Especially in those areas where Christians are a minority, priests must be filled with special missionary zeal and commitment. The Lord entrusts to them not only the pastoral care of the Christian community, but also and above all the evangelization of those of their fellow-citizens who do not belong to Christ’s flock.
The challenge here is simple. Priests are responsible. But they do not inhabit the realm of lay people. They live apart. They have different circles of friends. The document describes the need to adapt to new countries and cultures, and this is certainly true:
Priests will “not fail to make themselves readily available to the Holy Spirit and the bishop, to be sent to preach the Gospel beyond the borders of their country. This will demand of them not only maturity in their vocation, but also an uncommon readiness to detach themselves from their own homeland, culture and family, and a special ability to adapt to other cultures, with understanding and respect for them.” (Address to the Plenary Assembly of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, April 14, 1989, 4)
The biggest culture gap in many cases is the chasm between clergy and laity. Don’t get me wrong: many priests accomplish this bridge quite well. But the notion that priests are directly responsible for the frontiers of evangelization is unworkable old school. They have to understand the issues, the people. But the key is the pastoring of those lay people who are on the front lines.
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