The Holy Father encourages the lay faithful to build meaningful friendships with worn-out priests.
Pope Francis, in the seventh of this year distributed by The Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, asked that people make priests around the world feel accompanied and supported in their tasks. He also emphasized the variety of activities priests carry out, and the tiredness that can result from many of those duties.
“Let us pray together that priests, who experience fatigue and loneliness in their pastoral work, may find help and comfort in their intimacy with the Lord and in their friendship with their brother priests,” the Pope said. “At such times, it’s good for them to remember that the people love their priests, need them, and trust in them,” he added.
The words of the Holy Father come at a time when many of the parish priests in the world are isolated and put in charge of multiple parishes without any assistance or relief from other clergy members.
According to the Pontifical Yearbook, there are 415,656 priests in the world. Of these, 37.4% are in the Americas, followed by Europe with 31.6%, and then Asia with 15.1%, Africa with 13.4%, and lastly, Oceania with 2.5% of the world’s priests. Together, they must all carry out their pastoral work to reach the more than 1.2 billion Catholics who are spread across all the continents.
“The tiredness of priests… Do you know how often I think about it?” reflected the Pope. “Working on so many active fronts, they cannot remain inactive after a disappointment,” he added.
“The mission that the Lord entrusts to his ‘pastors’ requires a total commitment to the service of others and of the mission, but it is very demanding, and without a profound friendship with the Lord, without prayer, and the support of a community, it’s impossible. This is why the Pope is inviting the faithful to accompany priests with their friendship,” explained Fr. Frédéric Fornos, SJ, international director of The Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network and of the Eucharistic Youth Movement.