BELGIUM: THE BISHOPS INVITE PRIESTS TO HOPE. CELIBACY REASSERTED

A letter of encouragement based on the theological virtue of hope. It was written by the Bishops of the Belgian Bishops Conference to their priests and published these days. "Secularisation, indifference, tensions within the Church as to morality, lack of vocations" are, according to the Bishops, the main reasons that discourage priests, who are going through a "difficult time". "The figure of the priest is changing all the time and is acquiring more and more responsibilities on a wider and wider area, which is unrelated to the community", reads the message. Pastoral work is becoming increasingly difficult too: "the priest is called to build bridges between law and mercy, between the needs of a mutual understanding between conservatives and progressives and to respond to complicated matters, mostly about morality". In response to this, the bishops invite the priests to take into account the different dimensions of priestly life: "evangelical radicalism, prayer and celibacy". As to the latter, the Bishops define "living in common with other brethrens and an intensive life of prayer as essential. Poverty, celibacy and obedience – they say – go hand in hand". The keystone of priestly life is "the joy of the priest, that is, his calling, that feeds on the consecration from the Church and the signs that God places in everyone’s heart".

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