One of the key elements of the vision of Pope Francis has been the renewal of the priesthood. He continued to reflect on this topic both in a speech and some off the cuff remarks at a conference in Rome to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of two Vatican II documents: “Presbyterorum ordinis” (Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests) and “Optatam Totius” (Decree on Priestly Training).

Vatican Insider reports that Pope Francis cautioned those gathered to be very careful in evaluating potential candidates for the priesthood:

The Pope told clergy that they must think twice when a young man “is too confident, rigid and fundamentalist.” Hence, his invitation to them to beware when admitting candidates to the seminary: “There are mentally ill boys who seek strong structures that can protect them,” such as “the police, the army and the clergy.”

Not all “good boys” are psychologically healthy. To emphasize the point, he recounted an eye-popping comment he once heard from a psychiatrist who screened candidates for the priesthood.

These boys are fine until they have settled, until they feel completely secure. Then the problems start. Father, have you ever asked yourself why there are policemen who are torturers?

The importance of a wholesome family background and a formation that fosters the maturity of the whole person were also stressed by the Pope. Priestly formation is directed to both personal sanctity and pastoral service.

“A good priest is first of all a man with his own humanity, who knows his own history – with its treasures and wounds – and has learned to make peace with it, gaining a profound serenity, characteristic of a disciple of the Lord,” he said. “Human formation is therefore needed for priests, so they may learn not to be dominated by their limits, but rather to put their talents to use.”

Lamenting the fact that bishops are not always accessible to their priests, the Pope challenged bishops to respond to the needs of their priests, communicate with them, and not travel too much. “If you don’t feel like staying in your diocese you should resign,” he said.

By putting the Congregation for Clergy in charge of seminaries, the Pope observed that he is carrying out a reform Benedict XVI wanted to introduce.

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