, interiorly unified by the love of the Lord and able to spread the joy of the Gospel in the simplicity of life. In fact, evangelization, today, seems called to follow again the way of simplicity. Simplicity of life, which avoids every form of duplicity and worldliness, to which genuine communion with the Lord and with brothers suffices; simplicity of language: not preachers of complex doctrines, but heralds of Christ, dead and risen for us.

Another essential aspect that I would like to stress, to be a good priest, is the necessity of contact and closeness with the Bishop. The characteristic of the diocesan priest is in fact <the diocese itself>, and the <diocesan itself> is his corner stone in his frequent relation with the Bishop, in dialogue and discernment with him. A priest who does not have an assiduous relation with his Bishop isolates himself slowly from the diocesan body and his fruitfulness diminishes, precisely because he does not engage in dialogue with the Father of the Diocese.

Finally, I would like to tell you that I rejoice not only because of your profitable commitment in your studies, but also because of the international dimension of your community: you come from various regions of Italy, of Africa, of Latin America, of Asia and of other European countries. I hope you will cultivate the beauty of friendship and the art of establishing relations, to create a priestly fraternity that is stronger than the particular differences. Thus you will always render this house welcoming and enriching! Henceforth, when I go to the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, I will think of this meeting and I will remember you before the Virgin Mother. But you also, I recommend, do the same for me! Thank you.

[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]

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