The Pope met with Spanish Bishops

Meeting of the members of the Episcopal Conference and the heads of the Holy See’s Dicastery for the Clergy

On Tuesday morning, Pope Francis received the Bishops of the Spanish Episcopal Conference, in the New Hall of the Synod, together with those responsible for the Dicastery for the Clergy of the Holy See, to give an account of the outcome of the apostolic visit to the Spanish seminaries that took place in the first quarter of 2023.

In the afternoon, a press conference was held in the auditorium of the Pontifical Spanish College, San José in Rome, to present the details of the meeting of the members of the Spanish Episcopal Conference (CEE) with Pope Francis and those responsible for the Dicastery for the Clergy. Cardinal Juan José Omella, President of the CEE, Monsignor Francisco César García Magán, Secretary General of the CEE, and Monsignor Jesús Vidal, President of the Episcopal Subcommission for Seminaries, took part in the presentation.

At the press conference, the bishops held a lengthy conversation with the Holy Father on seminaries and the necessary formation. They then received the working document prepared by the Dicastery for the Clergy.

Five hours of meeting

The EEC reported that the meeting began at 8 a.m. with a time of prayer led by Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the Pontifical Household, who gave a meditation based on the event of Pentecost, on the need and importance of a personal encounter with Jesus Christ for priests and seminarians. During the meditation, the Holy Father joined the meeting.

After the meditation, the president of the EEC, Cardinal Juan José Omella, greeted the Holy Father and thanked him for the invitation to this meeting and for his apostolic visit.

Immediately afterwards, an extensive dialogue of more than two hours took place with Pope Francis, centred on the question of the seminaries. Topics such as seminary formation, the pastoral experience of seminarians, and the importance of the various dimensions of formation (pastoral, spiritual, theological, human, etc.) were discussed.

Conclusions of the working document

The meeting with the Holy Father was followed by a meeting with the members of the Dicastery for the Clergy, who presented the conclusions of the working document to the Spanish Bishops.

The members of the Dicastery pointed out the important points that the text for the formation of seminarians, approved by the Episcopal Conference, already includes, and which should be insisted on in the future.

On the basis of the text, a dialogue has been initiated between the Spanish Bishops and the members of the Dicastery in order to develop the aforementioned recommendations, which aim to form missionary priests for a Church on the move. Bishop Jesús Vidal, president of the Episcopal Subcommission for Seminaries, has been appointed as the reference bishop for this process of discernment and promotion of formation in seminaries.

The working document has highlighted some of the criteria indicated in the “Ratio fundamentalis” of the Spanish seminaries, entitled “Forming missionary pastors”. The document requires that, in the coming years, this project be approached with flexibility, without rigidity, adapting it to the circumstances of each ecclesiastical province, diocese, etc.

The heads of the Dicastery expressed their willingness to collaborate with the development of these measures in the various dioceses and seminaries.

The apostolic visit to the seminaries

The Dicastery for the Clergy also promoted the apostolic visit to the Spanish seminaries, which was entrusted to two Uruguayan bishops: Monsignor Arturo Eduardo Fajardo, Bishop of Salto, and Monsignor Milton Luis Tróccoli, Bishop of Maldonado-Punta del Este – Minas.

The visit took place between 11 January and 3 March 2023. During this time they visited the 55 Spanish formation centres, as well as the Bidasoa International College and the Comillas Formation Centre.

On their arrival in Spain, the visitors were received by the President of the Episcopal Commission for the Clergy and Seminaries, Archbishop Joan Enric Vives, Archbishop of La Seo de Urgell; and by the President of the Subcommission for Seminaries, Archbishop Jesús Vidal, Auxiliary Bishop of Madrid; as well as by the secretaries of the Commission and the Subcommission in the Episcopal Conference, Juan Carlos Mateos and Sergio Requena. The visits took place on two simultaneous routes, each with one of the visiting bishops.

The Spanish seminaries

There are 86 seminaries in Spain, distributed in various houses of formation. There is one inter-diocesan seminary in Catalonia, 14 seminaries that host seminarians from other dioceses in their houses of formation, and 40 seminaries that host their own seminarians. Of these 40, 29 are diocesan seminaries and 15 are Redemptoris Mater seminaries. There is also a formation community of a diocesan ecclesial reality.