1. Growth of Native Clergy
This exhortation of Benedict XV, which was repeated by Our predecessors Pius XI and Pius XII, with the help of God’s divine Providence has had visible and copious results. We want you to join Us in rendering thanks to God for the fact that a numerous and elect legion of bishops and priests has arisen in the Mission territories, Our brethren and beloved sons, who fill Our heart with great expectations. If We cast even a cursory glance on the ecclesiastical situation in the areas which are entrusted to the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, with the exception of those at present under persecution, We note that the first bishop of east Asian origins was consecrated in 1923, and the first vicars apostolic of African Negro descent were named in 1939.
By 1959, We count 68 Asian and 25 African bishops. The remaining native clergy grew in number from 919 in 1918 to 5553 in 1957 in Asia, and during the same period in Africa from 90 in 1918 to 1811 in 1957. With such an admirable increase in the numbers of the clergy did the Lord of the harvest desire to reward adequately the labors and merits of those who zealously did mission work, either individually or in cooperation with many others, responding with a generous heart to the repeated exhortations of this Apostolic See.
2. Native Teachers in Seminaries
Furthermore, Our fatherly soul harbors the happy hope that everywhere the local clergy will be able to select from among its ranks just and holy men capable of governing, forming, and educating their own seminarians. That is the reason why We are already instructing the bishops and the mission authorities to choose without hesitation from among the local clergy those priests who, for their exceptional virtue and wise actions, qualify as teachers in the local seminaries and are able to lead their students to sanctity.
The formation of the local clergy, as Our same predecessor, Benedict XV, wrote, must enable them in compliance with the first requirement of their divine calling, “to assume rightly the rule of their people” —to lead their people, by the influence of their teaching and their ministry, along the path to eternal salvation. To this end, We highly recommend that everyone, whether local or foreign, who contributes to the formation in question, do his conscientious best to develop in these students a sense of the importance and difficulty of their mission, and a capability for wisely and discreetly using the freedom allowed to them. This should be done so that they may be in a position to assume, quickly and progressively, all the functions, even the most important ones, pertaining to their calling, not only in harmonious cooperation with the foreign clergy, but also on an equal footing with them. Indeed, this is the touchstone of the effectiveness of their formation, and will be the best reward for the efforts of all those who contributed to it.
3. Adaptation to Locality
Furthermore, Venerable Brethren, as you well know, the Church has prescribed at all times that priests must prepare for their calling by means of a solid intellectual and spiritual education. Indeed, no one will doubt, especially in our time, that young people of all races and from all parts of the world are capable of absorbing such an education; this fact has already been clearly demonstrated. Without doubt, the formation to be given to this clergy must take into account the circumstances which obtain in different areas and nations. This extremely wise norm applies to all students for the priesthood; it is advisable that young seminarians never be “educated in places too far removed from human society,” because “once they step out into the world, they will have problems in dealing both with simple people and with intellectuals; this will often cause them to assume the wrong attitude toward the Christian population, or to regard the formation they received as a bad one.” Indeed, it is necessary that youths not only conform to the ideal of priestly spiritual perfection in everything, but also that they “gradually and prudently penetrate the mentality and feelings of the people” -of the people, We repeat, whom they must enlight with the truth of the Gospel and lead to perfection of life, with the help of God’s grace. Therefore, it is necessary that seminary superiors conform to this plan of training and education while yet welcoming those material and technical facilities which the genius of mankind has made the patrimony, as it were, of every civilization in order to insure an easier and better life and to preserve the bodily health and safety of mankind.
4. Conversion of the Pagan Learned
If native priests are well instructed in these practical matters and serious disciplines, and if they overcome difficulties and are equipped to take the right course of action, they will be able, under guidance of their bishops, to make highly valuable contributions. In particular, they will find a more sympathetic audience among the educated citizens of their own countries and will be able to attract them to the Christian truth, in the manner of the famous missionary, Matthew Ricci*. This will happen especially in those countries which possess an ancient and highly developed civilization of their own. Indeed, local priests are entrusted with the mission of “bringing every mind into captivity to the obedience of Christ,” as Paul, that incomparable missionary and apostle of the people, affirmed; thus, they will also be “held in great honor by the members of the intellectual elite of their country.”
In order to achieve this purpose, it is hardly sufficient for new Christian communities to convert men to the Catholic religion and, after purifying them with the water of Baptism, to number them among the members of the Church; it is altogether necessary, after giving the individual a Christian education suitable to his circumstances and times, to make him capable of promoting, as much as he can, the present and future good and growth of the Church. The sheer number of Christians means little if they lack virtue; that is, if, while enjoying the name of Catholic, they do not stand firm in their determination; if their spiritual life does not flourish and fails to produce wholesome fruits; if, after being reborn to divine grace, they do not excel in that spirit of vigorous and sensible youthfulness which is always ready to perform generous and useful deeds. Their profession of faith must not only be a statistic in a census, but must create a new man, and give all his actions a supernatural strength, inspiring, guiding, and controlling them.
To make a full and effective Christian education possible, it is absolutely necessary that administrators and teachers find ways and means by which they will be able to understand and approach the minds of others and their characteristic temperaments, their inclinations and their intentions. This should be done so that the new followers of Jesus Christ will assimilate the precepts of the truth of the Gospel, together with its norms and requirements and will be wholly formed by them. Our Redeemer did, in fact, entrust each one of us with compliance with this great commandment: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind.” Indeed, the sublimity of the Christian calling should shine in all its splendor before the eyes of those who embrace the Catholic religion, so that their hearts will be fired with the desire, the strong resolution to lead a life adorned with all the Christian virtues and distinguished by apostolic activity: a life, We say, modeled on the luminous example of Jesus Christ, who, taking upon Himself our nature, commanded us to follow in His footsteps.
5. Catholic action and School Management
Catholic Action is an association of laymen “who are entrusted with certain duties, which involve executive responsibilities, to be carried out in submission to the hierarchy”; (78) thus laymen do hold executive offices therein. For this reason it is necessary to train men who are capable of enkindling different organizations with apostolic zeal and insuring their most efficient operation; men and women, We say, who in order to be worthy of managerial and executive roles in these organizations, entrusted to them by the ecclesiastical hierarchy, must furnish convincing proof that they possess a solid Christian formation, both intellectual and moral, in order that “they may impart to others what, with the help of God’s grace, they have won for themselves.”
It can rightly be said that the natural seat and, as it were, the training ground, where these lay executives of Catholic Action are prepared for their functions, is the Christian school; and this school will achieve its purposes, and fulfill its task, only insofar as its teachers, whether priests, religious, or laymen, educate and turn out true Christians.
SOURCE: PRINCEPS PASTORUM-ENCYCLICAL OF POPE JOHN XXIII ON THE MISSIONS, NATIVE CLERGY, AND LAY PARTICIPATION-NOVEMBER 28, 1959
*Matteo Ricci, was an Italian Jesuit priest and one of the founding figures of the Jesuit China missions in 1602.
Categories: Church Politics