Be Authentic Fathers: Pope Francis’ Letter To Parish Priests

Be Authentic Fathers: Pope Francis’ Letter To Parish Priests May 3, 2024

Pope Francis | Photo by Annett_Klinger, Pixabay
Pope Francis | Photo by Annett_Klinger, Pixabay

In a letter addressed to the priests who participated in the meeting “Parish Priests for the Synod”, Francis points out three paths to follow: recognizing the gifts of the Spirit in the faithful, resorting to community discernment and maintaining communion between priests and bishops. The Pope emphasizes that a Church committed to the Synod needs parish priests and affirms: “We must listen to them to move forward.”

It is the letter of a father who understands the difficulties of his children but who encourages them to move forward for the good of the Church and the mission to which they are called. This is how Pope Francis addresses the approximately 300 participants, from all over the world, at the “Parish Priests for the Synod” event, which took place in Rome from April 29 to May 2. A meeting organized by the General Secretariat of the Synod and the Dicastery for the Clergy, with the aid of the Dicasteries for Evangelization and for the Eastern Churches. The Pope expresses gratitude and esteem towards those who deal with peripheral or large churches such as provinces, with more and more elderly faithful or churches that are born under a large tree where the song of the birds is mixed with that of the children.

A synodal parish for a synodal Church

Francis recalls the importance of a Synodal Church that needs its parish priests. “We will never become a missionary Synodal Church,” he writes in the Letter, “if the parish communities do not make the participation of all the baptized in the only mission of announcing the Gospel the characteristic feature of their life. If the parishes are not synodal and missionary, neither will the Church.” The Pope expects parishes with missionary disciples who leave and return full of joy; communities that must be accompanied by prayer, discernment and apostolic zeal. Strengthened by grace, it is necessary to listen to the Spirit and advance in the proclamation of the Word, bringing together the community and “giving out the bread.”

A paternity that doesn’t stand out

In his letter, the Pontiff  recommends parish priests recognizing the fruits that the Spirit spreads in the People of God: “It is urgent, in fact, to discover, animate and value ‘with a sense of faith the charisms, both humble and excellent, which in multiple forms are granted to the laity,'” he affirms. The Pope expresses his conviction that “in this way they will bring to light many hidden treasures and they will find themselves less alone in the great task of evangelizing, experiencing the joy of a genuine paternity that does not stand out, but makes many valuable potentialities in others, men and women.”

Community discernment

Francis invites parish priests to practice the method of “conversation in the Spirit” that has been of great help on the synodal path. “Discernment is a key element of the pastoral action of a synodal Church”. Carried out in the pastoral sphere, it illuminates “the concretion of the ecclesial life,” recognizing the charisms, entrusting “with wisdom tasks and ministries,” and planning “in the light of the Spirit the pastoral paths, going beyond the simple programming of activities.”


Fraternity is another key word in the Pope’s letter, sharing with his brother priests and with the bishops. “We can’t be real fathers if we are not first sons and siblings. And we can’t provoke communion and participation in the communities entrusted to us if we don’t live them among ourselves first.” The Pope points out that this path could seem arduous: “I know well that, in the midst of pastoral responsibilities, this commitment could seem like an excess or even wasted time, but in reality it is the opposite: in fact, only in this way are we credible and our action does not waste what others have already built, but it is quite the opposite.”

Missionaries of synodality

To conclude,  Pope Francis urges the parish priests to turn their attention to the second session of the XVI General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which will be held next October, and to become missionaries of synodality even in their daily ministry. The Holy Father insists that the voice of the priests must be heard so that their contribution to the Synod is increasingly decisive: “Listening to the parish priests was the purpose of this International Meeting, but this cannot end today: we need to continue listening to them.”

About Mauricio I. Pérez
Mauricio I. Pérez is a Catholic writer, journalist and YouTuber. He has received five national journalism awards by the Catholic Media Association. Mauricio has authored 18 books on Biblical commentary, spirituality and Catholic fiction, six of them bestsellers in Amazon. He has earned a diploma in Sacred Liturgy by the Universidad Pontificia de México and has graduated from several Liturgy programs at the Pontificio Istituto Liturgico in Rome. You can read more about the author here.

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