02 October 2013

A missed opportunity to encourage priestly vocations

Tomorrow morning forty-one men from the Pontifical North American College will be ordained to the Order of the Diaconate by the invocation of the Holy Spirit and the imposition of hands by His Eminence James Cardinal Harvey, Archpriest of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.  The ordinandi were present this morning at the General Audience with His Holiness Pope Francis, as reported by the Catholic News Service via Twitter:
Following the address of the Holy Father, it is customary for a brief summary of his remarks to be read in a number of various languages at the conclusion of which various delegations of pilgrims are mentioned and greeted specifically.

This morning, the greetings of the Holy Father were extended as follows in English, as reported by Vatican Radio:
Dear Brothers and Sisters: In the Creed, we confess our faith that the Church is “holy”. But how can we say that the Church is holy when she is all too evidently made up of sinners? Saint Paul helps us to see things aright when he tells us that “Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, to make her holy” (Eph 5:25-26). The Church is inseparably one with Christ, and the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. It is not ourselves, or our merits, which make the Church holy, but God himself, through the infinite merits of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. God calls all of us, as sinners, to be redeemed, renewed and made holy in the communion of the Church. So the Church constantly welcomes everyone, even the greatest sinners, to trust in God’s offer of loving mercy, and to encounter Christ in the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist. Let us not be afraid to respond to Christ’s call, to trust in the working of the Holy Spirit and to pray and strive for that holiness which brings true joy to our lives.
I cordially greet the members of the delegation from the International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue in Vienna. I also welcome the Buddhist visitors from Japan, including the delegations from the Tendai denomination and the Nakano Dharma Center of Rissho Kosei-kai. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience, including those from Scotland, Benin, Australia, India, Japan, Canada and the United States I invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace!
Papal greetings were extended to visiting Buddhists, but not to forty-one men about to receive Holy Orders?  Why?

In his interview with Eugenio Scalfari and published yesterday in  La Repubblica, Pope Francis said:
It also happens to me that when I meet a clericalist, I suddenly become anti-clerical. Clericalism should not have anything to do with Christianity.
If, by "clericalism" the Holy Father meant the manner in which certain clerics - by no means all - act that demonstrates a belief on their part that they deserve preferential treatment simply because they are clerics, I cannot disagree with him.  But are these forty-one men all clericalists?  It seems rather unlikely.

Be that is it may, greeting these forty-one men as a collective group - which would have been customary in the pontificates of his predecessors - does not smack of such clericalism; rather, it could have been used as a profound opportunity to thank them for their generosity, to encourage them to live humbly and to strive for ever-greater holiness, and to be men of prayer who genuinely care for each member of the Lord's flock.  At the same time, it would have been an excellent moment for the Holy Father to encourage others to listen for the call of the Lord and to respond generously and with courage.

This is what precisely what the Pope-Emeritus Benedict XVI said last year to those about to be ordained, when he said to them:
I also welcome students from the Pontifical North American College, who are to be ordained deacon tomorrow. Dear Ordinands, always be faithful heralds of the Gospel and generous witnesses to the love of Christ! Upon you and your loved ones, and indeed upon all present, I invoke God’s abundant blessings. Thank you!
Why the men were not greeted this year I do not understand; a simple moment to promote and encourage vocations to the ordained ministry, necessary for the Sacraments of Penance and of the Eucharist to which Pope Francis called each of us in his address today, was missed.

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