Vatican diplomatic corps must first work as missionaries

Vatican diplomatic corps members should first spend a year in ministry or as missionaries, Pope Francis has announced.

Francis’s announcement approved a written suggestion made at the recent synod for the Amazon which asked for the current curriculum for trainee diplomats to change.

Instead of doing an internship at the nunciature as happens now, trainees will be put at the service of a bishop in a mission area.

“I am convinced that such an experience could be helpful to all young men who are preparing for or beginning their priestly service,” Francis said.

The change in the curriculum will start with students entering in the 2020-2021 academic year.

Francis said in a special way the mission experience would be helpful “for those who in the future will be called to collaborate with the pontifical representatives and, later, could become envoys of the Holy See to nations and particular churches.”

In general, the corps’ students, who are already ordained priests, spend four years at the academy studying for a license in canon law from one of Rome’s pontifical universities followed by a doctorate in either canon law or theology.

Students who already have a doctorate when they enter have their training period reduced to two years.

All students also study diplomacy, Vatican diplomatic relations, languages, international law, papal documents and current affairs.

Once they graduate, diplomats have two roles.

They represent the Vatican to individual countries around the world and to international organisations, like the United Nations.

They also represent the pope to the local Catholic Church and coordinate the search for new bishops.

In his letter announcing the change in curriculum Francis quoted from a speech he gave to diplomatic corps students in 2015 when he reminded them of the missionary focus of all that the church does, including its diplomatic activity.

“The mission to which you will be called one day to carry out will take you to all parts of the world:

“To Europe, in need of an awakening; Africa, thirsting for reconciliation; Latin America, hungry for nourishment and interiority; North America, intent on rediscovering the roots of an identity that is not defined by exclusion; Asia and Oceania, challenged by the capacity to ferment in diaspora and to dialogue with the vastness of ancestral cultures.”

Francis said he was certain “once the initial concerns” about the changes are overcome, “the missionary experience …will be useful … for the young academicians [and] the individual churches they will collaborate with…”

“I hope, it will give rise in other priests of the universal church a desire to make themselves available for a period of missionary service outside their dioceses.”


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