ROME — Pope Francis said Thursday he worries about the day there are not enough priests, proposing the formation of laypeople as the remedy.
Addressing a delegation from the Order of Augustinian Recollects in the Vatican, the pontiff commented on their falling numbers of vocations, urging them to entrust their charism to the laity.
From eight provinces of Augustinian Recollects there are now four, the pope noted, meaning that “in terms of numbers, we are going downhill. And this is a reality that we cannot ignore.”
“There are thousands of explanations,” he continued: “That young people today do not see things clearly, that there are fewer young people than before — obviously, the birth rate — that Europe and America do not give what they gave before in terms of vocations, that we will have to look for other cultures and look elsewhere, and so on as much as you want.”
“But there is a question that we have to ask ourselves: look to the future, project the age that you are now, and say: Will there be two provinces instead of four, nothing more?” he said. “Don’t be afraid to ask yourself the question.”
While not resigning himself completely to the idea of a future dearth of priests in the world, the pope said the prospect worries him and steps must be taken to counter it.
“The day that there are no more Augustinian Recollects, the day that there are not enough priestly vocations for everyone, the day that, the day that, the day that day comes, have we prepared the laity, have we prepared people to continue with pastoral care in the Church?” he asked.
“And you, have you prepared people to continue with your spirituality, which is a gift from God, so that you can carry it forward?” he added.
“I do not dare to be a prophet and say what will happen,” Francis stated. “It worries me, it worries me. I trust in the Lord, but I also have to say these things: let us prepare ourselves for what is going to happen, and let us give our charism, our gift to those who can carry it forward.”
“Please do not mend the things that cannot be mended because a culture is imposed on us,” and let us “not have illusions,” he said.
“Let us continue with prayer that the Lord send vocations, but also that he prepares us to give our gift when there are fewer of us, to those who can collaborate with us,” he said.
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