Pope’s Letter to Priests Helpful, but Repentance Would Be Better

By Father Jeffrey F. Kirby
August 11, 2019

Last weekend, in observance of the one-hundred sixtieth anniversary of the death of Saint John Vianney, Pope Francis issued an unexpected but affectionate letter to his sons and brother priests throughout the Church.

The letter was another surprise for the pope who, in the words of the prefect of his household, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, “is a person who surprises and welcomes surprises.”

For a pope most known for constructively criticizing his priests, the letter is a welcomed suspension of previous comments. It comes as blessed relief, a letter of paternal reassurance and fraternal charity.

Pope Francis begins the letter: “As an older brother and a father, I too would like in this letter to thank you in the name of the holy and faithful People of God for all that you do for them, and encourage you…”.

After the initial introduction, which provides an outline for the letter, the pope moves into a summary of the pain caused by the current crises, then to words of gratitude, followed by a message of encouragement, and then concludes with praise for the Blessed Mother, who is hailed as an example and model for priests and for the Church.

In the first part of the letter, the pontiff acknowledges the current crises in the Church and the pain they have caused believers and society. He also addresses the suffering of good priests, grieving for the priests whose own faith has been scandalized by the abuse and cover-ups, who are also thrown into an environment of suspicion by people of goodwill, and who have had their own pastoral ministries limited by the questioning and hesitation of others because of the crises.








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