POPE FRANCIS: FUTURE HOLY SEE DIPLOMATS WILL SPEND A YEAR ON MISSION – A VATICAN EDITORIAL ON THE PAPAL LETTER: AMBASSADORS OF A MISSIONARY CHURCH

A fascinating development in one of the Vatican’s most interesting institutions, the Pontifical Ecclesial Academy that trains future diplomats – a year of missionary service as part of the training and studies of future Holy See diplomats.

My very first thought as I read the whole letter this morning was: Will the Amazon be the first and/or main recipient of these diplomatic trainees?

POPE FRANCIS: FUTURE HOLY SEE DIPLOMATS WILL SPEND A YEAR ON MISSION

Pope Francis has sent a letter to the president of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, announcing that whoever enters the Vatican’s diplomatic service will be asked to carry out a 12-month missionary experience in a diocese.
By Vatican News

Pope Francis has introduced a year of missionary experience into the curriculum of those preparing to enter service in the Holy See’s diplomatic corps.

The Pope had foreseen this change in his final speech at the Synod on the Amazon, and now it has become a reality.

In a letter to Archbishop Joseph Marino, the new President of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy – which trains nuncios for the Vatican’s diplomatic staff – Pope Francis requests an addition to the curriculum: one year spent on mission within a local Church. The letter is dated 11 February 2020.

The Holy Father expresses his “desire that priests preparing for the diplomatic service of the Holy See devote a year of their training to missionary service in a diocese.”

“I am convinced,” he adds, “that such an experience will be useful for all the young men preparing for or beginning priestly service, but especially for those who will someday be called to work with the Pontifical Representatives and, afterwards, will in turn become Envoys of the Holy See to nations and particular Churches.”

Pope Francis quotes a speech he gave to the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy in June 2015: “The mission to which you will be called one day to carry out will take you to all parts of the world. Europe is in need of an awakening; Africa is thirsty for reconciliation; Latin America is hungry for nourishment and interiority; North America is intent on rediscovering the roots of an identity that is not defined by exclusion; Asia and Oceania are challenged by the capacity to ferment in diaspora and to dialogue with the vastness of ancestral cultures.”

In his letter, the Pope adds that “to take on in a positive manner these growing challenges for the Church and the world, future diplomats of the Holy See need to acquire – in addition to a solid priestly and pastoral formation” and that offered by the Academy – “a personal experience of mission outside their own diocese of origin, sharing a portion of their journey with the missionary Churches and their communities, participating in the daily activity of evangelization.”

In this vein, Pope Francis asks Archbishop Marino to “put into practice my desire to enrich the Academy’s formation curriculum with a year dedicated entirely to missionary service in the particular Churches spread throughout the world. This new experience will come into force starting with the students who begin their formation in the next academic year 2020/2021.”

Effecting this change, writes the Pope, will require “first of all close collaboration with the Secretariat of State and, more precisely, with the Section for the Diplomatic Staff of the Holy See (the so-called Third Section), as well as with Pontifical Representatives, who will certainly not fail to provide valuable assistance in identifying the local Churches that are ready to welcome the students and closely follow their experience.”

“I am certain,” concludes Pope Francis, “that – once the initial concerns that may arise in the face of this new style of formation for future diplomats of the Holy See have been overcome – the missionary experience offered will be useful not only to young academics but also to the individual Churches with which they will work. And I hope it will encourage with other priests of the universal Church the desire to make themselves available to carry out a period of missionary service outside their own diocese.”

A VATICAN EDITORIAL ON THE PAPAL LETTER: AMBASSADORS OF A MISSIONARY CHURCH

Pope Francis decides to include a year of mission in the training curriculum of the diplomatic staff of the Holy See.
By Andrea Tornielli

Pope Francis’ decision to include a year spent in mission territory in the training curriculum of diplomatic Nunciature personnel, comes just a few months after the announcement made by the Pope himself in the concluding speech of the Synod for the Amazon. This announcement now becomes reality for new students of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy in the academic year 2020/2021.

First, it is interesting to note the context in which this project was first announced: the need for, and difficulty in finding, priests for the missions. The Pope had quoted the negative response one sometimes receives: “No, I am not suitable for this”. “Well,” commented the Pope, “this must be reformed. Young religious have a great vocation and it is necessary to train them in apostolic zeal to go to the peripheries”. Immediately afterwards, Pope Francis spoke of future diplomats, hinting at a “suggestion” he had received: “In the curriculum of the diplomatic service of the Holy See, young priests should spend at least a year in missionary territory. Not doing an internship in the Nunciature as they do now, which is very useful, but simply in the service of a bishop in a place of mission”.

Now this proposal becomes concrete. In his letter to the president of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, the Pope writes: “I am convinced that such an experience will be useful for all the young men preparing for or beginning priestly service, but especially for those who will someday be called to work with the Pontifical Representatives and, afterwards, will in turn become Envoys of the Holy See to nations and particular Churches”. The commitment of future Apostolic Nuncios will serve as an example, so that other priests will accept the invitation to spend time in mission.

There is no doubt that the decision, now formalized by the Successor of Peter, represents a truly significant change in the course of studies for those who will serve in the Nunciatures and who will, in many cases, be made bishops at a relatively young age. A fundamental piece of the curriculum now becomes the year dedicated to missionary service in the field, far from home, getting one’s hands dirty in pastoral work, in the frontier Churches. A year of change, of fatigue, of new experiences, which will allow a better and deeper understanding of the reality of the Church, of her problems and difficulties, but also of her hopes and the comforting beauty of her daily life. A year that will allow the students of the Ecclesiastical Academy themselves, their superiors and the bishops of their dioceses of origin, to better discern individual vocations. A year that could also dissuade someone from undertaking this service. It will certainly be an experience destined to change the outlook and perspective for those who will one day be called to represent the Pope in various countries, thus underlining the importance for the local Churches of helping the Pope by sending good and capable priests in his service.

Once again, Pope Francis reminds us that the whole Church – diplomatic service included – is either missionary or she is not. She either evangelizes or she is not Church. “If the Church is not on the move, she decays, she becomes something else”, as the Pope stated in the important book interview with Gianni Valente, “Without Him We Can Do Nothing”. In this recent publication that deserves to be taken to heart, Pope Francis says: “Mission is not a tried and tested company plan. Neither is it a public spectacle organized to flaunt how many people are associated with it thanks to our marketing. The Holy Spirit works as He wills, when He wills and where He wills”. “Mission’s mysterious fruitfulness does not consist in our intentions, in our methods, in our impulses and in our initiatives, but rests precisely in this ‘vertigo’: the ‘vertigo’ we perceive when we hear Jesus’ words: ‘Without me you can do nothing’”.