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Propositio 39: Priests
Every priest configured by ordination to Christ, the Head and Good Shepherd, is called to be a living sign of Jesus Christ, who came to serve and not to be served (cf. Mk 10:45).
Consequently, priests must cultivate a profound spiritual life that involves listening to the Word of God, celebrating the Eucharist, and fidelity to prayer, especially the Hours. They must resolutely commit themselves to an evangelical and a fraternal community life, shielded from family pressures, a modest life of discipline and self-denial (“Apostolica vivendi forma”) and a special love for the poor. They are to be examples of responsible stewardship, of accountability and transparency. They should imitate the courageous prophets in the face of social ills. Thereby they become “salt of the earth” and “light of the world”.
The priestly vocation also includes a commitment to the Gospel virtues of poverty, chastity, and obedience. These are their greatest profession of love for Christ, for his Church and for their neighbour. Accordingly, The Synod Fathers urge all priests of the Latin Rite to live their celibacy generously and with love.
According to the Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis, (29): “Celibacy must be accepted . . . as an inestimable gift of God, as a stimulus for pastoral charity, as participation in the fatherhood of God and in the fecundity of the Church, as witness of the kingdom for the world”.
In addition, this grace period of the Year of Priests invites all priests to imitate the zeal of St. John Vianney for the ministry of the Sacrament of Penance.
In view of this and because of the ministries which priests exercise in the Christ and for Christ’s Faithful, sometimes in very difficult circumstances, the Synod Fathers do not cease to thank God for them and to lift them up in prayer to God for his help. But the Synod Fathers also wish to assure their priests a solid and ongoing formation in the pertinent areas of their life and ministry. They commend to them, for their sustenance and spiritual growth:
- annual and monthly days of recollection
- regular prayer life and reading of Scriptures
- ongoing formation, especially for young priests who need to be lovingly accompanied, and which should include the Social Doctrine of the Church; and
- overall security and the means of an honourable life for sick and aged priests.
Furthermore, for priests who work outside their dioceses, the Synod specifies that an agreement (or contract) be reached between the diocese of origin and the welcoming diocese, clearly defining the conditions of life and work and the duration of the mission. In addition, these priests must be considered as fully pastors in all justice and Christian charity and with full membership in the presbyterate.
Propositio 40: Seminarians
A holistic approach is needed in the formation of seminarians preparing for the Catholic priesthood. While the importance of a solid intellectual, moral, spiritual and pastoral formation must be upheld, the human and psychological growth of each candidate should be included as a foundation for the development of an authentic priestly life. The formators are to ensure the spiritual renewal of seminarians who should not conform to ethnic and cultural limitations (cf. Rom 12), but on the contrary become that “new being in Christ” (2 Cor 5:17).
In this way, our future priests can become more firmly grounded in the understanding of their cultures and Gospel virtues and strengthened in their commitment and loyalty to the person of Christ and the Church’s mission of reconciliation, justice and peace.
The academic staff of the seminary and the special formation team are to work together in order to facilitate this integral formation. The seminarians should be formed for community life in such a way that fraternal life among them will, in the future, guarantee a true experience of priesthood as a “close priestly fraternity”.
In the selection and formation of candidates, the bishop and the team of formators are to discern carefully the motivation and aptitude of the seminarians, in order to ensure that those who are eventually ordained priests will be true disciples of Christ and servants of the Church.
Propositio 41: Permanent Deacons
This Synod has identified the service of Reconciliation justice and peace as the urgent face and form of the apostolic mission of the Church-Family of God in Africa and its Islands. In so doing, this Synod has also described several agents of this apostolic mission of the Church, including various components of the laity, but including also ordained ministers, among whom permanent deacons, who “serve reconciliation, justice and peace” as dedicated ministers of God, his merciful love and his Word. “Strengthened by sacramental grace…they serve in the diaconate of the liturgy, of the word and of charity to the people of God” (“Lumen gentium“, 29).
Therefore, this Synod recommends that these servants of the Lord receive an adequate formation, especially in the sacred sciences and the social doctrine of the Church. Since the aim of all spiritual exercises is the discovery of a better way of service, the Synod Fathers call upon deacons to seek and contemplate the face of the Lord daily, so that they might discover a more credible way of serving reconciliation, justice and peace.
Propositio 42: Consecrated Life
The Church acknowledges the inestimable value of the Consecrated Life, a particular form of the discipleship of Christ, which plays a fundamental role in the life and mission of the Church at the service of God’s reign.
The Church particularly values the witness of consecrated persons in prayer life and community life, education, health, human promotion and pastoral service.
The prophetic role of consecrated persons must be emphasized in the process of reconciliation, justice and peace, and the fact that they are often very near to victims of oppression, repression, discrimination, violence and sufferings of all kinds. In closely collaborating with the clergy in pastoral ministry, the dignity of women in consecrated life and their religious identity and charism are to be protected and promoted. Bishops are to assist young religious congregations towards self-reliance.
The Church expects much from the witness of religious communities, characterized by racial, regional and ethnic diversity. By their life in common they proclaim that God makes no distinctions between persons and that we are all his children, members of the same family, living in harmony in diversity and peace.
To support and encourage consecrated persons, the Synod Fathers recommend that:
- a careful discernment of candidates (brothers, sisters and priests) be done in the course of their formation;
- they be given a solid human, spiritual, intellectual (biblical, theological, moral) and professional formation;
- they remain faithful to their vocation and charism; and
- their initial formation (postulancy and novitiate) normally be done in Africa.
The Synod welcomes the establishment of The Confederation of Major Superiors of Africa and Madagascar (COMSAM), which is a structure of support for the Consecrated Life in Africa and a forum for dialogue with the Bishops of the continent (SECAM).
From the Lineamenta of the 2nd Assembly of the Synodof African Bishops:
THE CHURCH IN AFRICA IN SERVICE TO RECONCILIATION, JUSTICE AND PEACE
Chapter III, I.3. Priests, Consecrated Persons and Formation Institutions in the Church
58. The specific mission of priests in the Church, as the Second Vatican Council reminds us, is not political, economic or social in nature, but religious. Nevertheless, according to their ministry, they can and must contribute to setting up a more just secular order. In fact, the word of the Gospel which priests proclaim in the name of Christ and his Church, the efficacious grace of the sacraments they administer and the witness of their charity, must contribute to freeing man from his personal and social selfishness and promote the conditions of justice among men, which are signs of the charity of Christ present in our midst.Pastoral workers will contribute towards progress in reconciliation, peace and justice in Africa through their preaching, catechesis, pastoral letters and, especially, a pastoral care of the family which is well-suited to today’s challenges.
b) Consecrated Persons
59. In the same way, consecrated persons are called to work for the advent of reconciliation, justice and peace in Africa by living their charisms and fully embracing the evangelical counsels in their own communities and the world. In fact, through the witness of a life of service, the acceptance of diversity, forgiveness and reconciliation, they will be a “sign” and “instrument” in the world of the Kingdom to come. Through their simple chaste life – a visible sign of their total self-giving to Christ and his Church -, their evangelical spirit of detachment and honesty in the use of the goods of this world and their obedience to their superiors, they will give witness to “the marvels wrought by God in the frail humanity of those who are called to follow in a uniquely special manner”. The commitment to reconciliation, justice and peace is intrinsic to their vocation. As a matter of fact, consecrated persons ought to be in some way the living memory of the conviction that every Christian does not have “a stable, definitive city” on earth (cf. Heb 13:14), or better, that he does not belong to any tribe, race or people on earth. As a result, consecrated persons are simply citizens who seek the definitive realisation of the Kingdom of God, for which they pray constantly, “Thy Kingdom Come”.
c) Formation Institutions in the Church
60. Proper preparation is extremely important for not only those who will have future involvement in the Church’s pastoral programs but also those who are formed in the Church’s Institutions (Catholic Universities and Higher Institutes, etc.). Consequently, courses and teaching seminars on peace and justice need to be introduced into formation programs for pastoral workers and consecrated persons, as well as those in Church educational institutions. This means providing them with useful tools in analysing the socio-political realities of the places where they will be working.
Catholic educational institutions are called to make a valuable contribution to formation by promoting a fruitful encounter between the Gospel and the different branches of knowledge.Consequently, the formation of lay Christians must primarily seek to make them capable of facing their daily tasks in cultural, social, economic and political settings, in effect, by developing their sense of duty in service to the common good. A second aspect is formation of a political conscience to prepare lay Christians to exercise political power. They should acquire keen knowledge of the Church’s teaching and her pastoral activity in the society, as well as an acute interest in the social questions of our times.