Vatican City, June 9, 2022 / 09:00 (CNA).
Pope Francis on Thursday told priests and bishops on the Italian island of Sicily to be strong moral guides and update their art and vestments in line with Church reforms.
“People in Sicily still see priests as spiritual and moral guides, people who can also help to improve the civil and social life of the island, to support the family and to be a point of reference for growing young people. . The Sicilian people’s expectations of priests are high and demanding,” the pope said. said at a June 9 meeting at the Vatican.
In improvised remarks during his speech, Francis also touched on a subject which, according to him, “concerns” him: the progress of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, in particular relating to the liturgy.
“I don’t know, because I don’t go to Mass in Sicily and I don’t know how the Sicilian priests preach, if they preach as it was suggested in [the 2013 apostolic exhortation] Evangelii gaudium or if they preach in such a way that people go out for a cigarette and then come back,” the pope said.
He suggested that after eight minutes of a homily, most people’s attention begins to wane.
Noting that he had seen photos of Masses in Sicily, Francis also appeared to comment on the use of lace on the vestments priests wear when celebrating Mass.
“Where are we 60 years after the Council,” he said. “Some updates even in liturgical art, in liturgical ‘fashion’.”
“Yes, sometimes bringing grandma’s lace is appropriate, sometimes. It’s to pay homage to grandma, right? ” He continued. “It’s good to honor grandma, but it’s better to celebrate the mother, Holy Mother Church, and how Mother Church wants to be celebrated. So that insularity does not prevent the true liturgical reform that the Council launched.
Sicily, an island region in southern Italy, has 5 million inhabitants. The Catholic Church in the region is divided into 18 dioceses.
Around 300 of the island’s 2,078 priests and 20 bishops are in Rome for a pilgrimage and meeting with Pope Francis on the 30th anniversary of the Regional Day of Marian Priests of the Church in Sicily.
Sicily, like the rest of Italy, is facing a decline in vocations to the priesthood, with 30% fewer seminarians compared to ten years ago.
In his address at the Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis reflected on changing times, including declining vocations.
The 85-year-old pope, who has made public appearances in a wheelchair since May 5 due to knee pain, said priests and bishops must make courageous choices, with the discernment of the Holy Spirit, about how to share the Gospel of Christ today.
“We are witnessing in Sicily behaviors and gestures marked by great virtues as well as cruel hatred,” he said. “Furthermore, alongside masterpieces of extraordinary artistic beauty, we see scenes of mortifying neglect.”
He noted the deterioration of the social situation, in particular the fall in the population due to a low birth rate and the exodus of young people in search of work.
“We need to understand how and in what direction Sicily is experiencing the change of age and what paths it could take, in order to proclaim, in the fractures and joints of this change, the Gospel of Christ”, he said. declared.
“This task, although entrusted to the whole people of God, demands of us, priests and bishops, a full, total and exclusive service,” commented Pope Francis.
“Please don’t stand in the middle of the road,” he urged. “Faced with the awareness of our weaknesses, we know that the will of Christ places us at the heart of this challenge.
“The key to everything is in his call, he underlines, on which we rely to go back to sea and cast our nets again. We do not even know each other, but if we return to the call, we cannot ignore this Face which has met us and drawn us behind it, even united us to it, as our tradition teaches when it declares that in the liturgy we even act ‘in persona Christi’.
“This full unity, this identification, we cannot limit to celebration, but we must live it fully in every moment of life, keeping in mind the words of the Apostle Paul: ‘I no longer live , but Christ lives in me,'” he said.
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