Pope Francis to parish priests: ‘The Church couldn’t go on without your dedication’

May 5, 2024 - 11:11 AM
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The participants of the international meeting “Parish Priests for the Synod” pose for a group photo at the Fraterna Domus retreat house in Sacrofano, north of Rome, on May 1, 2024. (SYNOD.VA)

VATICAN— “The Church could not go on without your dedication and your pastoral service.”

With these words, even if he said it is “so obvious as to sound almost banal,” Pope Francis offered heartfelt thanks to parish priests in a letter he sent them on the occasion of the International Meeting “Parish Priests for the Synod.”

Some three hundred parish priests from around the world gathered this week in Sacrofano, outside of Rome, for the five-day meeting dedicated to listening, prayer, and discernment to address the question of how to be a local synodal Church on mission, which concludes today. Saying he addressed them with great affection, the Pope expressed his gratitude and appreciation for the generous work they do daily to sow seeds of the Gospel throughout the world.

The Holy Father acknowledged the great diversity of the realities facing these pastors, observing that bringing their diverse perspectives and experiences all the more enriches the process of synodality.

Priests know from within the life of God’s people

Parish priests, he insisted, know from within the life of God’s People, including their joys, hardships, resources and needs.

“For this reason, a synodal Church needs its parish priests,” the Pope stressed, saying that without priests, we will never be able to learn how to walk together and to set out on the path of synodality.

“If parishes are not synodal and missionary, neither,” he warned, “will the Church be. “

Pastors, the Holy Father encouraged, are called to accompany the communities they serve in the synodal process, while, at the same time, committing themselves with prayer, discernment and apostolic zeal.

Lord will never leave us without His grace

The Lord, the Pope said, asks us today to listen to the voice of his Spirit and to advance in the direction that He points out to us. “Of one thing we can be sure: he will never leave us without his grace.”

Pope Francis went on to offer three suggestions to inspire parish priests in their activity and mission.

First, the Pope urged them to live out their specific ministerial charism in ever greater service to the varied gifts that the Spirit sows in the People of God.

Bringing forth the gifts of your people

“It is urgent to discover with faith,’ the many and varied charismatic gifts of the laity, which are indispensable for evangelizing any number of human situations and contexts,” he said, expressing his conviction, that, in doing so, they will bring to light “many hidden treasures,” and “feel less alone in the demanding task of evangelization.”

“You will experience the joy of being true fathers, who do not dominate others,” he said, “but rather bring out in them, men and women alike, great and precious possibilities.”

Second, he urged them to learn to practice the art of communal discernment, employing for this purpose the method of “conversation in the Spirit”, which has proved so helpful in the synodal journey and in the proceedings of the synodal Assembly itself.

“I am certain that you will reap from it many good fruits, not only in structures of communion such as parish councils,” he said, “but in many other fields as well.”

Third and finally, the Pope urged them to base everything they do on a spirit of sharing and fraternity among themselves and with their bishops.

“We cannot be authentic fathers unless we are first sons and brothers,” he said, “And we cannot foster communion and participation in the communities entrusted to our care,” he continued, “unless, before all else, we live out those realities among ourselves.”

‘I am at your side’

Both the synodal and missionary Church and the ongoing process of the 2021-2024 Synod, “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission” needs parish priests and their voice, the Pope emphasized.

Therefore, the Pope invited those who have taken part in the International Meeting “Parish Priests for the Synod” to be missionaries of synodality, first, among themselves and, once they return home, with their fellow parish priests.

“Dear brothers, I am at your side in this process, in which I myself am taking part,” the Holy Father reassured.

Pope Francis concluded by imparting upon them his Apostolic Blessing, asking for their prayers, and encouraging them to stay close to Our Lady who always shows us the way.