International conference explores ongoing formation of priests

What helps our priests express the Good News effectively throughout their lifelong ministry?

Twelve representatives from Australia recently joined 900 attendees from nearly 60 countries in Rome, to explore this topic, sharing challenges and best practices.

The International Conference for the Ongoing Formation of Priests, held from 6-10 February, initiated a shared process with local Churches, aimed at strengthening the formation of priests in four dimensions: human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral.

Clergy conferenceThe conference was hosted by the Dicastery for the Clergy, in collaboration with the Dicasteries for Evangelisation and for the Eastern Churches. In preparation, the Dicasteries considered the results of the recent survey sent to Bishops’ Conferences worldwide, contributions from participants before and during the conference, and the Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis (The gift of the priestly vocation).

The conference commenced with Mass at the Altar of the Chair in St Peter's Basilica, presided by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State. This was followed by presentations from speakers from diverse backgrounds, including Cardinal Lazzaro You Heung-sik, Cardinal Luis Tagle, Fr Hans Zollner SJ and Mother Martha Driscoll OCSO, the Abbess-Emeritus of the Cistercian Monastery of Gedano in Indonesia.

Bishop Greg Bennet from the Sale Diocese, a member of the Dicastery for the Clergy, spoke on the second day of the conference on ‘How can a priest remain an authentic witness to the Gospel?’

He emphasised the need for priests to thrive, find joy, and be inspired by the beauty of God's creation. Attention to the four dimensions of formation, and the importance of supporting and listening to young priests in a synodal manner, would, he said, help our priests grow in their love for Christ and answer the question, "Who do you say I am?"

Mother Martha presented ‘Men of God in our present age: Contemplatives in action’. She spoke with honesty, humility and care, encouraging the audience to allow their lives to change.

Contemplation, Mother Martha said, is about allowing the answers to come to you rather than actively seeking them, being receptive, learning to live together, listening to God's word, living our lives concretely each day and acting together. Her presentation was met with a long and loud applause from the participants.

Pope Francis also addressed the conference on various topics, reminding priests to be particularly merciful and pastoral, stressing the significance of working with God's people in communities and parishes.

“We need priests who are fully human, who can play with children and look after the elderly, are capable of healthy relationships and mature in confronting the challenges of ministry, so that the consolation of the Gospel may reach the people of God through their humanity transformed by the Spirit of Jesus,” he said.

After each day of the conference, participants worked in small language groups, guided by a facilitator through the synodal process of ‘The conversation in the Spirit’. Each group was tasked with addressing two questions and providing feedback in the areas of three open challenges, three paths that should be taken, and emerging good practices.

The conference concluded with Mass at St Peter's Basilica, presided by Cardinal You Heung-sik. Participants agreed it was a valuable experience that would benefit the lives and ministries of priests and their communities around the world.


For more information about the conference visit
The Ongoing Formation of Priests - Conference Program
Address of Pope Francis to Participants in The International Conference for The Ongoing Formation of Priests
News article: Pope Francis applauds holy, faithful service of priests
Fr Richard Thompson VG in Rome - Catholic Voice


Words: Fr Khalid Marogi
Image: Supplied

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