Vatican City (AsiaNews) - New diplomats must follow the "spirit" of John XXIII, who saw the diplomatic service for the Holy See, of which he was a part for a long time, as a "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."
In his first meeting at the Vatican with the students of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, who are training to serve in the diplomatic corps and the Secretariat of State of the Holy See, Pope Francis focused on the "inner freedom" brought not by "ambition or personal aims, which can cause so much harm to the Church". Instead, they must take "care to always put in the first place not your own self-fulfilment, 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".
Inner freedom, Francis said, "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 mind-set 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."
Not only personal ambitions must be put aside but "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 [. . .] 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."
For this reason, "Have great care for the spiritual life, which is the source of inner freedom," the pope said. For instance, "Rereading his [John XXIII's] 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."
Still speaking about his predecessor, Francis noted that at "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'."