Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education
(for Seminaries and Educational institutions)
Upon the theme of educators of Seminaries and on the need for dedication by the Bishops on a particular duty in their preparation, choice and formation, the Congregation for Catholic Education has recently emanated certain concrete "Directive Norms". As Prefect of the Ministry as well as President of the inter-ministerial Commission "for a more equal distribution of priests in the world", I intend to speak about this.
Our duty should not be solely understood as a more equal distribution of priests, but above all as finding a solution to the problem at its roots: to strengthen, that is, the pastoral of vocations and to place well-prepared educators at the head of the Seminaries. From this the urgency to favour the exchange of educators and vocational animators: a crucial problem, this, which merits our full attention.
The African continent, different from others, registers a sensible increase of priestly and religious vocations; in the same time the number of major and minor seminaries has increased. But regardless of this consoling increase there is no similar increase in good educators: rather, their number, their quality and preparation in certain places are unfortunately lacking.
To obtain from the seminaries holy and well-instructed priests, one must invert the tendency, or at least balance it, putting in practice the Directive Norms emanated by our Ministry. Various initiatives are in act in several countries: weeks of study and reflection, short and medium term updating courses, for Educators. These initiatives must be encouraged, with the knowledge that they are indispensable.
Who is charged with the formative responsibility in a Seminary cannot confront such a mission without a minimum of initial preparation, and without his own renewal and systematic perfectioning.
But what is most important is the promotion of the exchange of experiences and, possibly, the constitution of teams of educators that the better provided Churches place generously at the disposition of the more needy Churches. This is the "exchange of gifts" that the Holy Father invokes.
In these workings, an important role belongs to the African Church, for the experience it has accumulated, for the great vocational potentialities that it has and which would enrich the other Churches. I am certain that, even in this, Africa is capable not only of receiving but also of giving.