Monday, December 9, 2019

Greetings for the Pontifical Flaminio Benedetto XV Regional Seminary

This morning, the Holy Father, Pope Francis received in audience the community from the Pontifical Flaminio Benedetto XV Regional Seminary in Bologna on the occasion of the centenary of their foundation.

Greetings of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
addressed to members of the
Pontifical Flaminio Benedetto XV Regional Seminary

Dear brothers in the episcopacy and in the priesthood,
Dear seminarians!

I welcome you on the centenary of the foundation of the Pontifical Regional Flaminio Seminary, commissioned by Saint Pius X. I heartily greet you all of you; I thank Cardinal Matteo Zuppi for his words, and I greet with affection His Excellency, Luigi Bettazzi, who is almost the same age as the Seminary! This important anniversary is a happy occasion to reflect on the beauty of the call to the ministerial priesthood, which gives us the gift and the commitment to represent the Good Shepherd in the midst of his people and to live as the Good Shepherd in the midst of his people.

To prepare for this mission, Mother Church asks you to take a serious formative journey, which the environment of the Seminary can offer in the best way. In this perspective, I would like to indicate to you three aspects that identify this place and especially the time of formation and preparation for the priesthood, which is the seminary. It is a house of prayer, a house of study and a house of communion.

You are called to be evangelizers in your region, which is also marked by de-Christianization. Those who are more exposed to the cold wind of uncertainty or religious indifference need to find in the person of the priest that robust faith that is like a torch in the night and like a rock to which they can cling. This faith is cultivated above all in a personal relationship, heart to heart, with the person of Jesus Christ. And the Seminary is first of all the house of prayer where the Lord again calls his own in a secluded place (cf Lk 9:18), to live a strong experience of meeting and listening. In this way, he wants to prepare them to become educators of the People of God in the ways of faith, and to enable them to proclaim the Word of God with authority, to gather the People and nourish them with the Sacraments in order to lead them on the way of salvation. And to preserve it in unity (Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, 68).

It is therefore necessary to dedicate adequate commitment to spiritual formation. These are the most favourable years to learn to be with him, enjoying with astonishment the grace of being his disciples, learning to listen to him, to contemplate his face ... Here the experience of silence and prayer is fundamental: it is there, in the act of remaining in his presence, where the disciple can know the Master, as he is known by him - Saint Paul would say (see 1 Cor 13:12). But encountering Jesus face to face and in the flesh of the poor is also essential. This too is an integral part of the spiritual formation of the seminarian.

The second aspect that identifies the Seminarian is that of study. Study is part of an itinerary aimed at the education of a living faith, a conscious faith, called to become the pastor's faith. Study, in this journey, is a privileged instrument of a wise and scientific knowledge, capable of ensuring solid foundations for the whole building of the formation of future priests. It is also an instrument of shared knowledge. Let me explain. The commitment to study, even in the seminary, is clearly personal, but it is not individual. Sharing lessons and studying with seminary companions is also a way to become part of a presbyterum. In fact, without neglecting personal inclinations and talents, indeed, by enhancing them, in the Seminary we study together for a common mission, and this gives a very special flavour to the learning of Sacred Scripture, of theology, of history, of law and of each discipline. All these different personal sensitivities are compared in the common horizon of the call and of the mission; and this is thanks to the service of professors who, in turn, teach within this same ecclesial horizon, free from all self-referentiality. It's nice to study like this, in this environment.

And we come to the third dimension: the Seminary as a house of communion. This aspect is also transversal, like the other two. It starts from a human basis of openness to others, of skills in listening and dialogue, and is called to assume the form of presbyteral communion around the Bishop and under his guidance. The pastoral charity of the priest cannot be credible unless it is preceded and accompanied by fraternity, first among seminarians and then among presbyters. A fraternity increasingly impregnated with the apostolic form, and enriched by the traits proper to being part of a diocese, that is, by those peculiar characteristics of the people of God and of the saints, especially of the holy priests, of a particular Church.

In this context, the Seminary qualifies itself as a path that educates candidates to evaluate their every action in reference to Christ and to consider belonging to the only presbyterate as a prior dimension of pastoral action and a witness of communion, indispensable for effectively serving the mystery of the Church and its mission in the world.

Here I would like to stop for a moment to summarize the four neighbourhoods, the four attitudes of proximity of diocesan priests. Being close to God in prayer, I said, we begin with the seminary. Being close to the bishop, always close to the bishop: without the bishop the Church does not go forward, without the bishop the priest can be a leader but he will not be a priest. Third neighbourhood: be near the priests who are around you. This is something that makes me suffer when I see fragmented presbyters, where they are against each other, or all are courteous but then speak against each other. If there is not a united presbyterate ... This does not mean that one cannot argue, no, one discusses, ideas are exchanged, but charity is that which unites. And the fourth closeness: closeness to the people of God. Please don't forget where you come from. Paul told Timothy: Remember your mother and your grandmother, that is, remember your roots; remember that you were taken by the flock and you came here because the Lord chose you. You have not come in order to make an ecclesiastical career, as they used to say, in a literary style of other centuries. Proximity to God, closeness to the bishop, closeness to the presbyters among you, and closeness to the people of God. If one of these is missing, the priest will not work and will slowly slip into the perversion of clericalism or into rigid attitudes. Where there is clericalism there is corruption, and where there is rigidity, under that rigidity, there are serious problems.

Dear Seminarians, yesterday we celebrated the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. Mary shines in the Church for her unique vocation lived out by following of her Son, in humble and courageous obedience to God's plan of love. She, who was always united to Jesus from conception to his death on the cross, helps you to discover every day the treasure, the precious pearl which is Christ and his Kingdom, and to become joyful heralds of his Gospel. The Seminary is also the time when Mary as Mother is welcomed into her home, into her life, like the apostle John. May she accompany you.

I thank you for your visit.  I bless your journey, with the intercession of Saint Pius X and the exemplary witnesses which the Archbishop recalled at the beginning of this gathering.  I am praying for you.  And you too, please, pray for me.  Thank you.
Testo originale nella lingua italiano
Texto en espaƱol

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