Vatican City, 28 July 2014 (VIS) – The Pope left the Vatican by helicopter at 3 p.m., arriving at the heliport of the NCO (Non-Commissioned Officers) School of the Air Force of the Royal Palace of Caserta, where he was greeted by Bishop Giovanni D'Alise of Caserta and other local authorities. He then transferred by car to the Palatine Chapel where he was awaited by the diocesan priests. He set aside his prepared discourse and began a very intimate conversation with the priests, answering the four questions they presented to him.
The Holy Father spoke about the example of unity that bishops must give, that Jesus asked of His Father for the Church. “This cannot be done speaking badly about each other. The unity of bishops is important to the unity of the Church”, he said, adding that the devil revels in and profits from internal conflict. “The bishops must be in agreement in unity, but not in uniformity. Each one has his charism, each one has his way of thinking and his point of view; this is at times the result of mistakes, but it is often the result of the Spirit … a unity in diversity, in which no-one loses his own personality”.
The Pope was then asked for suggestions for a pastoral able to relaunch the primacy of the Gospel without mortifying popular piety. He answered that “true popular piety was born of that Sensus Fidei described in the Encyclical Lumen Gentium and which is guided by devotion to the Saints, to the Virgin, and also by folkloric expressions, in the positive sense of the word”. He added, “the agnosticism that has entered into the Church in groups of intimist piety” are not good, but are instead a form of heresy. … Popular piety is inculturated, it cannot be produced in a laboratory, aseptic … it is always born of life”.
Another question focused on the identity of the priest in the third millennium. “How can we overcome the existential crisis born of the linguistic, semantic and cultural revolution in evangelical witness?”. “With creativity”, replied the Pope. “It is the commandment that God gave to Adam and Jesus to his disciples. And creativity is found in prayer. A bishop who does not pray, a priest who does not pray, has closed the door to creativity”. The fourth question related to the foundations of spirituality for a priest. Francis described the priest's dual capacity for contemplation: towards God and towards man. “He is a man who looks, who fills his eyes and heart with contemplation: with the Gospel before God, and with human problems when among men. The priest must be contemplative in this way. But this must not be confused with monastic life, which is something else”.
The Pope emphasised that diocesan life must be at the centre of the spirituality of the diocesan priest. “Maintaining a relationship with the bishop and with the rest of the priests … simple, but at the same time not easy. The greatest enemy of these relationships is gossip. The devil knows that this seed bears fruit, and he sows it well ... to impede that evangelical, spiritual and fruitful relationship between the bishop and the presbytery”. He remarked that it was better to say things clearly and openly, rather than give satisfaction to the devil who in this way “attacks the centre of the spirituality of the diocesan clergy”. The Holy Father concluded with some comments on the bitterness of some priests and the image of an angry Church. “One may anger at times; it is healthy to be angry at times. But the state of rage is not God's, and leads only to sadness and disunity”.