Pope Francis presided over the opening of the 69th General Assembly of the Italian Bishops’ Conference – the “CEI” – on Monday afternoon, in the Synod Hall in the Vatican.
The main item on the agenda of the 69th CEI General Assembly is the renewal of the clergy through ongoing formation.
In remarks to the participants prepared for the occasion, the Holy Father encouraged the bishops of Italy to listen to their priests and to learn from their example. “This evening,” said Pope Francis, “I do not wish to offer you a systematic reflection on the figure of the priest: let us rather try to turn the perspective on its head, and make ready to listen. Let us approach – almost in tiptoe – one of the many parish priests who spend themselves in our communities, let us leave his visage to pass before the eyes of our heart, and let us ask with simplicity: what gives life its flavor? For whom and for what does he do such dedicated service? What is the ultimare reason for his self-giving?”
The answers Pope Francis articulated included the cultivation of authentic friendship with God, a recovery of the courageous leadership role that priests – especially diocesan clergy – are called to play in the fundamental missionary activity of the whole Church, which must be at the center of every Christian life, and finally the Kingdom of God as the horizon and goal of the whole work of the Church and of each man called to serve as a priest.
Other topics on the Bishops’ agenda include the recent revision of the rules on ecclesiastical tribunals (with the reform Pope Francis introduced between the Synod Assemblies), questions of economic resource management, and some other legal and administrative business.
A press conference is scheduled for 1:30 PM on Thursday to present the work of the General Assembly.