Pope Francis offered words of encouragement to Rome’s priests this week, assuring them that recent and current scandals cannot overcome the Church’s holiness and urging them to keep their vocations alive through love of God.
The Pope made his remarks at a meeting with diocesan clergy in the Basilica of St John Lateran, the cathedral of Rome.
Pope Francis devoted the first part of the two hour meeting to answering a letter he had received from an elderly parish priest, writing of his struggles as a pastor.
“The letter isbeautiful, I was moved,” the Pope said. “The letter is simple. The priest is mature and he shared with me one of his feelings: fatigue.”
While voicing sympathy, the Pope said that such an experience is an inevitable part of priestly life.
The Pope then took questions from five of the priests in the audience, who asked him about specific pastoral challenges.
Pope Francis urged priests to make their churches more welcoming. He also offered success stories from his native Argentina, including one about fundraising that appealed to natural generosity.
According to the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, the Pope urged the priests to keep alive the memory of the beginning of their vocations, born in the love of Jesus, as an antidote to what he called “spiritual worldliness”.
The Pope then reassured the priests that the Church was alive and well, despite being rocked by recent scandals.
“I dare to say that the Church has never been so well as it is today,” he said, in spite of scandals such as that over clergy sex abuse. “The Church will not collapse, I am sure. Sanctity is stronger than scandals,” he said.