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Friday, February 20, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 20 FEB 2009 (VIS) - Today in the Vatican, Benedict XVI received forty counsellors and members of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, who have just complete a plenary session during which they examined the current situation of education to the priesthood in Latin American seminaries.

  The Pope recalled how the commission was established in 1958 by Pius XII who, "faced with a lack of priests and missionaries, felt the need to create a Holy See institution to intensify and co-ordinate development efforts in support of the Church in Latin America". For his part, John Paul II "continued and intensified this initiative with the aim of underlining the particular pastoral solicitude felt by Peter's Successor towards the pilgrim Churches in those beloved lands".

  "Last year", he went on, "I received many bishops from Latin America and the Caribbean on their 'ad limina' visits, with whom I discussed the situation of the particular Churches entrusted to their care. ... I accompany them all with my prayers, that they may joyfully and faithfully continue to undertake their service to the People of God, also by promoting the 'Continental Mission' which is beginning to be implemented as a result of the Fifth General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean", held in Aparecida, Brazil, in 2007.

  The theme chosen for this mission - "disciples and missionaries in Jesus Christ, that in Him our peoples may have life" - continues "to guide the efforts of the members of the Church in those beloved countries", said the Holy Father.

  "When I described my apostolic visit to Brazil before members of the Roman Curia, I asked myself: Was Aparecida right, when seeking life for the world, in giving priority to discipleship of Christ and evangelisation? Was this not a mistaken withdrawal into interior life? To this I replied resoundingly: No! Aparecida was right precisely because a fresh encounter with Jesus Christ and His Gospel - and only that - can create forces which give us the power to find adequate responses to the challenges of our time".

  "For all of us", Pope Benedict went on, "the seminary was a decisive moment of discernment and preparation. There, in profound dialogue with Christ, we fortified our desire to root ourselves deeply in Him. Over those years we learned to feel at home in the Church. ... For this reason I am pleased that your plenary assembly focused attention on the current situation in the seminaries of Latin America".

  "In order to create priests who accord to the dictates of Christ's heart, we have to trust in the action of the Holy Spirit more that in human strategies and calculations, and faithfully ask God, 'Lord of the harvest', to send many holy vocations to the priesthood. ... At the same time, the need for priests to face the challenges of today's world must not induce us to discard the careful discernment of candidates, nor to overlook the necessary, even rigorous, demands that must be made in order for their formative process to produce exemplary priests".

  "And so", he concluded, "the pastoral recommendations of this assembly must be seen as a vital source of illumination for the efforts of bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean in the delicate field of formation for the priesthood. Today more than ever it is important for seminarians ... to aspire to the priesthood exclusively out of the desire to be true disciples and missionaries of Jesus Christ and, in communion with their bishops, make Him present through their ministry and the witness of their lives".

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