On August 4, 2019, Pope Francis marked the 160th anniversary of the death of the Curé of Ars, St. John Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests, by addressing a letter to all priests throughout the world. In the letter, the Holy Father acknowledges the pain and suffering that the Church has experienced because of the sexual abuse scandals and cover-up, while expressing his solidarity with priests who may find themselves angry and tempted to despair.
Pope Francis also underscores his gratitude for faithful priests, those who continue to image Christ, the Good Shepherd in their everyday work and ministry. The Holy Father urges his brothers to remain hopeful and encourage one another with hope grounded in the Lord’s redemptive sacrifice on the Cross and united in prayer with Mary, the Mother of all Priests, who is always interceding for her children.
Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, Archbishop of Newark, and Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, issued the following statement in response to Pope Francis’ letter:
“The Holy Father’s letter to all priests is a most welcome gift, coming, as it does, at a particularly difficult time for the Church. Amid the pain, ugliness, and anger, it is possible for the Church, and especially those who are priests, to fall into despair – the opposite of hope. Instead, the Holy Father reminds us that we must never lose sight of those ‘luminous moments when we experienced the Lord’s call to devote our lives to his service’. That sort of memory recalls the many moments of gratitude and encouragement offered to us from the Lord and from others. While working to protect all of God’s people, especially the innocent and vulnerable, from the evil of the abuse of power, we should not become blind to how the joy and hope of Christ ‘are constantly born anew.’ Speaking as a priest and bishop in the United States, I thank the Holy Father for his wonderful letter to us.”