On the morning of January 13, 2024, Pope Francis visited the Basilica of St. John Lateran to meet the clergy of his diocese for almost three hours. During the closed-door meeting, he answered questions from his priests; the dialogue included the topic of the much-discussed declaration concerning blessings for people in irregular relationships, confirming that it would not apply in Africa.
More than 800 priests and deacons from the Diocese of Rome gathered in their Bishops’ cathedral.
“The Pope hadn’t planned a speech. He began by asking us if we had any questions. No one expected such a brief introduction,” explained a priest present at the Lateran, estimating that “around 30 questions” were addressed to the Pontiff, “in a warm atmosphere.”
According to a press release from the Diocese of Rome, the Pope spoke of his city as a “mission land” to be evangelized. He also announced that he would resume his visits to parishes, interrupted at the time of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Asked about the Fiducia supplicans declaration, the Pope reiterated that it did not change the doctrine on the sacrament of marriage between a man and a woman, and that it was not a question of blessing sin, according to Vatican News.
Regarding the African reaction to the document, the Pope acknowledged that African culture did not accept such blessings, and that the matter had been clarified with Cardinal Ambongo, archbishop of Kinshasa and President of SECAM, which groups together all African episcopal conferences.
According to ANSA, the Pope added that Fiducia supplicans authorizes the blessing of individuals, but not of “organizations.”
“If the LGBT association comes: no; on the other hand, individuals always,” reports the Italian agency.
Reform of the diocese
During this lengthy exchange, the Pope did not address the issue of his recent diocesan reform, which has provoked much criticism among the Roman clergy. Nor were any questions asked about the Rupnik affair.
Healthy and energetic
As he regularly does, the 87-year-old Pontiff stressed the need for priests to pray. “He also warned us against gossip,” confided one priest after the meeting.
Finally, the Pope reminded us that homilies during Masses should be kept short, no longer than 7-8 minutes.
“One of the news items this morning was that the Pope was in good form. You have to be to hold a conference lasting 2 hours 45 minutes,” says the priest in Rome.
The day before, however, the Pope had cut short an audience, citing a “slight case of bronchitis.”