At the end of the academic year 2008-2009, the Congregation of the Holy Ghost, will hand over to the French Bishops’ Conference (CEF) the direction of the French pontifical seminary in Rome.
The Holy Ghost Fathers, co-founded by Fr. Claude Poullart des Places (1679-1709) and then by Father Liberman (1802-1852), had founded the seminary in 1853, and for 156 years they have trained some 4,800 seminarians and young priests. Upon the proposition from the CEF, the Congregation for Catholic Education recently appointed Fr. Sylvain Bataille, as Rector of the French Seminary. He is a priest from the diocese of Beauvais, a member of the Society Jean-Marie Vianney, and was until now the rector of the major seminary of Ars.
On June 6, Benedict XVI granted a private audience to the rector, the priests and the seminarians from the French pontifical Seminary. He told them:
the task of training priests is a delicate mission. The formation proposed in the seminary is demanding, (…). It is good that seminarians remember that if the Church shows herself so demanding toward them, it is because they will have to take care of those whom Christ purchased at such a high price. The aptitudes required from future priests are many: human maturity, spiritual qualities, apostolic zeal, intellectual rigor. (…) He to whom is entrusted the discernment and the formation must remember that the hopes he places in others is, in the first place, a duty for himself
The Holy Father added:
...this handing down of the baton corresponded with the beginning of the Year of the Priesthood which opens on June 19. This is a grace for the new team of priests in charge of the formation.
Three years after its foundation in temporary quarters, the French pontifical Seminary moved into a former Poor Clares’ convent, via santa Chiara, just behind the Pantheon, in the very heart of Rome in 1856.
Today, some sixty bishops in France and elsewhere are alumni of the French Seminary. Among the alumni was Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre (1905-1991) elected General Superior of the Holy Ghost Fathers (1962-1968).