Why can’t St. John-Marie Vianney become the patron of all priests?

Source: FSSPX News

On Thursday, June 10, the news agency Zenit titled its article on the closing Mass of the Year for Priests that would be celebrated the following day: “Feast of the Sacred Heart: The Curé of Ars becomes the patron saint for all priests.” The article read, “A tapestry representing the saintly Curé of Ars will be hung from the central loggia St. Peter’s Basilica tomorrow morning, June 11, for the Mass of the solemnity of the Sacred Heart that will conclude, in Rome, the Year for Priests. The priests will renew their priestly vows. The Pope will consecrate the priests of the world once again to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Indeed, Pope Benedict XVI will proclaim St. John-Marie Vianney patron saint not only of the parish priests of the world, but of all priests. The Pope will celebrate the Mass using a chalice preserved at Ars that belonged to St. John-Marie Vianney.”

But that afternoon the daily La Croix reprinted an announcement from the news agency I.Media: “The Curé of Ars will not be proclaimed the patron saint of priests throughout the world.”  According to Fr. Federico Lombardi, Director of the Press Office of the Holy See, “Benedict XVI withdrew his decision to proclaim St. John-Marie Vianney ‘patron saint of all the priests in the world’ on the occasion of the closing of the Year for Priests….  The figure of this French mystic, who has been ‘patron saint of parish priests’ since 1929, and ‘patron of French priests’ since 1905, ultimately did not seem sufficiently representative of the priesthood in the twenty-first century, nor sufficiently universal.”

However, on March 16, 2009, when Benedict XVI unexpectedly announced his intention to organize a special “year for priests”, from June 19, 2009, to June 11, 2010, the Holy See had noted that the Pope, on that occasion, would proclaim St. John-Marie Vianney “patron of all the priests of the world”.  On June 8[, 2010,] at the Vatican, certain offices of the Curia continued to announce “the proclamation of St. John-Marie Vianney universal patron of priests”.

Vatican sources confided to I.Media that it was decided that the proclamation would not take place, basically because the Curé of Ars “is not the complete reflection of a priestly figure today, in the age of communication”, but also because there are already, throughout the world, several patron saints for priests belonging to particular countries and cultures.  Although the “saintly Curé” remains “an ascetic and an exemplary mystic, his social and pastoral activity are not those of a priest of today,” they went on to explain.  Who are these anonymous Vatican sources?  Still other, equally confidential sources have let it be known that two Roman prelates had succeeded in persuading a close collaborator of Benedict XVI that such a proclamation would be inopportune, and the Pope had followed that advice.

The Press Office of the Holy See published an embarrassed commentary by its director, Fr. Federico Lombardi, in order to explain this sudden reversal:  “In recent days there has been talk about the possibility that on June 11, during the celebration marking the conclusion of the Year for Priests, the Pope might proclaim the saintly Curé of Ars—who is already the patron saint of parish priests—patron of all priests as well.”  This was not a hypothetical possibility, since the Congregation for the Clergy and the different media outlets of the Vatican had been broadcasting announcements of that proclamation throughout the year.  According to Fr. Lombardi, the Pope “preferred to retain the specific title, patron saint of parish priests,” for the French saint, “given that it was a question of his own ministry [as a parish priest—Editor’s note], whereas there are many other great priestly figures who can serve as an inspiration and as models for those who carry out many other forms of priestly ministry.”

Other sources at the Vatican put forward the hypothesis of a “purely administrative error”:  the Pope, they say, had not really been informed about that initiative—which was disputed within the Curia—until the last minute and hence did not have the time (or the intention) of signing the Motu Proprio ratifying the proclamation.  At any rate, in his homily during the Mass celebrated on June 11, Benedict XVI presented the Curé of Ars, who is already the “universal patron of parish priests”, as a “model of priestly ministry in our world”.  He declared that “through the Curé of Ars we have let ourselves be guided, so as to comprehend anew the greatness and the beauty of the priestly ministry.”

Unconvinced by the confused explanations given by the Roman authorities, one Italian website launched a petition drive for clergymen who hope to obtain the proclamation of Saint John-Marie Vianney “patron saint of all priests”:

http://jeanmariepatronus.wordpress.com [click on the British flag icon for English].

There we read:  “You gave us Saint John-Marie Vianney as an example of a priestly ideal, who represents the complete gift of ourselves to Jesus Christ, priest and victim.  In order to better reap the fruit of this priestly year, in these times when vocations need to be encouraged and priests need to be supported in their fidelity to their priestly commitments, we beg of you, Most Holy Father, to proclaim Saint John-Marie Vianney Patron of all the priests of the Catholic Church, at the celebration of his feast day.”  The lay faithful are also invited to join in the request by the priests by signing the petition that is designated for them at this website.  (Sources : Zenit/VIS /Apic/Imedia/La Croix/ Forum catholique /private sources  – DICI no. 217 dated June 26, 2010)