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Conférence du cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger – Quinze ans d’expérience. Le modèle parisien de formation des prêtres (Texte en anglais)

"The Paris Model of Formation, Fifteen Years Later". Denver, Wednesday, 8 September, 1999. Inauguration of Saint John Vianney Theological Seminary. Remarks by Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, Archbishop of Paris.

Your Eminence, Your Excellencies, dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Since the beginning of the 20th century, and especially since the end of World War Two, the Christian faith and the Church have been more and more seriously undermined in France. The evolution of the number of priests is significant of this crisis.

Fifty years ago there were nearly fifty thousand diocesan priests in France to minister to forty or so million French people, not to mention numerous religious priests and nuns. There were one thousand ordinations of diocesan priests every year. There are now approximately twentyfive thousand priests alive. About seventy percent of them are over sixty-five. The number of ordinations of diocesan priests has been down to one hundred a year since the nineteen-sixties. In five to ten years’ time, there are likely to remain only six thousand diocesan priests to serve a population of over sixty million. As far as the religious orders are concerned, the decline has been just as dramatic, if not more so. .

These changes can be accounted for by internal spiritual factors. But they also correspond to a radical upheaval of French society, characterized by massive urbanization, higher living standards, moral permissiveness, the destabilization of family structures and cultural conflicts between the generations. In this context, those Christian customs and practices which were not rooted in a living faith were more or less swept away. A new era thus began fifty years ago.

Most of the priests who are over sixty-five today came from deeply Christian rural families. They were educated in junior seminaries and were ordained at the age of twenty﷓five at the latest. Since the Tridentine Reformation of the sixteenth century, the French clergy trained in senior seminaries had produced generations of saintly, exemplary priests, with the pastor of Ars as an emblematic figure.

Virtually all junior seminaries disappeared as early as the sixties. Then we experienced the major cultural crisis of the sixties which also rocked all of Western Europe and North America and hit the clergy violently. In the seventies, many senior seminaries in France were closed as well for want of candidates.

However, vocations of a new type began to emerge in the eighties, while some kind of a renewal was taking shape among the faithful. It should be kept in mind that the Catholic Church had already been preparing herself for what Gaudium et Spes named a new age for mankind. While announcing the universal vocation to sanctity the Second Vatican Council had also called for an aggiornamento of priestly formation and life.

Who are the candidates to the priesthood nowadays ? What are they like ? They belong to an already secularized generation. They hardly know the Church. Like most other young French people, they have received a higher education in technological and practical fields, and most have a high level professional experience. But many of those who consider a vocation have only recently discovered faith and want to give a meaning to their lives. They often are in their late twenties. This seems not to be special to France, since similar trends can be noted in Italy, as Cardinal Ruini told me recently.

The "new era for mankind foretold by Vatican II thus encourages us to rethink the matter of formation to the priesthood without neglecting the valuable experiences accumulated by the Church since the Council of Trent.

Logically, the conversion of those whom God calls, first has to be rooted in depth. This is the goal served by the Spiritual Year and the Saint Augustine House of the Archdiocese of Paris, which I am now going to tell you about, as my first point.

Then these young men have to take personal possession of the treasure of the Church’s faith. This leads to reconsider the teaching of theology in the light of Vatican II, and my second point will deal with this question, by describing the Studium of the Paris Seminary.

Finally, the seminarians have to learn to become not only Christians, but also genuine and true priests in order to share the apostles’ mission in a secularized world. The lifestyle in the houses of the Paris Seminary is aimed at preparing them for this, and I will finish by briefly outlining it.

1. 1984 : The Spiritual Year at the Saint Augustine House and the Cathedral School. 2. 1985 : First Year of the Paris Seminary.

To root conversion in depth : this was the goal given to the Saint Augustine House when the "spiritual year" was inaugurated in 1984. Very quickly, however, the phrase was developed as follows : in order to open the way for sacerdotal formation throughout seminary and even throughout life.

Indeed, the point is to adjust to the situation of the applicants, as this situation is very different in France from the one of previous generations. Today, when they show up, they are eager to know God. They also somehow thirst for the absolute. But they cannot be fascinated by an image of the priesthood, because priests today are few, aging, and generally not respected, even in Catholic families.

Of course, the creation of a "spiritual year" had been encouraged in a circular letter of the Roman Congregation for Catholic Education. However, if we decided to implement these directives, it was above all because we realized who the young men whom God called were and what they were like.

  • The notion of a "spiritual year" was new to the French clergy. They had been traditionally hostile to it, because of presuppositions dating back to at least the Council of Trent, and also because of the opposition between the diocesan clergy and the religious.

What contents should this "spiritual year" receive ? Something like a "noviciate" hardly seemed appropriate. What special charisma could be invoked to legitimize this innovation, since the purpose was not to train religious ? And would it be possible not to offer and teach a particular spirituality ?

Obviously, the very notion of "spiritual life", with its specificity and strength in its relation to the priesthood had to be clarified. This was beautifully done a few years later (in nineteen ninety) at the bishops’ synod on priestly formation which led to Pastores dabo vobis.

And, above all, this "spiritual life" had to be the foundation and the unifying, integrating principle of the whole formation which was to follow on the human, theological, moral, spiritual and pastoral planes.

For further information, I can only refer to what was said at the international conference held in Paris the sixth and seventh of July, nineteen ninety-five, on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the foundation of the Saint Augustine House. All this was published in French by Le Cerf. I only wish to insist on the decisive importance, in the course of this "spiritual year", of a thirty-day long retreat and of another month spent at the service of the poor or the sick.

  • For this "spiritual year", three different orientations can be found as they are described at number sixty-two of Pastores dabo vobis.

In the first place, it can be a "propedeutic" year offering the opportunity to compensate, thanks to an "intellectual and cultural formation", the shortcomings of the previous familial or academic education, so as to bring the candidates up to the level required by seminary studies. This is what the junior seminaries or the seminaries for late vocations used to do, for example by teaching Latin and providing basic knowledge of Christian life. This remains a valid approach in many countries, for example in Africa.

However, this means that the young men who do not need this complementary formation are logically exempted.

In the second place, this year can be used for the discernment or validation of the project of a sacerdotal vocation. All those who even vaguely consider becoming priests are admitted to this Spiritual Year. This leads to consider "spiritual formation as a way to assess a vocation."

Of course, in this perspective it is to be expected that few candidates with such an uncertain calling will carry on. It will then be tempting to exempt those whose vocation seems to be grounded more firmly on already stronger bases.

In time we became keenly aware of the problem with this second orientation : it is that the very diversity of the applicants’ intentions and of their degrees of commitment did not allow to create a community where all members were equally dedicated to follow Christ. The candidates disturbed each other, and this has caused many difficulties for the supervisors

In the third place, this year can be one of spiritual foundation, designed to tone up the candidates’ future evolution. It is then better to accept only those whose capacities and straightforwardness have been sufficiently acknowledged, even if the nature of their calling is not yet fully focused on the sacerdotal ministry in Paris.

When the Saint Augustine House was opened, it had been decided not to take up the first approach (that of a "propedeutic year"), but it took several years’ experience to opt resolutely for the third course : a year of spiritual foundation.

  • It was necessary to improvise the supervision of this year with a few priests of the Archdiocese and friendly religious who had not been prepared for such a task.

Fifteen years later, we are only beginning to have the educators we need. Striving to renovate is as difficult as starting from scratch ! In both cases one must be sturdily and constantly set on investing for the future.

  • Although the Saint Augustine House was opened discreetly, the effect was immediate on a number of young men. Even if they felt called to become priests, for them, vocation did not mean entering a seminary, and rather a readiness to answer Christ’s call to "sell everything they had and follow Him". The idea of a "spiritual year" fitted with what they were willing to undertake, even if this meant they had to give up their professional careers.

The result has been a crowd of diversified strong personalities, which have made the Paris clergy the youngest in France.

  • After fifteen years, is it possible to describe the contents of this "spiritual year" ? We have chosen to transmit the most common and fundamental elements of spiritual life by tapping the wisdom of methods that had been experimented in previous centuries.

Each applicant is invited to root his life in a free and personal encounter with Christ, chosen as the master of his existence. As Mark says in his Gospel (chapter three, verse fourteen) : "He appointed twelve to be his companions". The candidate is helped by the apprenticeship of personal, ecclesial and liturgical prayer, by regular sacramental practice, by the lectio divina, by reading the whole Bible in the course of this year, by the fraternal life which requires to receive the others as God-given brothers, by silence and by solitude, and (last but not least) by meeting the poor-the sick, the disabled, the homeless... Each candidate also relies on the help of his spiritual director.

There are a few classes not too many, so as not to turn this "spiritual year" into a year of studies. These lectures (on the Creed, on the liturgy, on the Bible, on the history of spirituality) are designed to provide these young men, who have generally not received a full education in the faith, with the religious knowledge they need to discover Christ. This "spiritual year" is centered on baptism and the call to saintliness that it entails.

Experience has also taught us what further investments the Service of Vocations requested even before the "spiritual year". If fundamental work is to be achieved at the Saint Augustine House, those who are admitted must be committed to follow Christ resolutely. The Service of Vocations has launched reflection groups, spiritual periods and personal counseling, so that the candidates may enter the House with at least some responsibility in the management of their spiritual life and some maturity in their choice to become priests in Paris.

  • The choice of a year of spiritual formation required from a candidates to the priesthood is the original and steady foundation of all of their further training. We realized very early, at the end of the first year of the Saint Augustine House, that those who had gone through this year were going to be uncomfortable in the existing seminaries.

Because the candidates there were diversified, with often non identified problems and personal uncertainties, and because of the loopholes in their initiation into Christian life, during the two years of the First Cycle the supervisors had to focus on what was called discernment, that is to say assessing each seminarian’s capacities, straightforwardness and freedom in answering God’s call for the service of the Church as a member of the diocesan clergy.

For the candidates graduating from the Saint Augustine House, most of these questions or hesitations had been sorted out. After this, they were to be introduced more clearly and more deliberately into philosophical and theological training, and into more intimate knowledge of the Church, within a six-year cursus of formation to the priesthood.

As we did not then have enough qualified faculty members, it was decided to begin the creation of the Paris Seminary with a handful of seminarians whose itinerary made such an experiment possible. This was how I asked a priest to settle down with this small group in a parish close to the Cathedral Notre Dame of Paris.

In spite of its limits, this foundation was crucial.’ It allowed to experiment with the model of "Houses" (with eight to twelve or fifteen seminarians) attached or not to a parish. Some religious congregations and dioceses had already practised this method extensively in several university towns : Louvain then Brussels, Fribourg in Switzerland, also in Germany and in Rome.

Today, the Paris Seminary has nine "Houses" in addition to Saint Augustine for the "Spiritual Year". More houses are to be opened these coming years.

II. 1985-1995 : Creation of the Studium of Notre Dame of Paris (the Seminary’s Theological School) : Receiving the deposit of faith in prayer and the sacrament of the Church.

How can the young graduates from the Saint Augustine House take possession of the deposit of faith which they will have to proffer in both opportune and inopportune circumstances ? Here again, we have progressed year after year, introducing the improvements suggested by experience. The Studium of the Paris Seminary was thus progressively developed from nineteen eighty﷓five on, and it reached its full cursus of six years of theological formation in nineteen ninety﷓four.

The Congregation for Catholic Education and our Ratio studiorum provide the syllabus of studies for seminarians. Naturally, we follow exactly these ecclesial prescriptions. I only wish here to underline five points which have proved educationally fruitful for these new generations.

First, the faith of the Church.

The theologian abides by the faith of the Church and lives from it. The Church is the source and place of theology. The questions of the moment are not asked or welcomed to criticize the faith ; they may put the faithful to the test but, above all, they are put to the test of the faith of the Church. The ecclesial. faith in the Word made flesh is capable of receiving the various queries of contemporary thought as a help to make out the paths of Good and Evil so as to enlighten the men who strive to progress. On the whole, the vocation of the Theology Studium is defined by the teachings of the Second Vatican Council.

The necessity was to teach the Church’s doctrine so as to allow the students fully and personally to take possession of it in its entirety. Most of today’s seminarians have received no accurate, reliable Christian education. Their questions on the faith, however, are ones which the Church has tackled along her history. The point then was to introduce and associate the students to the reflection of the Church who, in her Tradition ; has heard these questions and answers them with the assistance of the Holy Spirit in the light of the Revelation. Theological studies are thus a genuine spiritual liberation from the obscurities, the worries and the doubts that are inherent to the human condition. Such studies strengthen the love of the Church who proffers the Truth and encourages apostolic dedication in the service of the men and women who acknowledge the Light that has come into this world. The future priests will thus be better armed to understand and confront the critical questions of today.

Philosophical studies are important in this respect, although the students’ technological turn of mind sometimes make them difficult nowadays. This is the reason why certain philosophical reflections are not offered until the end of the theological cursus.

Second, the Scriptures﷓﷓read together﷓﷓as center.

The implementation of this program decidedly follows the Constitution Dei Verbum, and especially this assertion at number twenty﷓four, which is also found in Optatam totius, that "the study of the Scriptures is like the soul of theology." Reading and studying the Scriptures in the Tradition of the Church, that is to say in the communion of the faith and in the love of the Church, is then at the heart of the Studium.

This allows to respect the growth in the intelligence of the faith of both those who are intellectually talented and of those who are less gifted, without opposing the ones to the others. Whatever his capacities, each of the students has access to the Scriptures. Although the studies are of graduate school level, because of the scientific process which is inherent to the very nature of theology, each candidate to the priesthood can work at the Studium, whose goal is to train pastors.

What method can be adopted other than the one that theology requires by itself ? It is not the mere accumulation of knowledge but constant integration into faith in order better to grasp and understand what God in Christ reveals to the Church, so that intellectual progress should match spiritual maturation. Theology confronts the student to the mystery of God who discloses Himself in History as well as in each person’s story.

The study of theology is also a way toward liberty. It forces the student to commit himself to faith. Spiritual life is fostered by such an encounter. In a certain way, if only few priests are to teach theology, all of them should be theologians, that is to say "believers", men whom faith have made free, capable of assessing human ways in the light of God’s Word. Mutual confontation forces to receive this Word not as a part of personal stories and sensibilities, but in the faith of the Church.

Third, the Seminary’s working method.

The Studiurn has adopted group work. This encourages reflections in common. Under the supervision of several professors, these include common researches, contributions by students and debates between them. Pupils and teachers are thus invited to listen to one another, to do research and to progress together in mutual respect. This is crucial for young men who have been socially accustomed to discuss everything, often irresponsibly. Here, in group work, a debate is a common confrontation to the Word of God, in its written form or as it is transmitted by the Tradition. Such debates are quests for the Truth. Each one is encouraged to speak up in order to help the group to progress in finding out what is true,

In work groups, the students do not have to accept the knowledge of one professor. They rather work with three ou four professors, who can thus publicly debate between themselves and suggest the legitimate plurality of approaches within the unity of the faith. This method may seem to be a mere technical detail. But it is one of the elements in which the ecclesial sense of theology is rooted.

Practically, the students can choose between four work groups each semester : the first offers the reading of one of the books of the Scriptures ; the second deals with the links between the Scriptures and Tradition, so as to allow to grasp how the faith of the Church interprets the Scriptures to answer a question ; the third focuses on the Tradition and dogmatic development ; and the fourth tackles a current issue.

The students seem to have found this common work particularly appealing : there are now spontaneous reflection parties in the various Seminary Houses. No seminarian is a passive student !

Regular classes are organized as well in order to make group work more fruitful. There, a professor shares the competence he has acquired so as to provide the students with orgarnic and complete knowledge of the mystery of faith.

The ages and the stories of the students are so varied that it was found impossible to oblige them all to take the same courses. This is why, with the help of his tutor, each student chooses the classes and work groups he will follow each semester. In consequence, the number of possibilities is by far superior to what each student can take. It has seemed to us that this was the price to pay to make theologians of these young men.

The students who are capable of living abroad are offered semesters in foreign universities. Inasmuch as they are susceptible to theological reflection, these students take advantage of the legitimate plurality which they discover in other theological institutions influenced by different cultures and distinct pastoral approaches.

Fourth, the professors and the tutors.

Such a cursus of studies requires many teachers. It was necessary to ask capable young priests to start work on their doctorate dissertations in the first few years of their parish ministry. Thirty﷓five professors are currently members of the Studiurn faculty. Except for two of them, all have another ministry or job, and they represent all imaginable conditions : diocesan priests are the most numerous, but there are also religious, nuns and lay people.

What is most important is that each teacher, although he has a special qualification, should not become isolated in his field. The common work of the instructors, and the sharing of their competencies, is one of the touchstones of the Studium. Each professor is invited at the beginning of the semester to explain his course to the others, who can discuss it. The syllabuses are elaborated in common. Three teachers at least are usually associated for a given work group, which they lead together.

Thanks to this cooperation theology is not simply the juxtaposition of different : fields of knowledge. In one way or another each class or group work leads to a faithful approach of the mystery of Christ as the fullness of Revelation, "so that the students may feel that they are learning one single science," as the Canonic Law puts it. This is possible only if the teachers are aware of it. Common work is a great help in this respect.

Some among the professors are tutors. Each student is followed by a tutor in his intellectual itinerary. The tutor is no super professor, but some kind of an older brother with whom the student can talk, who helps him to find the right method of research and advises him on the classes and work groups he has to pick out. The tutors gather every fortnight for exchanges about some of the students. Tutoring then is another collegial activity for the teachers.

Both tutoring and the possibility to choose among the classes and work groups contribute to a personalized pedagogy. This has appeared as a necessity because the itineraries and the talents of the seminarians were so diversified. Each tutor knows the kind of apostolic service his students are rendering. He can listen to the theological and ecclesial questions which these experiences may raise. Studying theology is thus also fully part of the Church’s pastoral mission.

Fifth, the confrontation of diverse vocations.

The seminarians study with other students. These can be religious novices sent by their Ordinary, apprentice nuns or duly motivated lay people. One of the dangers of teaching theology exclusively to seminarians could be some kind of a clericalisation. To take a comparison, if theology were taught to another uniform group, for example doctors, the temptation would be to use it for the practice of medicine, and this would lead to a sort of "medicalisation" of theology.

The confrontation of the same theological data between diverse vocations opens up to the ecclesial dimension of the deposit of faith. And this is all the more relevant as these vocations rely on distinct charismas, linked to specific pastoral and missionary commitments.

III. The Houses of the Paris Seminary : learning the Christian and sacerdotal life in order to share the apostles’ mission.

The Theology Studium is the place where the unity between the seminarians is rooted. But they experience it inside the various Seminary Houses where they live and learn about Christian and sacerdotal existence. Four characteristics of these Houses should be underlined.

One. The "urban campus" (or the seminary campus)

The Paris Seminary is placed under the authority of a unique Superior or Rector. But it is composed of several Houses, each with a priest in charge. He may or may not be the parish pastor, and is helped by another priest, who often teaches at the Seminary Studium, or is an assistant﷓pastor of the parish, or has another ministry. The spiritual directors are chosen among these priests.

Material reasons have thus led to the creation of a kind of "seminary campus" at the very heart of the city. A few explanations may be useful here. The symbolic and spiritual center of the city, of the Archdiocese and of the Seminary is the Cathedral Notre Dame of Paris, which also signifies ecclesiality and apostolicity. The classrooms (at the Cathedral School) are open to the whole Christian people and are located close to the Cathedral. The building accommodates the Studium which has progressively taken shape and gathers all the seminarians, who go there every week day for their theological formation.

As the number of seminarians was growing, we have taken advantage of the existence of some ancient parish churches and rectories, many of them very beautiful, only a few minutes from the Cathedral walking, riding a bike or roller﷓skating...

Every time we decided to establish a Seminary House in one of these parishes, we had to appoint a qualified new pastor and assistant﷓pastor, and to refurbish the rectories so as to provide decent lodgings for eight to fifteen seminarians. This has been done little by little.

Always for pragmatic reasons, some buildings belonging to the Church, which were convenient and well located but not linked ﷓to any parish, were also turned into Seminary Houses.

It has seemed wise to place first- and second-year seminarians in Houses linked to parishes so as to allow them to discover their concrete life and the priests who work there. Secondcycle seminarians live in Houses with no parish affiliation. Their apostolic duties are located either in another parish or at the service of the poor.

In this respect, the principles we have adopted are the following :

  • When a House is linked to a parish, daily life (that is to say meals, and part of the prayer services) is shared with the parish priests. An experience can thus be gained day after day and develop itself over a fairly long span of time, on the basis of the practical situation that the pastor will think fit to mention.
  • The seminarians may help in the parish life, provided they strictly spare the time needed for their seminary duties and the life of the community they belong to. The pastor must be convinced of these priorities and help the seminarians not to dodge the more austere demands of study and community life. This is not always so simple or easy.

In the Houses that are not linked to the life of a parish, the seminarians are offered various apostolic tasks, adapted to each one’s capacities, all year round and within rigidly defined time limits.

Academic holidays must be used especially for longer experiments, which are carefully programmed over the six years of the formation cursus.

In addition, each seminarian is invited in the course of these six years to do a thirty-day retreat and to go for a month to the Holy Land to read the Bible where it was originally received.

Two. Separation and presence in the city.

The seminarians and their educators will have to live in the middle of the city, guarding themselves against its feverishness and its multiple seductions. They will have to learn the ascetic control of their lives in a context similar to the one in which they will practise their ministry.

This is a critical point. The seminarians must be fully aware of the choices they have to make : a poorer, more austere lifestyle, accepted out of love for Christ ; the silence that is required for study and prayer ; the mastery and organization of timetables ; the respect for each one’s privacy so as to allow an objective community life ; transparence in human relationships and trust in ecclesiastical superiors ; learning the obedience which is inherent to the priest’s mission in the Church.

All this leads to assess in the light of Christ’s love the lifestyle of young urban people in a rich and developed society, so as to experience how radical the Gospel is and to acquire the personal discipline which is necessary to the chastity of the heart and of the senses when confronted to some television programs or social events, and now to mobile telephones or to the Internet (through which a seminarian can permanently be solicited).

Again-or first of all-this means that the prayer life, both collective and personal, should be carefully thought out and codified. The right balance must ceaselessly be sought for. It cannot be the "monastic" model with the services that slowly punctuate the days. And prayer can no more disappear in personal solitude or private life.

This means learning about spiritual life, about mental prayer, about the Lectio divina, about the Offices of the Day, as all this can be practised by diocesan priests today in the urban environment of their apostolate.

Once more, human and other resources are needed to meet such requirements.

Three. Community life.

Because the new seminarians were older and less well formed from both the Christian and human points of view, in the last few decades the "monastic" model of the post-Tridentine seminaries had often turned, if discipline still prevailed, into something military-like, and if discipline was found no longer enforceable, into the style of mere hotels or students’ residences. Experience still shows nowadays that in a large community it is easy to survive in total isolation and avoid any genuine confrontation.

When a small group has to lead a community life, each member has to face the truth on his own story, his own character, his ability to relate to others. Serving them turns into a daily trial, which may become very difficult and even unbearable for some temperaments or for older people with well established habits.

In our Seminary Houses, this lifestyle is accepted as a training and a test of fraternal charity. It can be most fruitful, even for those who are less spontaneously inclined to share with others and depend on them. This prepares future clergy members to the cooperation that will be necessary between them because of what their ministry will be like. Let me recall here that the apprenticeship of fraternal life begins during the "spiritual year" at the Saint Augustine House. Brotherly charity is one of the foundations of sacerdotal life.

Each Seminary House is financially and materially responsible for its community life, within the budget which it receives and the use of which it must account for.

It is also obvious that one of the conditions to be fulfilled is to appoint at the head of each House a priest who is mature enough and a good educator.

Here again, this means deciding to invest key human resources into such a mission.

Four. Multiplicity of Houses and unity of the Seminary.

The Seminary’s unity rests, of course, on the personality of the Superior, as well as on the common rules established with the heads of the various Houses. But this unity is fundamentally rooted in the spiritual and theological coherence of the Studium where all come and work.

There are also a number of general gatherings of all seminarians, with the weekly Mass at the Studium, retreats, pilgrimages, and so on.

Moreover the inhabitants of each House change every year, because a new class is promoted, and also when switching from "First" to "Second Cycle".

What I have called a sort of "urban campus" has thus taken shape around the Cathedral, with the Studiurn inserted in the Cathedral School as its gravity center.

The presence of the seminarians reminds both the clergy and the faithful that the call for vocations is one of the priorities of the People of God. This has allowed to overcome sometimes serious generational conflicts within the clergy, because of the missing classes between the newly ordained priests and those who were then in their sixties and are now in their seventies. This has also helped to soothe the nostalgia caused by the breaking away from the old formation system.

In conclusion,

This model of the urban campus has allowed to begin to overcome one of the contradictions currently affecting the pastoral formation to the priesthood.

On the one hand, a six-year cursus is made necessary by the present state of culture with the progress of secularization and atheism, by the rising educational level of the population, by the circulation of ideas and the habit of controversies, and by the diversity of the candidates and of their initial formations. Future priests must use all their strengths to discover the Christian tradition, to strive to understand it, and to take the path of conversion to which this knowledge calls them in order to follow Christ.

On the other hand, the ministerial priesthood requires a practical apprenticeship in many fields : sacerdotal action itself, the organization of the apostolate, knowledge of the Church’s life, an ability to establish relationships, familiarity with the different social groups and with the various situations which the priest will have to deal with in the missions he will receive.

This contradiction is characteristic of our times, since the Tridentine model of formation was based on much more stability in both social structures and the Christian life.

It is not always easy to preserve the balance of all this complex organization. But experience has taught that such solutions do help to save the time which is absolutely necessary today for fundamental investments in formation.

I am very happy to discover your Seminary. I hope the American genius will allow you to go further than we have. And if God gives me to live long enough, my dream is to see one of you coming over to Paris to tell us about the Denver model !

Thank you very much for your patience and attention.

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