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Postquam apostoli

Directives for Collaboration among Local Churches

and in particular for a Better Distribution of the Clergy

A Document Issued by the Sacred Congregation for the Clergy

(March 25, 1980)


In this document, released July 22 by the Congregation for the Clergy, the Vatican ordered all bishops' conferences to set up two commissions, one for the better distribution of the clergy and another for the missions, in an attempt to equalize the present situation of priest-rich versus priest-poor countries.

The document grew out of a commission within the Congregation for the Clergy which Pope Paul VI instituted in 7967 to study the problem of the poor distribution of priests and to formulate norms to correct the situation. One of the post major efforts to distribute priests more equally was a call by Pope John XXIII in 1962 for U.S. dioceses to give 10 percent of their clergy to Latin America. His call led to a few more U.S. missionaries in Latin America but nothing close to the scale he had intended.

Although the document is entitled "Directive Norms" it has few laws and merely outlines in detail the norms for a written convention or binding agreement regarding the terms under which a priest is sent by one bishop to work under another bishop.

Latin text in L'Osservatore Romano July 23, 1980.










1. ONCE CHRIST the Lord, just before His ascension into heaven, had given His apostles the mission of being His witnesses "even to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1, 8), they devoted their efforts and concern exclusively to the execution of His mandate: "Go into the whole world and proclaim the good news to all creation" (Mk 16,15).

Throughout the centuries, as history attests, the Church has never ceased to carry out this same mandate of Christ with zealous fidelity. The successors of the apostles, recently gathered from around the world in the Second Ecumenical Council Of the Vatican, thought it appropriate to urge the mandate in the following words: "They [the bishops] should be especially concerned about those parts of the world where the Word of God has not yet been proclaimed or where, chiefly because of the small number of priests, the faithful are in danger of departing from the precepts of the Christian life and, even, of losing the faith itself."

The bishops must, therefore, see to it that "suitable sacred ministers as well as assistants, both religious and lay, are prepared for the missions and other areas suffering from a lack of clergy."'

2. In order to achieve this goal of the council, the Supreme Pontiff Paul VI, of happy memory, in his apostolic letter motu proprio Ecclesiae sanctae ordered a special council to be set up in the Apostolic See. Its function "will be to lay down principles to govern a more suitable distribution of the clergy, taking into consideration the needs of the various churches."2

The apostolic constitution Regimini ecclesiae universae determined that this council should be located in the Sacred Congregation for the Clergy. 3

On the subject of distribution of the clergy this department has already consulted with the episcopal conferences; it also organized an international congress that met in Malta (1970) to deal with the matter. 4

The members of this sacred congregation have frequently been assembled for study of the subject and the views of the other departments of the Roman Curia have been heard. Now, after consideration of the importance and timeliness of the problem, the sacred congregation has formulated directives which it publishes with the approval of the Supreme Pontiff.



The Duty of Carrying Out Christ's Mandate



3. The mode and manner in which the Church is to carry out Christ's commission is evangelization, after the example of her founder, who was the first preacher of the Gospel. The Church has, in fact, always regarded evangelization as her, peculiar and primary task. Evangelization is even the very reason for her existence, as the bishops gathered in synod in 1974 solemnly declared: "We want to confirm anew that the mandate to evangelize all men constitutes the Church's essential mission." 5

No baptized and confirmed member of the Church may, therefore, regard himself or herself as exempt from this duty. Thus, the Second Vatican Council exhorts us as follows: "Because the whole Church is missionary and the work of evangelization is a basic duty of God's People, the sacred council invites all to a thorough interior renewal so that they may be keenly aware of their own responsibility in the spreading of the Gospel." 6

But, though all the faithful are obliged to cooperate to the best of their ability in the carrying out of the Church's mission, account must be taken of differences among the members when it comes to the tasks assigned them. 7 Consequently, there is a difference in the roles which bishops, priests, religious and laity respectively are to play.



4. The duty of evangelizing is incumbent first and foremost on the bishops. "With Peter and under Peter," 8 they must not only evangelize the faithful of their own dioceses but also be concerned for the salvation of the entire world for "each of them, as a member of the episcopal college and a legitimate successor of the apostles is bound, by Christ's arrangement and command, to show solicitude for the Universal Church 9; this solicitude contributes greatly to the advantage of the whole Church, even if it is not excercised through acts of jurisdiction." 10

The bishop also must make every effort to see to it that the faithful entrusted to him develop and nourish from their earliest years a true sense of catholicity or universality. 11 Then they will love the entire Mystical Body of Christ and, especially, those of its members who are poorer and more afflicted and who are suffering persecution for justice's sake. 12

The bishop also must promote missionary zeal in his people so that workers for the Gospel in missionary lands will not lack spiritual and material aid.

He must foster missionary vocations among the young and stimulate candidates for the priesthood to an awareness of the universal dimensions of their role, in order that they will be prompt and ready to work even outside the diocese to which they belong. 13



5. Priests who, together with the bishops "act in the person of Christ our Head," 14 collaborate in an eminent way in spreading the kingdom of God on earth by exercising the care of souls, preaching the Word of God, and administering the sacraments of the New Law to the faithful. 15 By their ministry, therefore, they "make the universal Church visible in their locality." 16

The Christian community, for its part, greatly needs the presence of priests, for a community cannot be said to be fully established except with the aid of the sacrifice of Christ "which their [priests'] hands offer ... sacramentally and in a bloodless manner in the Eucharist. » 17

This liturgical action must be regarded as the focal point of the assembly of the faithful. 18 With good reason, therefore, did the 1971 Synod of Bishops say with regard to the ministerial priesthood: "If the Church lacks the presence and activity of the ministry that is received by the laying on of hands with praver, she cannot have full certainty of her fidelity and of her visible continuity. » 19


Priests have a worldwide mission

The spiritual gift which a priest receives in sacred ordination "does not fit [him] only for a localized and restricted ministry but for a wide and extensive mission of salvation 'to the very ends of the earth' (Acts 1, 8). The priestly office is a sharing in the fullness of the worldwide mission entrusted by Christ to His apostles," 20 Every priest should cultivate this attitude of openness and availability.

Moreover, if any priest receives a special calling from the Holy Spirit, lie should by no means refuse, with the bishop's consent, to go to another diocese and exercise his ministry there.

In any event, all priests should be sensitive to the needs of I lie universal Church. Let them, therefore, acquaint themselves with conditions in the missions and in local churches that are experiencing special difficulties. Then they will be able to exhort the faithful to hell) the Church in her need. 21



By their profession of vows religious men and women are already closely linked to the mystery of the Church, and their special way of life imposes a duty of working "to implant Christ's kingdom in souls, to strengthen it in them and to spread that kingdom to every land." 22 For this reason the Second Vatican Council not only exhorts them to preserve a missionary spirit but also urges religious institutes to adapt themselves to modern conditions, while safeguarding their own special character, « so that the Gospel is more effectively preached to all peoples. » 23

In this regard, religious men and women belonging to missionary institutes have given and are now giving a splendid example of a life totally dedicated to the cause of Christ. We must admire the zeal that flows from their consecration to God and makes them always prompt and ready to serve God, the Church, and their brothers and sisters for, by reason of their religious consecration, "they enjoy the utmost freedom and are able without hindrance to abandon everything and go to the ends of the earth in order to spread the Gospel." 24

Finally, the religious state, being a "distinctive gift," is ordered to the good of the entire Church, which cannot afford to dispense with the participation of religious in her mission of salvation. 25



7. By reason of their baptism and confirmation all laypersons are deputed by the Lord to take part in the apostolate for "the invitation to be a Christian is, of its very nature, a summons also to the apostolic mission of the Church." 26 Though this lay apostolate is exercised chiefly in parishes, it must be extended to other areas as well: interparochial, diocesan, national, international, In fact, the laity "should be concerned for the needs of God's People over the whole range of the planet. " 27

In addition, the hierarchy may call laypersons to a more direct sharing in the apostolate. And, in fact, in recent decades the Church has made clear the many profitable ways in which the laity can contribute to her mission of salvation.

Thus the Apostolic Constitution on Evangelization, on the basis of recent experience, lists various functions, among them catechesis, the service of God's word, charitable works, leadership of small communities, and others.

This type of lay collaboration is everywhere profitable, but it is especially useful for the establishment, life and growth of the Church in the missions. 28

All members of the Church, therefore, whether pastors or laity or religious, share in their own way in the missionary nature of the Church. The diversity of members is due to the variety of ministries and charisms.

According to St. Paul the apostle the diversity is to be understood thus: "Not all the members have the same function" but each serves the others and all, together, form one body of Christ (Rom 12, 4), which enables them to carry out the mandate proper to each for the Church as a whole is driven by the Holy Spirit to do her part in bringing the plan of God to fulfillment. 29




The Accomplishment of Christ's

Mandate in Our Day


8. If we turn our gaze now to the world we are to evangelize and in particular to those human beings who have not yet been brought to the Christian religion, we cannot fail to see how utterly inadequate the Church's resources at the present time are for this immense task.

In 1977 the inhabitants of our planet numbered 4,094,110,000. Of these only 739,127,000, or 18 percent of the entire population, were Catholics. 30

What of the proportion of priests to population? There are two priests for every 100,000 in Asia, four in Africa, 13 in Latin American, 26 in Oceania, 29 in North America and 31 in Europe.



9. If we consider the distribution of ministers among Catholics, the statistics show that there are 16 priests for every 100,000 in Latin America, 33 in Africa, 43 in South Asia and the Far East, 93 in Europe, 104 in Oceania, 120 in North America and 133 in the Middle East.

The distribution of priests thus shows a great disproportion: while 45 percent of the world's Catholics live in Europe and North America, 72 percent of all the Church's priests exercise their ministry there.

On the other hand, another 45 percent of the world's Catholics live in Latin America and the Philippines but only 12.62 percent of the Church's priests exercise the care of souls there.

In other words, for a number of the faithful in Europe and North America there are four priests but for the same number in Latin America and the Philippines there is only one priest.

We reach practically the same conclusion if we look at the number of deacons and religious men and women in these same regions.


Statistics show real problems

Admittedly, the problem of a bet ter distribution of priests cannot be resolved simply in terms of numbers since account also must be taken of the historical development and specific situation of the various local Churches. If these have developed to a greater degree, they evidently need a larger number of ministers.

On the other hand, the statistics given are important and raise difficult problems for those who have the growth of the holy Church at heart and, especially, for those who are in positions of authority in the Church, as will be said further on.



10. In our day, the greatest obstacle to the accomplishment of Christ's mandate seems to be the diminished number of vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Many if not all parts of the Church that have long been Christian have experienced this fall-off in vocations during recent decades. The cause is a scarcity of candidates or the unfortunate defection of some or the increasingly higher average age of priests.

It must be kept in mind, however, that this scarcity of priests is a very relative thing from the viewpoint of conditions in the more needy dioceses, as we pointed out just above. In fact, the scarcity of clergy should not, in itself, be an obstacle to generosity. As the Supreme Pontiff Pius XII wrote: "Dioceses that are suffering from . . . a shortage of clergy should not, therefore, close their ears to our supplications for help in the foreign missions. The widow's mite is proposed by our Lord for our imitation. If a poor diocese helps another poor diocese, it cannot possibly grow poorer in so doing; God does not allow himself to be outdone in generosity." 31

Every local Church, therefore, should take to heart the messianic prophecy: "The poor have the good news preached to them" (Lk 7, 28), lest such a Church allow an overly human or earthly prudence to suppress the generous impulses which urge it to bring the gift of' faith to all those who can in any sense be called "poor" in our time.

All should be convinced that Christ's mandate cannot be carried out if a local church offers more needy churches only what it accounts as a superfluity.





11. If we compare the number of Catholics with the number of non-Catholics and if we calculate what the Church must do today in order to carry out Christ's mandate, we may easily become dejected. This is all the more likely since we know that the present disproportions will, perhaps, become even greater in the near future and that meanwhile many Catholics are succumbing to a growing indifferentism.

This last is a consequence of other evils such as secularism, naturalism and materialism, that have pervaded life in the countries with a long Christian tradition.


Role of prayer

But we must not forget that as far as its purely human resources are concerned the Church has always been unequal to her lofty mission in the world. In fact, this inadequacy was foreseen by the Church's Founder who said, as He sent out the 72 disciples: "The harvest is rich but the workers are few," and who added: ... "Therefore ask the harvest-master to send workers to his harvest" (Lk 10, 2).

In speaking thus, He wanted to bring home to His disciples that the most effective means of overcoming obstacles is prayer since they are involved not in a human effort or undertaking but in the carrying out of a divine plan.

In prayer we confess that we need God's help; through prayer not only do we accept our responsibility for carrying out God's plan and thus dispose ourselves to he "sent," but also, and very importantly, we directly influence the growth in the number of vocations, since the harvest - master expressly warned that the number of workers depends on prayer.

God has revealed to us His will that all human beings should be saved but the point in time when the messianic kingdom will reach its full form is still a hidden mystery to us: "The exact time is not yours to know. The Father has reserved that to himself" (Acts 1, 7).

This seems to imply that the fulfillment of Christ's mandate is linked to special moments in time and, in fact, that the history of the Church through the centuries shows that at a favorable moment a multitude of peoples received the seed of God's word, while there have been and are less favorable moments, especially for some peoples. 32

The discernment of the times and moments of grace and the determination of what peoples are ready to embrace the Gospel is a task for those who, enlightened by Christ, are able to interpret the signs of the times. This discernment and determination belong especially to those whom the Holy Spirit has set in authority over the Church (see Acts 20, 28).

We may refer, for example, to Pope Pius XII who, in his encyclical letter Fidei donum commended Africa to the concern of all the Church's children as being a land already ripe for evangelization. 33



12. All of these points are confirmed by testimonies from the early Church. The Acts of the Apostles make it very clear that our ancestors in the faith thought in this way. 34 Their apostolic method was to send preachers of the Gospel to other areas even though their own local community had not vet been completely converted to Christ. In so doing, the apostles and their co-workers were obeying Christ's command: "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations" (Mt 28, 20) and were resting their entire hope on the will of God who "wants all men to be saved and come to know the truth" (I Tim 2, 4).

The Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican urges the same manner of acting: "It is highly desirable that the young churches play an active part in the universal mission of the Church as soon as possible. In their turn, they should send missionaries to preach the Gospel everywhere, even though they are suffering from a shortage of clergy."

The council adds this reason: "For their fellowship with the universal Church will in some manner become complete when they, too, have an active share in missionary zeal toward other nations." 35



Tasks and Duties of the Local Churches




13. A diocese, as a local church, is a portion of God's people which is entrusted to a bishop to be governed, taught and sanctified with the help of the presbytery. 36 But if a genuine, living diocesan community is to be formed, lesser communities, especially the parishes, must cultivate a sense of the diocese, regard themselves as living cells of the diocese and then take their place in the universal Church. 37

For this reason the council exhorts parish priests to exercise their ministry in such a way that "the individual parishioners and parish communities will really feel that they are members of the diocese and of the universal Church." 38

In the local Church "the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of Christ is truly present and operative." 39 Therefore, in its concrete circumstances of time and place the diocese should be a perfect image of the Church and a sign showing Christ to all who come into any contact with it. 40



14. Since the local church is formed "in the image of the universal Church," 41 it necessarily shares the hopes and anxieties, the joys and griefs of the entire Church. The local church must, of course, evangelize first and foremost the portion of God's people entrusted to its care, that is, those who have lost their faith or who no longer practice their religion. 42

At the same time, however, it is also its most sacred duty to "promote every activity which is common to the whole Church." 43

It follows from this that a local church may by no means live solely within its own boundaries; rather, as a vital part of the universal Church, it must be open to the needs of other churches. For this reason, its participation in the universal mission of evangelization is not left to its own free judgment, no matter how generously inclined this may be, but is an inherent obligation and a basic law of life for its own vital flame will burn low if it focuses only on its own concerns and pays no attention to the needs of other churches.

On the other hand, it will experience a flowering of rich new life whenever it opens itself wide to others. This task and duty of the local church is confirmed by Vatican Council II which states that the renewal or, if need be, the healthy reform of a local church depends on the degree of ecclesial love with which it zealously offers the gifts of faith to other churches: "The grace of renewal cannot grow in communities unless each of them extends the length and breadth of its charity to the ends of the earth and has equal concern for those far away as it has for those who are its own members." 44



15. The universal Church will surely reap great benefit if the diocesan communities are diligent in cultivating mutual relations through the exchange of aid and benefits. The result will be the communion and cooperation among churches that are so necessary today if the work of evangelization is to be successful. 45

In the discussion of this point we often hear the phrases "rich churches" and "poor churches" but such language can produce the erroneous impression that one church simply gives help while another simply receives it. This is not the real situation.

What is really going on is mutual cooperation since there is a genuine reciprocity between these churches: the poverty of the church that receives help enriches the church that in giving deprives itself. The poorer church enriches the giver by increasing the apostolic zeal of the richer community and especially by sharing its own pastoral experiences which are oft en extremely useful to the other; these experiences may have to do with simpler but more effective methods of pastoral work or with lay auxiliaries in the apostolate or with small communities and so on.


Send even priests to help

The agents of this mutual cooperation will be ministers chosen by the bishop. These will consider themselves to be messengers from their own community, acting as ambassadors of Christ to the other community.

In order that this reciprocal communication of pastoral experiences may be more intense and effective, a diocese or even a large parochial community can choose another, poorer community as a kind of twin sister and send it not only material aid but even some of its own sacred ministers as helpers.

Experience shows that this kind of cooperation can be very beneficial to both communities. 46



16. Local churches should, therefore, cultivate a sense of common responsibility. They must be alert to cries for help and be ready to succor those in need.

The first to be helped should be the young churches which suffer from a serious lack of priests and of material means. Help also must be given, however, to long established churches which for various reasons have now been seriously weakened. 47

A very important kind of help given to needy churches will evidently be priests and others who may be sent to their assistance. The purpose of such aid is clearly not simply to fill gaps. The aim is, rather, that these sacred ministers should become part of the apostolic personnel of the place and then function as teachers and real helpers in the faith.

In this way these churches, while preserving their native culture, will gradually become stronger and more mature and be able at length to care for their own needs.

This is why bishops and other superiors are asked to send "some of the more suitable among their own priests" for this work of evangelization. 48



17. In order that a local church may be equal to its own task, one part of which is to help other local churches in their need, a primary requirement is that it reorganize its forces by reviewing and reforming its traditional structures. The reason for this is that in regions which have long been Christian, a new social situation has inevitably changed the structures of society. Ecclesiastical structures, too, must, therefore, be revamped if they are to be in tune with the new conditions.

Among new developments we need mention only a few: the movement of population into more highly industrialized regions; urbanization and the resultant depopulation of other areas; mass migrations due to unemployment or political factors 49; the widespread phenomenon of travel for pleasure, or tourism, during more or less lengthy periods (e.g., holidays or weekends). 50

These developments call for a special presence of priests and these in turn, must, in these changed circumstances, find a new and specialized type of ministry.

The question today, then, is whether and how structures are to he renewed which at one time were adequate to meet the spiritual needs of God's people.

Undoubtedly, this revision is no easy matter and calls for great prudence and caution. Therefore, the bishop will find it useful to draw up, with the aid of his presbyterial and pastoral councils, an organized program of action for the use of those employed in the care of souls. We cannot put off answers to this question without serious harm to the Church. It is not rare, despite the lamentable shortage of clergy, to find priests who feel frustrated because the duties they now have cannot occupy their whole time; they rightly desire a more laborious life.

In order to make better provisions for the increasingly serious needs of souls, bishops must employ religious priests who in any case "in a certain genuine sense. . . must be said to belong to the clergy of the diocese."

Similarly, an appeal must be made to other religious of both sexes who, though exempt, live and work among the People of God. These religious, too, "belong in a special way to the diocesan family. 51

In this matter, the Sacred Congregations for Bishops and for Religious and Secular Institutes recently issued the directives for promoting mutual relations in the areas of formation, action and organization. 52

In recent times, bishops have been calling on their laity with increasing frequency for help in the ecclesial communities. These laypersons are happy to undertake various tasks and to apply their energies to the service of the Church either for the rest of their lives or for a limited period. Thus, our day has seen a revival of early Church practice, when laypersons undertook various ministries according to their inclinations and charisms and according to the needs and for the advantage of the People of God, thus "fostering the vital growth of the ecclesial community." 53



Agencies for Collaboration

Among Local Churches



18. The episcopal conferences play an important and necessary role in achieving a more effective collaboration among local churches, since the proper function of the conferences is to coordinate pastoral activity as a whole. In this context Pope Paul VI of happy memory, in his apostolic letter motu proprio Ecclesiae sanctae, laid down this rule: "It will be up to the patriarchal synods and the episcopal conferences, attentive to the regulations of the Apostolic See, to make arrangements and publish rules for the bishops in order to bring about a better distribution o the clergy, both of their own territory and those who come from other regions. This distribution will provide for the needs of all the dioceses o their own territory and also take into consideration the welfare of churches in mission lands and in countries where there is a shortage of clergy." 54


Two needs

In addition, therefore, to providing for the needs of pastoral care in their own territories, two other needs are commended to the attention of the episcopal conferences.

One is the preaching of the Gospel in mission territories.

The other is help for the weaker churches generally.

Both tasks are incumbent on each local church but proper order requires the collaboration of the bishops of the same country or territory.

To meet these two needs two commissions are prescribed for each episcopal conference: one deals with the better distribution of clergy, the other with the missions. 55

Since the second of these two is established specifically to foster missionary awareness and since, in addition, both have somewhat similar goals, cooperation between the two is essential. In fact, it is expedient at times that the two be joined into a single commission.



19. In regard to the first proclamation of the Gospel or, in other words, to missions, the supreme direction is in the hands of the Sacred Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. This congregation "is to have competence in matters regarding all missions established to spread Christ's kingdom everywhere and, therefore, in the appointment or transfer of the required ministers, and the ecclesiastical boundaries; in proposing those who are to govern these areas; in making more effective provisions for a native clergy, who should gradually assume a greater role and authority; and in directing and coordinating all missionary activity around the world, with regard to the missionaries themselves and the missionary contribution of the faithful. " 56

It is for the episcopal conferences to promote the active participation of the diocesan clergy in the apostolate of sacred missions; to prescribe a certain monetary contribution to mission work; to foster increasingly close relations with missionary institutes; and to see to it that seminaries for missionary priests are established or aided.57

The special episcopal commission for the missions within each episcopal conference is to promote mission activity and see to proper collaboration among dioceses. For this reason it must foster relations with other conferences and see that help is given to the missions in an equitable manner according to the resources of each diocese. 58



20. As was said above, each episcopal conference also must set up an episcopal commission "to investigate the needs of the various dioceses of the territory and the possibility of giving some of their own clergy to other churches, to implement the definitive conclusions approved by the conferences regarding distribution of the clergy and to inform the bishops of the territory of these decisions." 59

This commission, therefore, has two functions.

The first is to remove inequalities that may exist within the conference's own territory for not infrequently dioceses differ in the number of their priests, some dioceses having many while in others the dearth of priests threatens the very preservation of the faith.

The second function is concern for local churches outside the territory of the conference, so as to offer them help in virtue of the communion, discussed above, that exists among local churches.

In the fulfillment of this task the first step is to bring needs to light by comparing the number of the faithful with the number of pastors.

The second step is to lay before the episcopal conference a list of more urgent needs and of suggestions for helping the weaker churches.

In the area of this second function of the commission, praiseworthy programs have already been introduced and are producing happy results. 60



21. The proper coordination of ministerial activities and apostolic works in the territory of an episcopal conference requires close collaboration between the diocesan clergy and the religious institutes. It is for the episcopal conference to promote this kind of collaboration but since success in shared work depends on an approach that looks not to the advantage of a group but solely to the common good of the Church, it is expedient that bishops and religious superiors meet at regular intervals to discuss business matters of general concern in their territory. 61

For this reason the apostolic letter motu proprio Ecclesiae sanctae orders the establishment of a mixed commission with members from the episcopal conference and from the national council of major superiors.

This commission is to deal with questions involving both bishops and religious. 62

A chief topic of discussion at the meetings of this mixed commission should be the more equitable and suitable distribution of apostolic personnel; priorities should be made clear, as should the choices to be made in the common effort to promote joint pastoral action. 63

The deliberations of this commission must, for reasons of competency, be submitted to the judgment, of the episcopal conference and the council of religious superiors. 64



22. It cannot be overemphasized that a primary and very important function of both commissions is to be constantly making the faithful better aware of the needs both of the missions and of local churches which are in difficulty. The commissions must, therefore, use the various communications media for this purpose; they must support and disseminate reviews and similar publications and take part in drawing up and carrying out suitable programs for publicizing the problems in question.

In addition to supplying accurate information quickly, the purpose of all these measures is to make the faithful increasingly aware of their responsibilities and to develop their sense of catholicity through the mature, active collaboration of local Churches. 65


Sacred Ministers

Sent to Other Dioceses



23. Although all Christians are obliged to share in the work of evangelization in their own proper way, anyone who desires to exercise the sacred ministry in another diocese needs a special call. By means of prayer and penance the entire community, with the bishop as prime mover, should ask the Holy Spirit for the gift of vocations in order that there may be priests, religious and laypersons who will leave their native place and go off to carry out Christ's mandate in a foreign field. 66

The souls of the young must be prepared for such calls. This means that from their earliest years they must be formed to a truly Catholic outlook.

As for candidates for the priesthood, there must be an intensified effort to educate them in such a way that in addition to a love for the diocese for whose service they are destined they will have a real concern for the entire Church. 67



24. This special vocation presupposes a suitable temperament and special natural gifts. Among the psychological qualities needed are perseverance of soul and a sincere desire to serve.

In exercising discernment of spirits superiors must, therefore, be very careful to select suitable and qualified candidates. Since, moreover, it is to be desired that bishops send only excellent priests for this work, the men chosen should not only be possessed of sure sacred doctrine but they should also have strong faith, unwavering hope and zeal for souls, 68 so that they may generate faith in others, as far as this is in their power.



25. All ministers who go to another diocese need adequate preparation in regard to cultural development, orthodoxy of doctrine and apostolic manner of life. If they are to go to a diocese of another country in order to preach the Gospel, they require still further preparation. Specifically, they must acquire a familiarity with the culture and religion of the people, have a high esteem for their language and ways, be able to speak the language, develop an understanding of that nation's social conditions, customs and practices and, finally, gain insight into its moral system and the innermost ideas which its people have formed of God, the world and t lie human person in accordance with the traditions they hold sacred. 69



26. The passage of ministers, especially priests, from one diocese to another is to be made in an orderly way. The Ordinary from whose diocese they come must be sincere and open in informing the Ordinary to whose diocese they are going about the men being sent, especially if the motives for the change fall under suspicion.

It is absolutely necessary that the rights and duties of priests who volunteer for this change be clearly defined in a written agreement between the originating bishop and the host bishop. 70 This agreement, drawn up with the assistance of the priest himself, should be accepted and signed by him in order that it may have juridical force. A copy of the agreement is to be kept by the priest and both Curias.

A similar agreement should be made with lay auxiliaries. In the case of religious, the constitutions of the institute to which they belong must also be observed. This principle holds for the following numbers of the present document, insofar as it applies.



27. In the agreement the following points are to be specified: (a) the length of time to be spent in service; (b) the duties of the priest and the location of his residence and ministry, although account must be taken of living conditions in the region to which lie is going; (c) the support to be given him, and its source; (d) provisions for care in case of sickness, disability and old age.

It will be useful to add, if the case warrants it, the possibility of visiting his home country after a certain period of time.

This agreement cannot be changed except with the consent of those involved. The host bishop retains the right to send the priest back to his own diocese should his ministry prove to be a source of harm. The original bishop must first be advised and equity, both natural and canonical, must be observed.



28. In dealing with priests who exercise the sacred ministry outside their own diocese, the originating bishop is to show special concern as far as possible. He should regard them as members of his own community who are working abroad. He should show his concern by correspondence, by visiting them in person or through delegates, and by helping them in accordance with the terms of the agreement.

Since the host bishop profits by the help of these priests, he is responsible for their material and spiritual needs, again according to the terms of the agreement.



29. Unless there is a special and urgent need, priests are not to be sent singly to regions in which the language, customs and social conditions are notably different from those with which they are familiar. Instead, a group of priests should be sent, so that the individuals in it can support one another. 71

At the same time, however, such a group must endeavor to blend in with the local clergy, lest fraternal collaboration be hindered in any way.

Priests who go to another diocese are to respect the bishop of the place and obey him according to the agreement.

In their manner of life they should adapt themselves to the conditions in which the native clergy live and should cultivate friendly relations with them, since all, together, make up the presbytery under the authority of the bishop. 72

Moreover, they should try to become part of the local community, as though they were native members of that church. This requires an uncommon openness of mind and heart and a profound sense of service. Since they are ministers who have joined a new family, they should avoid criticism of the local church, leaving this prophetic duty to the bishop, who has full responsibility for the government of the local church.



30. Priests who wish to return to their own diocese after the period determined in the agreement are to be welcomed back. Preparation must be made for their return just as it had been for their departure. They remain incardinated in their diocese of origin and, on their return to it, enjoy the same rights they would have had if they had been serving uninterruptedly in the sacred ministry there. 73

Because of the varied experiences they have had, these men can be a source of' no little spiritual profit to their own diocese. On their return, and before taking up a new ministry, they are to be allowed time to accustom themselves to any new conditions that may have developed.




31. The prescriptions of the Code of Canon Law are still in effect with regard to the incardination of priests in other dioceses. However, the apostolic letter Ecclesiae sanctae has provided a new norm to be applied in the obtaining of this juridical incardination.

This norm takes into account the service that has been provided. "A cleric who has legitimately moved from his own diocese to another is, by law, incardinated into the latter diocese at the end of five years, if he expresses a desire to this effect in writing to the Ordinary of the host diocese and to his own Ordinary, and neither signifies opposition to this in writing within four months." 74



The present situation of the Church, especially in regard to the number of sacred ministers, which is patently inadequate for the pressing needs of evangelization, is one that may incline many to pessimism and create a certain hopelessness regarding the future destiny of the Church.

This outlook is unworthy of a Christian, much less of pastors of souls.

Such an estimate of the situation concentrates in fact on only one aspect of it and does not capture the complete truth about the Church at least if we are determined to look at the facts in a Christian manner, that is, in the light of faith and not in a superficial and exterior way.

With the aid of this light from on high we can discover amid all human vicissitudes the living, active presence of the Holy Spirit who energizes the Church and guides her infallibly in carrying out God's plan for the salvation of the human race despite the violent attacks that would block the course of the Church.


Prayer and courageous action

Therefore, just as we know that throughout the history of the Church the principal agent in the work of evangelization has been the Holy Spirit who acts by inspiring Christians to spread God's reign and opening the hearts of human beings to God's word, so He will guide the future course of the Church.

Meanwhile, it is the duty of us all to pray unceasingly to the Spirit of the Lord and entrust ourselves confidently and docilely to His inspirations. Our part is also to do all we can to see that the conviction of the Church's missionary nature remains alive in the faithful and that individual Christians and, especially, shepherds of souls grow ever more conscious of their obligations to the universal Church.

Let us endeavor to commit ourselves energetically to this task under the constant guidance and inspiration of that supernatural hope which "will not leave us disappointed." (Rom 5, 5) for this hope is based on the words of Christ who, when about to leave His disciples here amid the dangers and hostile forces of this world, promised them: "Know that I am with you always, until the end of the world" (Mt 28, 20) and who also said: "Take courage! I have overcome the world" (Jn 16, 33).

Rome, March 25,1980, Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord.


Silvio Cardinal Oddi



Maximino Romero De Lema

Archbishop titular of Cittanova



Notes :

1 Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church [henceforth: Bishops], no. 6 [TPS XI, 183].

2 Apostolic Letter Motu Proprio Ecclesiae Sanctae on Implementing Four Decrees ofVatican II (August 6, 1966), I, 1, AAS 58 (1966) 757-58 [TPS XI, 378].

3 Apostolic Constitution Regimini Ecclesiae Universae on the Reorganization of the Roman Curia (August 15, 1967) no. 68 & 2: AAS (1967) 886-86 [TPS XII, 408-9].

4 Atti del Congresso "pro meliori cleri distributione in mundo" : Il mondo é la mia parrocchia (Rome, 1971).

5 Final Declaration of the Fathers of the 1974 Synod of Bishops (October 26, 1974), no. 4: OR, October 27, 1974, p. 6 [TPS XIX, 230]. See Pope Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi (December 8, 1975), nos. 6-15: AAS 68 (1976) 517f.

6 Decree on the Missionary Activity of the Church [henceforth: Missionary Activity], [TPS 436].

7 See the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church [henceforth: Church], no. 13.

8 Missionary Activity, no. 38 [TPS XI, 437].

9 See Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Letter Fidei donum (April 21, 1957): AAS 49 (1957) 237.

10 Church, no. 23 [TPS X, 374]

11 See the Sacred Congregation for Bishops, Directorium de pastorali ministerio episcoporum (Rome, 1973), no. 43.

12 See Church, no. 2:3.

13 See Bishops, no. 6; Missionary Activity, no. 38

14 Decree on the Priestly Ministry and Life [henceforth : Ministry], no. 2 [TPS XI, 443].

15 See ibid., nos. 4, 5, 6.

16 Church, no. 28 [TPS X, 379].

17 Ministry, no. 2 [TPS XI, 443; revised translation].

18 See ibid., no. 5.

19 Synod of Bishops, 1971, The Ministerial Priesthood, Part I, no. 4 [TPS XVI, 365]

20 Ministry, no 10 [TPS XI 455].

21 See Pope Paul VI, Apostolic Letter Graves et increscentes: AAS 58 (1966) 750-51.

22 Church, no. 44 [TPS X, 389].

23 Decree on theAdaptation and Renewal of Religious Life [henceforth: Religious Life], no. 20 [TPS XI, 150].

24 Evangelii nuntiandi, no. 69 [TPS XXI, 39-40].

25 Church, no. 43 [TPS X, 387]. See the Sacred Congregations for Bishops and for Religious and Secular Institutes, Directives on Relations between Bishops and Religious (Mav 14, 1978): AAS 70 (1978) 373ff.

26 Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity [henceforth: Laity], no. 2 [TPS XI, 120].

27 Laity, no. 10 [TPS XI, 128]

28 See Evangelii nuntiandi, no. 73; see also Church, no. 33.

29 See Church, no. 17.

30 See Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae, 1977, p. 44.

31 Fidei donum: AAS 49 (1957) 244 [TPS IV, 309]

32 See Evangelii nuntiandi, no. 50.

33 Fidei donum AAS 49 (1957) 225-26.

34 See Acts 8, 14 ; 11, 22; 13,3; etc.

35 Missionary Activity, no. 20 [TPS XI, 428]

36 See Bishops. no. 20.

37 See Laity, no. 10.

38 Bishops, no. 30. 1 [TPS XI, 193]

39 Ibid., no. 11 [TPS XI, 185]

40 See Missionary Activity, no. 20.

41 Church, no. 41 [TPS X, 374]

42 See Evangelii nuntiandi, nos. 55, 56.

43 Church, no. 23 [TPS XI, 374]

44 Laity, no. 37 [TPS XI, 437].

45 See ibid., no. 38.

46 See the Instruction Pro aptius of the Sacred Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples : AAS 61 (1969) 276ff.

47 See Missionary Activity no. 19.

48 Ibid., no. 48 [TPS XI, 438].

49 See Pope Paul V1, Apostolic Letter Motu Proprio Pastoralis migratorum cura (August 15, 1979): AAS 61 (1969) 601-3; Sacred Congregation of Bishops, Instruction De pastorali migratorurn cura (August 22, 1969): AAS 61 (1969) 614-43; Circular Letter of the Pontifical Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples, The Church and Mankind on the Move (May 26, 1978): AAS 70 (1978) 367ff.

50 See the Sacred Congregation for the Clergy, General Directory Peregrinans in terra for the Pastoral Ministry to Tourism (April 30, 1969): AAS 61 (1969) 361-84.

51 Bishops, no. 34 [TPS XI, 195].

52 Document of May 14, 1978: AAS 70 (1978) 478ff.

53 Evangelii nuntiandi, no. 73 [TPS XI, 41].

54 Ecclesiae Sanctae I, 2 [TPS X1, 378].

55 Ibid., I, 2; III, 9.

56 Regimini Ecclesiae Universae, no. 82: AAS 59 (1967) 886 [TPS XII, 412].

57 See Missionary Activity, no. 38

58 See Ecclesiae Sanctae III, 9.

59 Ecclesiae Sanctae I, 2 [TPS XI, 378].

60 The following episcopal commissions already exist for promoting relations with the dioceses of Latin America: COPAL in Belgium, CEFAL in France, CEIAL in Italy, CECADEOCSHA in Spain, Adveniat in the Federal Republic of Gerniany, NCCB-LAB in the United States, OCCAL in Canada, and so on. All these commissions work together with the Pontifical Commission for Latin American (CAL) which cultivates close relations with the Latin American Episcopal Conference (CELAM). In addition, there is the General Council of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America (COGECAL), made up of CAL, CELAM, the presidents of the episcopal commissions listed above, the president of the International Union of Superiors General and the president of the Latin American Confederation of Religious.

61 See Bishops, no. 35. 5 and 6.

62 Ecclesiae Sanctae II, 43. See Directives (n. 25, above). nos. 60-65 : AAS 70 (1978) 503ff.

63 See Religious Life, no. 23.

64 Directives, no. 63: AAS 70 (1978) 504.

65 See Missionary Activity, no. 36.

66 See ibid., no. 23. See also the Decree on Training for the Priesthood no. 2.

67 See the Decree on Training for the Priesthood no. 20.

68 See Missionary Activity, no. 25.

69 See ibid., no. 26.

70 See Ecclesiae Sanctae, I, 3 & 2.

71 See Ministry, no. 10.

72 See Missionary Activity, no. 20.

73 See Ecclesiae Sanctae I, 3 & 4.

74 Ibid., I, 3 & 5 [TPS XI, 379].