Vocations Crisis Demands Solid Priestly Formation, Says Pope

Sees a "Trial of Faith" for Pastors and the Flock

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 9, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II says the vocations crisis must be answered by seminaries that form future priests solidly, including emotionally and morally.



The Pope illustrated this concern in an address Friday to the second group of French bishops, from the ecclesiastical provinces of Rennes and Rouen, who are on their five-yearly visit to Rome.

In his address, the Holy Father focused on the "serious crisis of vocations" that France is experiencing, as are other Western countries, which the bishops refer to constantly in reports they have given the Pope.

It is "a sort of crossing of the desert which constitutes a genuine trial of faith both for pastors as well as the faithful," the Holy Father acknowledged.

Instead of yielding to "discouragement," the Pope invited the bishops "to assume the challenge with firm hope," paying special attention to the formation of future priests in the seminary, "educational community on the way."

The formation of youths who wish to be priests must take account of four complementary dimensions -- "human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral formation," the Holy Father explained.

Noting "a social environment -- characterized by a general relativism of values spread by the media and the trivialization of sexuality," the Pontiff recommended that the bishops focus on "the human, emotional and moral formation of the candidates."

John Paul II encouraged the formators of seminaries, assisted by competent specialists, to help youths to "know clearly the objective exigencies of the priestly life," esteeming "in its just measure the gift of celibacy," "gift of love offered to the Lord and to those who will be entrusted to them."

"In the human and emotional formation of candidates to the priesthood, as well as in all the other dimensions of their formation," the Pope said, "it is a question of seeking and contemplating Christ, the Incarnate Word, and new and perfect man. It is a question of taking him as a model to be imitated in everything, to be a priest in his name."