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Rome Reports

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Pope thanks all the priests in a moving letter

Every Aug. 4 the Church celebrates the Holy Curé of Ars, the French priest St. John Mary Vianney. Pope Pius XI declared him patron of parish priests in 1929. On the occasion of the 160th anniversary of the death of this “shepard with the smell of the sheep,” Pope Francis wrote a letter to all priests thanking them for their “fidelity to the commitments you have made. It is a sign that, in a society and culture that glorifies the ephemeral, there are still people unafraid to make lifelong promises.”

The pope addresses especially the priests who work “in the trenches” “bearing the burden of the day and the heat confronting an endless variety of situations in your effort to care for and accompany God’s people” without drawing attention to themselves. 

“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” writes Pope Francis, who invites these priests not to fall into discouragement when “writing the finest pages of the priestly life” despite the difficulties of recent times due to sexual abuse scandals. However, the pope says he is "comforted by my meetings with pastors who recognize and share the pain and suffering of the victims and of the People of God, and have tried to find words and actions capable of inspiring hope.”

Pope Francis recalls although these cases seem to have discredited the priesthood, “The Lord is purifying His Bride and converting all of us to Himself.” and “He is rescuing us from hypocrisy, from the spirituality of appearances.” 

He invites them not to fall into "the sweet sorrow" "that can turn into a habit and lead us slowly to accept evil and injustice by quietly telling us: 'It has always been like this.' ” He tells them when this happens to look to the Blessed Mother and invoke the Holy Spirit “to free us from our inertia.”

Pope Francis also thanks them "for the joy with which you have offered your lives"; "for working to strengthen the bonds of fraternity and friendship with your brother priests and your bishop.”; “for your witness of persistence and patient endurance”; for being like the “Good Samaritan” from the parable; and "celebrating the Eucharist each day."

Finally, he makes a recommendation to them: “Do not withdraw from your people, your presbytery and your communities, much less seek refuge in closed and elitist groups.”