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Pope leaves the Vatican to speak with elderly priests 

Pope Francis during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's square at the Vatican on May 15, 2024

Antoine Mekary | ALETEIA

I.Media - Isabella H. de Carvalho - published on 05/16/24

On May 14, Pope Francis went to a parish near the Vatican to meet with priests who have been ordained for more than 40 years.

Pope Francis met with a group of priests who have been ordained for more than 40 years for two hours in the Roman parish of San Giuseppe al Trionfale, in the afternoon on May 14, 2024, the Holy See Press Office stated the same day. Together, they discussed the issues that priests can face in their old age. 

Some of the difficulties mentioned are “loneliness after years of living among the people, fatigue in coping with change, bitterness, sometimes to be overcome with prayer, remembrance of the Lord’s love and a sense of sonship with Our Lady,” the statement said

“Pope Francis stressed on several occasions the value of the relationship between old and young priests” the statement explained and quoted Pope Francis as saying: “Let them discuss, it’s life, and move forward together because […] grandparents must remain in the family.”

After meeting around a hundred priests in the Esquilino neighborhood on May 3, the 87-year-old Pontiff continued his visits around his diocese. This time he met 70 priests that have more than 40 years of ministry in the Basilica of San Giuseppe al Trionfale, a parish just north of the Vatican. The Pope invited them to be “witnesses of memory” and to “unite with the courage of the youth to move forward together.” 

The Pope regularly insists on the need to avoid placing different generations in opposition to one another. In a message released on May 14 to mark the upcoming World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, he wrote that “to set the young against the old is an unacceptable form of manipulation.”

Meeting the parish community

In the meeting the Pope also underlined “the value of the pastor’s and priest’s work in the streets” and “the importance of using gentleness to lead the flock,” the statement said. “People when they see the gentleness of the shepherd they come closer,” the Pope said. 

When Francis arrived he was greeted by a large crowd made up of parishioners, faithful and more. As Vatican News reports, he stopped to greet the people outside the parish before entering for the meeting and he ended up blessing a journalist who is pregnant with her second child and was waiting for the Pontiff’s arrival with other reporters. 

After his meeting with the priests, Pope Francis greeted the around 70 children from catechism classes and 100 students of the school attached to the parish, as well as a group of around 100 faithful. 

The next meeting is with the diocese’s young priests

On May 29, Pope Francis will meet priests with less than 10 years of ministry. The Diocese of Rome has over 1,300 priests. Pope Francis launched a reform of its governance in 2023, which has yet to be developed. 

The Pope’s visit comes just weeks after the departure of the Vicar General for the Diocese of Rome, Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, who had been leading the diocese on behalf of the Pontiff. Shortly afterwards, Francis announced that the appointment of his successor would take time in order for “a healthy discernment” to take place, given “the delicate nature of the office of the Cardinal Vicar.” 

Last August, in a letter addressed to Rome’s priests, Pope Francis asked them to be an “example” to the world, encouraging them to return “to the sources of the Gospel” and to inject “a new spirit into the old ecclesial institutions.” The Pope had also warned against spiritual worldliness and clericalism.

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