Foto Paolo Galosi
Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) - In order not to become ‘wolves’, pastors "must keep watch over themselves or must take care of themselves and their faith. This is ongoing formation". With these words, echoing the Apostle Paul, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle recalled in a concise and effective way that every authentic priestly life is a path of formation that is never complete and always open to being formed and nourished by the work of grace.
As part of the Conference for the Formation of Priests, which opened today, Tuesday, February 6, in the Vatican, the Pro-Prefect of the Dicastery for Evangelization gave valuable food for thought on the first day of the meeting.
The ongoing formation of priests - underlined Cardinal Tagle, freeing this expression from any reductive interpretation in an intellectualistic key - has to do first and foremost with humility. "There has been a tendency, which persists until now", admitted the Pro Prefect "to think of “formation” as confined to seminary training. This has led to the misunderstanding that ordination means the end of formation. Once ordained a minister does not need formation anymore. "I was ordained because I was already formed," they say. In this misleading conception – continued Cardinal Tagle – "ordination means no more study, no more prayer, no more spiritual direction, no more guidance, no more simple lifestyle, no more discipline. 'These are for seminarians only. I am already ordained' ".
In reality, the priestly condition is not a "possession" acquired forever. And ordained ministers - the Cardinal underlined in his speech - need to continue to be formed in their condition as ordained ministers: "Precisely because we are ordained to the service of God and the Church, we need to be continuously formed. I believe this humility will help the ordained ministers recover new energy and avoid a false sense of superiority and 'entitlement'. The Church will also receive the quality service that they deserve". In this regard, the Philippine Cardinal recalled St. Paul’s words to the presbyters of Ephesus in the Acts of the Apostles: "Keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock of which the Holy Spirit has appointed you overseers, in which you tend the church of God that he acquired with his own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come among you, and they will not spare the flock. And from your own group, men will come forward perverting the truth... In order not to become “wolves”, commented Cardinal Tagle, "pastors must keep watch over themselves or must take care of themselves and their faith. This is ongoing formation".
In his presentation, the Pro-Prefect of the Dicastery for Evangelization also pointed out some urgencies that can only be addressed effectively with ongoing formation courses for priests.
Phenomena such as the "tendency to absolutize and glorify one’s culture, with the consequence of being hostile and even violent towards those who belong to other cultures. Unfortunately," noted Cardinal Tagle, "we see this attitude in some ordained ministers who reject bishops, fellow priests, religious and lay faithful just because they come from a different ethnic group or stratum of society". A "counter witness to the Gospel and a scandal to a world searching for unity" which makes clear the urgency of ongoing formation to help ordained ministers to recognize that, as Saint Paul taught in the Letter to the Galatians, "there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus". "We need ongoing formation and conversion", emphasized Cardinal Tagle in order "to become credible and effective agents of communion among culturally diverse people".
Many ordained ministers – stressed the Pro-Prefect of the Dicastery for Evangelization - "are close to people who are suffering, especially the victims of prejudice, discrimination, war, human trafficking and refugees". But some ordained ministers have experienced the loss of family members due to armed conflicts. Some have become refugees. Some have been traumatized by wars and discrimination. Some carry in their bodies living reminders of human brutality". Even for them "ongoing formation must address the wounds and pains that could easily lead to vindictiveness, cynicism, and hatred. How can we" asked Cardinal Tagle, help the wounded become agents of forgiveness and reconciliation when their own wounds long for vengeance? St. Paul challenges us when he said, “now you just put them all away: anger, fury, malice, slander, and obscene language out of your mouths…Put on then, as God’s chosen one’s, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” ".
The International Conference for the Ongoing Formation of Priests, on the theme "I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God" (2 Tim 1:6), was promoted by the Dicastery for the Clergy, in collaboration with the Dicastery for Evangelization, Section for the first Evangelization and the new particular Churches, and the Dicastery for the Eastern Churches.
The works of the Conference will take place from February, 6-10 at the Auditorium Conciliazione. A passage from the Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis inspires the works of the Conference: "The beauty of being disciples today. A unique, comprehensive, community and missionary formation". (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 6/2/2024)