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Pope to priests: Don’t give up, don’t give in to complaints

Pope Francis presides the Chrism mass for Maundy Thursday at St Peter's Basilica on March 28, 2024

Antoine Mekary | ALETEIA

I.Media - published on 03/28/24

"Thank you, dear priests, thank you for your open and docile hearts; thank you for your sorrows and tears; thank you because you bring the marvel of God's mercy to the brothers and sisters of our time."

Pope Francis encouraged priests not to “give up” in the face of secularization, and not to “shut themselves up in complaint” becoming “bitter and irritable.” The Holy Father spoke to some 1,500 priests from Rome at the Chrism Mass he celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica this Thursday, March 28, 2024. He read his homily, one of the few times he’s pressed his voice in the last month, as he’s struggled with a respiratory virus.

Surrounded by their bishop – Pope Francis – the hundreds of priests from the Diocese of Rome renewed their priestly promises at Mass. On a day that marks the feast of priests the world over, the Pope also consecrated the Holy Chrism, the oil that will be used throughout the year for the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders, as well as for the dedication of the diocese’s churches and altars.

“Thank you, dear priests, thank you for your open and docile hearts; thank you for your sorrows and tears; thank you because you bring the marvel of God’s mercy to the brothers and sisters of our time,” the Pontiff said.

During Mass, the Pope stood for the Gospel. And on Wednesday, he had walked a few steps during the general audience in Paul VI Hall, something he rarely does any more.

He who does not weep regresses

In his homily, delivered in a clear voice, the Pope expressed his concern about the risk of priests feeling “powerless,” “disappointed and worried,” and ultimately “giving up” in the face of a secularized society.

He urged priests to avoid complaining, briefly emerging from his notes, before warning against the “unhealthy pleasure of the soul” of “dwelling on the wrongs we have received in order to feel sorry for ourselves.”

Distilling a wealth of advice throughout his meditation, Francis recommended that priests know how to “weep over [themselves],” developing the notion of “compunction,” that “sting to the heart” that makes “the tears of repentance flow.”

It’s a question, he explained, of “recognizing that we are always in debt and never in credit,” of “regretting my ingratitude and inconstancy […] my duplicity and my lies.” And he was particularly critical of “clerical hypocrisy.”

For the Pope, it is the “miracle of sadness” to lead “to gentleness.” Tears, he continued, are an antidote “to hardness of heart” – an attitude the Pope often criticizes. In his homily, he warned:

“Without tears, the heart becomes stiff: first it becomes routine, then careless of problems and indifferent to people […]. […] In the spiritual life, […] he who does not weep regresses; he grows old inside.”

Peter’s Successor also called on priests to combat “the natural tendency to be indulgent with oneself and inflexible with others,” inviting them to the opposite: to become “firm with oneself and merciful with others.”

“The Lord does not ask contemptuous judgments of those who do not believe, but love and tears for those who are far away,” he insisted.

Finally, urging liberation from “harshness and recrimination, selfishness and ambition, rigidity and dissatisfaction,” he wished priests to return “to adoration and prayer of the heart.”

This afternoon, the Pope is due to visit the Rebibbia women’s prison in Rome. There, he will celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. He will also meet a number of female prisoners.

Holy WeekPope FrancisPriests
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