Cardinal Hummes to Priests: Stay Close to Christ

Cardinal Claudio Hummes, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, has warned against priests who have an “insufficient and superficial” encounter with Jesus Christ, saying this can turn their ministry into a “kind of clerical profession” in which they carry out their duties “like officials.”

Speaking in Fatima, Portugal, to a four-day conference of more than 800 Portuguese priests, the cardinal asked them “to be missionaries and to nurture their spirituality every day.” For this, it’s necessary to “maintain a constant contact with the Word of God, living a life of prayer that includes the authentic liturgy of the hours, devotion to Mary, celebrating the Eucharist as the center of daily life and ministry, and regularly resorting to the sacrament of confession,” he said.

The priest, Cardinal Hummes added, must “live in ecclesial communion” with the Pope and his bishop, “dedicating himself wholeheartedly and tirelessly to pastoral ministry and to being a missionary and evangelizing.”

“Be a man of love, of brotherhood, kindness, forgiveness and mercy to all,” he continued. “Be in solidarity with the poor, showing yourself as their defender and friend, and seeing in them the favor of God.”

Cardinal Hummes’ words of caution were echoed by Cardinal Jose da Cruz Policarpo of Lisbon, who said that “often the priest is more like a business manager than a pastor who knows the people.” The president of the Portuguese bishops’ conference, Archbishop Jorge Ferreira da Costa Ortiga, concurred that frequently “the life of the priest is bureaucratic and too busy, but that deprives him of the capacity to welcome the people.”

In his remarks, Cardinal Hummes criticized the prevailing culture that promotes a “de-Christianization, visible in most Christian countries, especially in the West.” He said the number of vocations has “dropped drastically” because of this “cultural environment.”

However, the cardinal stressed “we must not lose heart or be afraid of today’s society, or simply condemn it. Be pastors and lead the community: this is identity that Christ has created and to which the priest must look.”