Major Vatican conference on priesthood planned for 2022

Vatican theological conference

The Vatican has announced a major theological conference titled “Toward a Fundamental Theology of the Priesthood”.

It will be held in February 2022.

Increasing vocations to the priesthood, improving the way laypeople and priests work together and ensuring that service, not power, motivates the request for ordination are all possible outcomes of the 3-day symposium.

“A theological symposium does not claim to offer practical solutions to all the pastoral and missionary problems of the church. But it can help us deepen the foundation of the church’s mission,” said Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and the chief organizer of the symposium.

“The baptismal life is the fundamental human vocation, and all must exercise the priesthood received at baptism. Ministry is at the service of this,” he said.

“Reflecting on the fundamental theology of the priesthood will also make it possible to return to the justifications for priestly celibacy and the way it is lived.”

The symposium seeks to encourage an understanding of the ministerial priesthood that is conferred at baptism.

This gets away from the idea of ordained ministry as belonging to “ecclesiastical power,” the cardinal said.

The relationship between baptism and ordained ministry needs greater emphasis today, Ouellet said. But reviewing the foundations of a theology of priesthood also “involves ecumenical questions not to be ignored, as well as the cultural movements that question the place of women in the church.”

Michelina Tenace, a professor of theology at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University, is helping organize the symposium.

She said going back to baptism and the priesthood of all believers “isn’t just a fashion, it’s the basis for all Christian life.”

The clerical abuse scandal, Tenace said, makes the questions of priestly identity, vocational discernment and formation more urgent.

Fr. Vincent Siret, rector of the Pontifical French Seminary in Rome, said a deeper reflection on the priesthood — both the priesthood of all the baptized and ministerial priesthood — is essential for those engaged in training men for the priesthood.

The Catholic Church requires most priests in its Latin rite to be celibate.

While Ouellet, Siret and Tenace all mentioned the importance of celibacy in the Latin rite, none mentioned the traditions of the Eastern Catholic churches that continue to have both married and celibate clergy.


National Catholic Reporter

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