On Sunday, the feast day of St. John Vianney who was Cue of Ars and is the patron saint of priests, Pope Francis wrote a letter to all Catholic priests in the world, thanking them for their sacrifices and acknowledging that “despite the sacrifices of the journey, you are writing the finest pages of the priestly life”.
In his letter the Pope acknowledged the pain many feel in the current environment after they have quietly ‘left all behind’ in order to immerse themselves in the daily life of their communities.
Bearing the burden
“Like the Curé of Ars, you serve ‘in the trenches’, bearing the burden of the day and the heat confronting an endless variety of situations in your effort to care for and accompany God’s people.
“I want to say a word to each of you who, often without fanfare and at personal cost, amid weariness, infirmity, and sorrow, carry out your mission of service to God and to your people. Despite the hardships of the journey, you are writing the finest pages of the priestly life.”
The Pope went on to note that in the context of the abuse crisis, many priests have suffered and noted that on his many pastoral visits around the world he has heard the outrage of priests about the scandal and the damage it has done to the Church.
He also recognized the victims of the abuse, both sexual and of power. He stressed his commitment to reform.
Time of great suffering
“In these years, we have become more attentive to the cry, often silent and suppressed, of our brothers and sisters who were victims of the abuse of power, the abuse of conscience and sexual abuse on the part of ordained ministers,” Pope Francis said. “This has been a time of great suffering in the lives of those who experienced such abuse, but also in the lives of their families and of the entire People of God.
“We are firmly committed to carrying out the reforms needed to encourage from the outset a culture of pastoral care, so that the culture of abuse will have no room to develop, much less continue. This task is neither quick nor easy: it demands commitment on the part of all.
“If in the past, the omission may itself have been a kind of response, today we desire conversion, transparency, sincerity, and solidarity with victims to become our concrete way of moving forward. This, in turn, will help make us all the more attentive to every form of human suffering.”
Pope Francis reminded priests to remain grateful and positive. He warned against falling into sadness and depression.
“May we allow our gratitude to awaken praise and renewed enthusiasm for our ministry of anointing our brothers and sisters with hope. May we be men whose lives bear witness to the compassion and mercy that Jesus alone can bestow on us.,” Francis concluded.