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Thursday, January 26, 2012


VATICAN CITY, 26 JAN 2012 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican the Holy Father received superiors and seminarians from three Italian regional pontifical seminaries in Assisi, Catanzaro and Naples. All of these institutions, as the Pope remarked in his address to the group, are currently celebrating their first centenary having been founded as part of efforts towards the reformation of priestly education carried out under Popes Leo XIII and St. Pius X. "Bringing diocesan seminaries together into regional seminaries, and the reform of theological studies, produced a notable improvement in quality", Pope Benedict noted. "In this, an important role was played by the Society of Jesus", the Jesuits, to whom the new regional seminaries were entrusted.

  Even today regional seminaries remain important as they allow access to higher education and contribute to the communion of dioceses, "favouring knowledge, capacity for collaboration and the enrichment of ecclesial experience among future priests. The regional dimension is also an appropriate middle way between the needs of the universal Church and the requirements of local areas".

  Referring to the seminarians' formation, Benedict XVI highlighted how today's cultural context calls for "solid education in philosophy and theology". Future priests must, he said, "understand and appreciate the internal structure of the faith as a whole, so that it can become a response to people's questions. ... And the study of theology must always have an intense bond to the life of prayer. ... It is, in fact, vital that the multiple activities of a priest's ministry be harmoniously integrated with his spiritual life.

  "It is important", the Holy Father added, "for the priest, who is called to accompany others through the journey of life up to the threshold of death, to have the right balance of heart and mind, reason and feeling, body and soul, and to be humanly integrated". For this reason, the Pope said, great attention must be given to "the human dimension when forming candidates to the priesthood. It is, in fact, in our humanity that we present ourselves before God, in order to appear before our fellows as authentic men of God. Anyone who wishes to become a priest must be first and foremost a 'man of God'. ... It follows that the most important thing in our path towards priesthood and during the whole of our priestly lives is our personal relationship with God in Jesus Christ".

  In conclusion, the Holy Father quoted a phrase of John XXII: "Even more than cultured, eloquent, up-to-date priests, what we need are saintly and sanctifying priests". These words, Benedict XVI explained, "are still valid today because the entire Church, and the regions from which you come, have more need than ever of workers of the Gospel, people who give credible witness and promote sanctity with their own lives".
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