From the Vatican Information Service:
Pope John Paul met with French bishops
this morning from the provinces of Toulouse and Montpellier as they conclude
their "ad limina" visit, and focused his talk to them on their concerns for
the future of the clergy in France "and the especially alarming situation
your country is going through" with the low number of priests and priestly
He told the prelates that he "easily understands how you can feel
demoralized in the face of this situation, . but I invite you to hope and to
an ever more resolute commitment in favor of the priesthood." He noted that
"the crisis the Church is going through is in large part due to the
repercussions . of social changes, new forms of behavior, the loss of moral
and religious values and a widespread consumeristic attitude."
The Pope urged the bishops to clarify and then communicate the image of
a priest as a man whose sees the priesthood as "great and beautiful" and
demonstrates "enthusiasm for the mission of the Church." A priest's calling
is to serve his fellow man and it is here that he will find "joy and
A risk for priests in modern society, said the Holy Father, is that "of
neglecting their spiritual life or allowing it to become weak. . The heavier
the burden, the more important it is to be close to the Lord in order to
find in Him the grace necessary for their pastoral service and their welcome
by the faithful."
He asked the bishops to be close to their priests and priests to be close
to each other "in order to develop their priestly fraternity and pastoral
collaborations." Priests must have a healthy, active community life in order
to sustain each other in their ministry and in problem solving.
"Participation in a priestly association is a precious aid" in this regard.
John Paul II then spoke of the "essential dimension" of priestly life,
"celibacy and chastity," saying this is a much misunderstood concept and too
often is seen as an "impediment" to service. "I invite priests to be
diligent in the face of worldly seductions and to regularly make an
examination of conscience in order to live ever more deeply in fidelity to
their commitment which conforms them to Christ, chaste and totally dedicated
to the Father." Young priests must be accompanied, he said, and suggested
having them accompanied by older, wiser priests and perhaps even
"appropriate psychological and spiritual aids."
"Growing de-Christianization is the major challenge at the moment," the
Holy Father said in concluding remarks, "and I ask you to underscore this,
mobilizing all the priests of your diocese in this regard." What is urgent
is "the evangelization of a world that not only does not know the basic
aspects of Christian dogma, . but has in great part lost even the memory of
the cultural elements of Christianity."