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Pope Francis tells world’s parish priests: The Church could not go on without you

Pope Francis meets with 300 priests taking part in the World Meeting of Parish Priests on May 2, 2024, at the Vatican. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, May 2, 2024 / 12:41 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis published a letter on Thursday addressed to all parish priests in the world with his advice for building a missionary Church in which all the baptized share in the mission of proclaiming the Gospel.

“Parish communities increasingly need to become places from which the baptized set out as missionary disciples and to which they return, full of joy, in order to share the wonders worked by the Lord through their witness,” Pope Francis wrote in the letter published on May 2.

The pope presented the letter to 300 priests participating in the Synod on Synodality’s “World Meeting of Parish Priests” during an audience at the Vatican, saying that their meeting is “an opportunity to remember in my prayers all of the parish priests in the world to whom I address these words with great affection.”

Pope Francis meets with 300 priests taking part in the World Meeting of Parish Priests on May 2, 2024, at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media

“Before all else, I would like to express my gratitude and appreciation for the generous work that you do each day, sowing seeds of the Gospel in every kind of soil,” Pope Francis wrote.

“It is so obvious as to sound almost banal, but that does not make it less true: the Church could  not go on without your dedication and your pastoral service,” he added.

In the letter, Pope Francis offered three suggestions to parish priests for building “a synodal and missionary Church.”

The first is for priests to live out their “specific ministerial charism in ever greater service to the varied gifts that the Spirit sows in the people of God.” 

He said that by nurturing the many and varied charismatic gifts of the laity, priests will “feel less alone in the demanding task of evangelization” and “will experience the joy of being true fathers, who do not dominate others but rather bring out in them, men and women alike, great and precious possibilities.”

The second suggestion is to “learn to practice the art of communal discernment” by using the “conversation in the Spirit” practiced during last October’s Synod on Synodality assembly.

Lastly, Pope Francis encouraged priests to base everything they do “in a spirit of sharing and fraternity” both among themselves and with their bishops.

“We cannot be authentic fathers unless we are first sons and brothers. And we cannot foster communion and participation in the communities entrusted to our care unless, before all else,  we live out those realities among ourselves,” the pope explained.

The audience with the pope concluded the four-day World Meeting of Parish Priests, which took place from April 29 to May 2 at the Fraterna Domus retreat house in Sacrofano, Italy, just north of Rome.

The gathering of 300 priests was jointly organized by the Dicastery for the Clergy and by the General Secretariat of the Synod in response to the first synod assembly’s synthesis report, which identified a need to “develop ways for a more active involvement of deacons, priests, and bishops in the synodal process during the coming year.”

Father Clinton Ressler, a priest from the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, was one of five American priests who traveled to Rome for the meeting.

Ressler told EWTN that a highlight from the meeting was “the experience of being together with brother priests from around the world.”

He said that he has learned that despite the diverse realities in which priests in different parts of the world find themselves, “the experience of being a priest on the front lines and in the trenches is kind of a universal experience — the joy, the sorrow, the hope.”

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