Vatican: forming priests, a fundamental question for the future of the Church
The perspective of synodality "active participation of all the faithful in the mission of the Church". For women "an important role to play in the human formation of future priests". The issue of celibacy "must be addressed on the horizon of vocation". Clericalism "a danger for both priests and the faithful: it identifies the priesthood with power and not with service".
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Vocations, mission, formation of priests, the relationship between ministerial priesthood and common priesthood.
These issues, seen from the perspective of synodality, will be addressed in an International Theological Symposium "For a Fundamental Theology of the Priesthood" will be held, organized by the Congregation for Bishops, presented today in the Vatican.
The meeting, scheduled from 17 to 19 February 2022, in the words of Card. Marc Ouellet, P.S.S., prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, has synodality as his first perspective. I"Synodality basically means the active participation of all the faithful in the mission of the Church, it describes the united march of the baptized towards the Kingdom which is being built on a daily basis in the realities of family, in the workplace, as well as in social and ecclesial life in all its forms. This requires a life of faith and close collaboration between lay people, priests and men and women religious, for the proclamation of the Gospel to the world through the attractive witness of Christian communities".
As for the priesthood, it is a question that, Card. Ouellet, needs "pastoral updating", taking into account "ecumenical questions" and those posed by "cultural movements that question the role of women in the Church". These are issues on which there are "tensions" and "divergent pastoral visions", also the result of multiculturalism and migration, without forgetting the ideologies that condition the witness of the baptized and the exercise of the priestly ministry in secularized societies ".
As regards women in particular, answering a question from journalists during the presentation, the cardinal said they have "an important role to play in the human formation of future priests", adding that "surprises" in this matter could arise from the Symposium.
In the three days of the Symposium, which will be concluded by Pope Francis, celibacy will also be discussed, but, Card. Ouellet answering the questions, “it will not be the central question of the Symposium”.
The issue of celibacy, Michelina Tenace, professor of Theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University had previously said, "must be addressed on the horizon of vocation". When it comes to celibacy, “it is necessary to understand that the real question concerns the vocation is formation: if one is called by God, he also receives the gift to live this call and formation makes these gifts aware and manifest. But formation in seminaries has often turned out to be very scarce precisely on the discernment of vocation and on formation to the life of communion. The question raised is that the priestly function does not require celibacy, but in the Latin tradition it is required because of the prophetic witness of the priesthood of Christ with regard to the eschatological character of the Church”.
Synodality, Vincent Siret, rector of the Pontifical French Seminary in Rome pointed out, is the necessary path “to escape ecclesial clericalism. I say - he specified - ecclesial and non-ecclesiastical because the clerics within the Church are not the only ones to be tempted by this incomplete and false vision. The vocation of all to enter the Kingdom by grace is explicit and unique and prevents any retreat in ecclesial structures. The ministry of priests is not primarily structural or organizational, but essentially mystical, that is, inscribed in the Mystery. Only this ultimate depth of the Mystery in which the journey can only be a journey with and following Christ towards the Father in the Spirit can allow a way to emerge from the many difficulties and risks that one encounters in being blocked in a worldly dimension, a struggle for power or promotion.”
The discernment of vocations is made "even more urgent", added Professor Tenace, is "the question of abuses", because "the priestly vocation must be exactly the opposite of power: wanting to serve Christ by being a servant in the way of Christ ". In this logic, he added, "clericalization is a danger for both priests and the faithful: it identifies the priesthood with power and not with service, being an 'alter Christus' at the altar as a privilege and not as a responsibility that concerns all the faithful”.
Clericalism, in her opinion, “is derived from a vision of the priest as isolated, above all, and Pope Francis often draws attention to this danger. In this wrong approach there is also the risk of having priests crushed by the idealization of omnipotence or by the demands of the faithful ".
In the meantime, the program of conferences scheduled for the days of the Symposium was published today. A few days ago a website was opened that will serve to provide more information to those interested, to facilitate the registration procedures of participants and to solicit financial contributions to support the organization of the event.