Pope Francis wants to express his gratitude to the priests who work "in the trenches", to encourage them in joy and to praise the Lord with Mary. The letter was born from the "pain" for the victims of abuse by members of the clergy and from that experienced by so many consecrated persons, for the "suspicion" that is also poured on them, that can generate "doubt, fear and mistrust ". "Brothers, let us indeed acknowledge our weaknesses, but also let Jesus transform them and send us forth anew to the mission."
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - A Letter to "thank" all the priests of the world for having said yes to vocation; to "encourage" their commitment and their joy even in moments of fatigue; to "praise" with Mary, the "promise of fullness" that arose in their lives. These are the explicit reasons - with relative paragraphs - behind the Letter that Pope Francis issued today, the memorial of Saint John Mary Vianney, on the occasion of the 160th anniversary of the death of the saintly Curé of Ars, "proposed by Pius XI as the patron of all parish priests of the world ”.
The Pope wants to comfort all the priests who work "in the trenches", carry "the burden of day and heat on their shoulders", are "exposed to countless situations" and above all, after the various allegations of sexual abuse by members of the clergy, "our priests feel themselves attacked and blamed for crimes they did not commit.". Because of this, the Letter, the paragraphs on "Gratitude", "Encouragement", "Praise" are preceded by one on "Pain": the pain of "victims of abuse of power, conscience and sexual abuse by ordained ministers", but also on the part of the priests, of "indignation", and "impotence", because of the suspicion that also hovers over them, which can generate "doubts, fears and disheartenment".
Francis emphasizes that "it would be unfair not to express our gratitude to all those priests who faithfully and generously spend their lives in the service of others", who "make of their lives a work of mercy in areas or situations that are often hostile, isolated or ignored, even at the risk of their lives." While he thanks them for the "courageous and constant example", he comforts them: this period of "ecclesial purification", "is saving us from hypocrisy, from the spirituality of appearances", certain that "this humble repentance is the beginning of our holiness".
Gratitude above all to the Lord who "chooses and calls". In moments of trial - he suggests, quoting a Latin American priest - "we need to return to those luminous moments when we experienced the Lord’s call to devote our lives to his service”... It is from that spark that I can light the fire for the 'today".
Then FrancIS expressed a series of "thanks" to the priests: "for your fidelity to the commitments made"; "for the joy with which you have offered your lives"; "for working to strengthen the bonds of fraternity and friendship with your brother priests and your bishop"; "for your witness of persistence and patient endurance (hypomoné) in pastoral ministry"; "for celebrating the Eucharist each day and for being merciful shepherds in the Sacrament of Reconciliation"; "for for anointing and fervently proclaiming to all" at all times "the Gospel of Jesus Christ"; "for the times when, with great emotion, you embraced sinners, healed wounds, warmed hearts" ... Each of these "graces" ends with the refrain "For his mercy endures forever", to underline that everything this is a gift from God.
Then an exhortation follows: “Brothers, let us indeed acknowledge our weaknesses, but also let Jesus transform them and send us forth anew to the mission. Let us never lose the joy of knowing that we are “the sheep of his flock” and that he is our Lord and Shepherd.". This requires care for two "constitutive bonds" of the priesthood: the one with Jesus, and with "a brother with whom to talk, confront, discuss and discern in full confidence and transparency, one's own path", and that with the people of God : "Do not isolate yourself from your people and presbyters or communities".
The third paragraph is dedicated to praise to God, through the words of Mary, and above all finding comfort in the tenderness and affection of the Mother of God. The Pope recalls the words that Mary said to the Indian Juan Diego: "My youngest son, what is the matter? Do not let it disturb your heart. Am I not here, I who have the honour to be your mother?" For this reason, in moments of discouragement, one must "look to Mary", to she who "she is a sign of hope for peoples suffering the birth pangs of justice…". (B.C.)