Letter to priests from the Congregation for Clergy

The latest letter to priests from the Congregation for Clergy:

 Dear brother priests,

On the occasion of the August 4th feast of St. John Marie Vianney, the Curé of Ars, I greet you cordially with all my heart, and I fraternally send you this brief message.

The Church knows today that there is an urgent mission, not only “ad gentes,” but also to those Christians living in areas and regions where the Christian faith has been preached and established for centuries and where ecclesial communities already exist.  Within this flock, the mission, or the missionary of evangelization, has as its target those who are baptized but who, for different circumstances, have not been evangelized sufficiently, or those who have lost their initial fervour and fallen away.  The postmodern culture of contemporary society – a relativist, secular, and agnostic culture – exerts a strong erosive action on the religious faith of many people.
The Church is missionary by its very nature.  Jesus told us that "the sower went out to sow" (Mt 13:3).  The sower does not limit himself to throwing the seed out of the window, but actually leaves the house.  The Church knows that it cannot remain inert or limit itself to receiving and evangelizing those who are seeking the Faith in its churches and communities.  It is also necessary to rise up and go to where people and families dwell, live and work.  We must go to everyone: companies, organizations, institutions and different fields of human society.  In this mission, all members of the ecclesial community are called: pastors, religious and laity.
Moreover, the Church recognizes that priests are the great driving force behind daily life in local communities.  When priests move, the Church moves.  If this were not so, it would be very difficult to achieve the Church’s mission.

My dear brother priests, you are the great richness, the energy, the pastoral and missionary inspiration in the midst of the Christian faithful, wherever they are found in community.  Without your crucial decision to "put out into the deep" for fish ("Duc in altum"), as the Lord himself calls us, little or nothing will happen in the urgent mission, either "ad gentes" or in the territories that have previously been evangelized.  But the Church is certain that it can count on you, because it knows and explicitly recognizes that the overwhelming majority of priests – despite our weaknesses and human limitations – are worthy priests, giving their life daily to the Kingdom of God and loving Jesus Christ and the people entrusted to them.  These are the priests who are sanctifying themselves in their daily ministry and who are persevering until the harvest of  the Lord.  Only a small minority of priests have gravely deviated from this mission, and the Church seeks to repair the harm that they have done.  On the other hand, it rejoices in and is proud of the immense majority of its priests, who are good and exceedingly worthy of praise.
During this Pauline Year, and pending the Synod of Bishops on the Word of God to be held in Rome next year in October [Ummm… this year… right?], we call those who are receptive to this urgent mission.  May the Holy Spirit enlighten us, send us, and sustain us, so that we might go forth and proclaim once again the person of Jesus Christ, crucified and resurrected, as well as His kingdom!
 I greet you again, dear brothers, remaining always at your disposal.  I pray for you all, especially for those who suffer, for the sick and for the elderly.

Vatican City State, 15 July 2008

Claudio Cardinal Hummes
Emeritus Archbishop of São Paolo
Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy

UPDATE: Wed 16 July – 1252 UTC

This came via e-mail:

The Synod of Bishops on the "Word of God", mentioned in the letter sent yesterday, will be celebrated in October of 2008. We regret the error. Congregation for the Clergy

There it is.  Perhaps part of this document was written last year, when the Pauline Year was accounced.

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  1. Romulus says:

    Church knows that it…

    Why not “she”? Surely the feminine pronoun appears in the original text. What is gained by depicting the Spouse of the Lord as a neutered thing? Who translates these documents?

  2. Deusdonat says:

    I think English has become more and more gender neutral. Certainly in the UK this is the case. I cringe every time I come through Heathrow and get asked “are you traveling with your partner? To which I always respond, “You mean my WIFE?” PC nonsense.

    And yes, the church has definitely been referred to in the feminine for the reason you say (i.e. bride of Christ) and also etymologically (i.e. Ecclesia, the word for church in Latin is feminine, as it is in all Romance languages).

    Incidentally, for anyone aching to get in touch with their feminine side, you may want to visit Her Church if you happen to be in San Francisco.

  3. Prof. Basto says:

    Why not “she”?

    This is a problem of the English translation. I agree that it should be She, and not it, in the languages that have a neutral gender, but it is important to remember that the original was probably drafted in Italian, or perhaps in the Cardinal’s native Portuguese.

    And in those languages, there is no neutral gender, only masculine and feminine, and “Church” is a feminine noun in both Portuguese and Italian, so that, in those languages, the Church is always referred to as “She”. So the problem is restricted to translations into languages that have a neutral gender. The translator has then to choose between “it” or “She”, the latter implying recognition of the Church as Spouse of Our Lord.

  4. josephus muris saliensis says:

    There is also tradition: ‘She’ is the custom in the English language for the Church, as for ships. It is noteworthy that the British socialist prime minister Tony Blair issued regulations to the Civil Service that ships and machines were no longer to be so referred to as ‘she’, but henceforth as ‘it’. So this is political, in our age, whether we like it or not, and those who let these things slip are not serving the customs of our society.

  5. Deusdonat says:

    Prof Basto – a slight correction, there IS a neutral “lo” in Romance languages. It simply is not used as often.

    Josephus – yes, the UK is a lost cause. Why can’t the English learn to speak?

  6. pelerin says:

    Deusdonat’s link to the ‘her Church’ site should have one of those warnings occasionally given out on television! I had no idea such ‘churches’ existed. The ‘Our mother’ was excruciating and as for the ‘goddess rosary’ – words fail me. This is feminism gone mad.

  7. JGKester says:


    I think, of course, you mean: “anyone aching to get in touch with ‘his’ feminine side” I think you are falling victim to your own complaint about the attempt to use a neuter in English

  8. Romulus says:

    Without your crucial decision

    Another interesting translation choice. In a sense, the decision is literally “crucial”, in that it conforms one to the Crucified. But that sense does not seem to have been the Cardinal’s intent.

  9. Deusdonat says:

    JGKester – err…if you saw the type of “women” who attended such churches, I’d say “they too” are in dire need of getting in touch with their feminine side as well : ) But ya’ got me : P

    PELERIN – yeah. I should have put a disclaimer there. It was my feeble attempt to lighten the mood. Sorry if it caused any turmult.

  10. Giusébio Chocolio says:

    “Only a small minority of priests have gravely deviated from this mission…” – In Brazil, at least, minority should be susbstituted by majority, and the brazilian cardinal knows well. And I am not considering gravely in the sense of grave sins, but heresy.

  11. totustuusmaria says:

    I’m very glad that this letter encurages evangelization. Such encuragement of the mission of priests — the spiritual mission of priests — can help priests to avoid acedia.

  12. josephus muris saliensis says:

    Deusdonat – indeed you are:

    “if you saw the type of “women” who attended such churches, I’d say “they too” are in dire need of getting in touch with their feminine side as well”

    it’s bedtime here in London, and you send me to my pillow laughing merrily…


  13. Fr. Marie-Paul says:

    That “herchurch” site is a good example of what type of missionary work is needed these days – to deal with “a relativist, secular, and agnostic culture – exerts a strong erosive action on the religious faith of many people.” And to convert those who think, gravely in error, that they are the next evolution of Christianity. Come Holy Ghost, come by the powerful intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Thy well-beloved spouse.

  14. Catnip says:

    Would someone please explain to me what “who are baptized but who, for different circumstances, have not been evangelized sufficiently” really means. I’ve always wondered why baptism and evangelization are always split apart when they operate together and why one particular paradigm for evangelization seems to be operative here: the Protestant model.

  15. Jack Regan says:


    Cardinal Suenens once said “Catholics these days are being sacramentalised, but not evangelised.” I have alwyas felt that what he meant was that sometimes people are put through the sacraments without engaging their hearts with what the sacraments really mean to them and without a strong realisation that the love of Christ is truly at work in their lives.

    This doesn’t mean that the sacraments aren’t working. To say that *would* be a Protestant model.

    I know that when I was confirmed I had little clue what it was all about. It wasn’t until years later that, shall we say, my evangalisation was completed and I came to appreciate what this sacrament had given me.

  16. Catnip says:

    Thanks, Jack.

    I must say, it’s amazing to me how OLD some of this stuff is. Cardinal Suenens’ remark must be 50 years old.

    By the way, when you’re young, you don’t necessarily “get” the sacraments. People grow into understanding, all through their life. I guess I was just startled that the same old phrases are still being tossed around.

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