Truth and Charity bring people together. As Pope Benedict XVI wrote in his encyclical Caritas in Veritate, ‘Because it is a gift received by everyone, charity in truth is a force that builds community, it brings all people together without imposing barriers or limits.’

How much greater could this force become among those whose ‘job’, so to speak, is to proclaim this Love and Truth? We are, of course, speaking about priests. 51 priests from Latin America, who are responsible for the ongoing formation of priests, were recently invited to Rome by the Congregation of the Clergy for a four-week training course. They sent us testimonies filled with gratitude for this great gift.

Father Francisco Silva from Paraguay told us how, like many others, he had arrived in Rome, weary and exhausted by the difficulties he faces his country. But like the others he returned ‘inwardly newly strengthened, with many ideas and filled with Hope’. He had learnt that ‘joyful and holy priests make their communities holy’ and are a leaven in their societies. ‘Pray for us, and help us to become better’, he wrote.

Father Enriquillo Nunez from the Dominican Republic also saw ‘the great challenges in our countries. But together with Jesus, the Good Shepherd and eternal Priest, we can succeed.’ 

And Father Javier Uria Vasquez from Bolivia pointed out that priests can open up the way of Truth to others. The Eucharist is the sacrament that unites the whole Church and brings together all the faithful in our countries’.

For these 51 priests it was a memorable experience of fraternity, not only to be able to exchange experiences but also to find pastoral solutions together and deepen their understanding of the temporal and eternal truths.

This was the second time that such a course has been run, and a third is already planned for later this year, because of the excellent results which have come out of it; it will again be held in the pontifical Spanish College of San José and will combine study, prayer and excursions in the city. The programme is a challenging one.

In addition to addressing theological, miss-ionary and pastoral questions, subjects such as ‘The psychological health of the priest’, ‘Criteria for the human maturity of the priest’ and also ‘Human relations’ will be included.

Today, priests the world over face ongoing challenges in their life and ministry. The goal of the course is to teach them to approach these challenges as Christ would.

The idea is that, after they have returned, they will pass on the insights and experiences they have gained on smaller, regional courses.

During the past year over 300 priests have taken part in regional courses like these. So it is that more and more priests from this continent – which is plagued by fundamentalist sects and violence – are coming to feel their unity despite their diversity; in this way the face of the earth is being renewed as the power of truth knows no frontiers or barriers.

The meeting in Rome is the driving force behind this ‘theology of encounter’. The Congregation of the Clergy has asked our financial help for the 50 priests involved. And as a pontifical foundation we have, of course, gladly agreed to assist.

This article can be found in Mirror 0318.