Pope Francis: Rigid Priests Are a Manifestation of Clericalism

Pope Francis said he liked to imagine seminaries as a kind of Holy Family of Nazareth, the place in which Jesus was “welcomed, guarded and formed in view of the mission entrusted to him by the Father.”

Pope Francis meets with members of the Pius XI regional pontifical seminary in Ancona, Italy, June 10, 2021.
Pope Francis meets with members of the Pius XI regional pontifical seminary in Ancona, Italy, June 10, 2021. (photo: Vatican Media. / Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis Thursday urged a group of Italian seminarians to avoid rigidity, which, he said, lacks humanity, and encouraged them to ask God for the gift of docility.

“Clericalism is a perversion of the priesthood: it is a perversion. And rigidity is one of the manifestations,” the pope said June 10.

“When I find a rigid seminarian or young priest, I say ‘something bad is happening to this one on the inside.’ Behind every rigidity, there is a serious problem, because rigidity lacks humanity.”

/ Vatican Media.

/ Vatican Media.

Pope Francis spoke about the qualities of a good seminarian and priest in a meeting with the students, rector, and formators of the Pius XI regional pontifical seminary, located in Ancona, central Italy.

The seminary, he said, should not distance its students from reality, from dangers, and from others, “but, on the contrary, make you become closer to God and to your brothers.”

“Within the walls of the seminary, expand the boundaries of your heart — the expanded heart — extend them to the whole world,” he said, “be passionate about what ‘draws near,’ what ‘opens,’ what ‘brings together.’”
/ Vatican Media.

/ Vatican Media.

The pope also encouraged the seminarians to be steeped in the Word of God, not only internet chatter.

“Do not be satisfied with being skilled in the use of social media and digital media to communicate,” he advised. “Only transformed by the Word of God will you be able to communicate words of life.”

He said that “the world is thirsty for priests who are able to communicate the goodness of the Lord to those who have experienced sin and failure, for priests who are experts in humanity, for pastors willing to share the joys and labors of their brothers, for men who allow themselves to be changed by the cry of those who suffer.”

/ Vatican Media.

/ Vatican Media.

Pope Francis also said he liked to imagine seminaries as a kind of Holy Family of Nazareth, the place in which Jesus was “welcomed, guarded and formed in view of the mission entrusted to him by the Father.”

“The Son of God accepted to let himself be loved and guided by human parents, Mary and Joseph, teaching each of us that without docility no one can grow and mature,” he said.

Francis emphasized the importance of asking for the gift of docility, which he said “is a constructive attitude of one’s vocation and also of one’s personality.”

He also encouraged seminarians and young priests to speak to the old priests in their diocese, who, he said, are “the treasure of the Church.”

“So many of them are sometimes forgotten or in a retirement home: go and see them,” he urged.

Addressing the seminary’s rector, spiritual director, and formators, he asked them to be for their seminarians what St. Joseph was for Jesus.

“May they learn more from your life than from your words, as happened in the house of Nazareth, where Jesus was formed at the school of Joseph’s ‘creative courage,’” he said.

/ Vatican Media.

/ Vatican Media.

“May they learn docility from your obedience; industriousness from your dedication; generosity towards the poor from the testimony of your sobriety and availability; fatherhood thanks to your lively and chaste affection.”

Reflecting on St. Joseph’s chastity, Pope Francis explained the virtue of chastity as “freedom from possession in all areas of life.”

“Only when a love is chaste, is it truly love,” he said.

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