Pope Francis told an audience of priests, religious and seminarians in Kenya that without prayer a person becomes as ugly as “a dried fig”.
“When we were called, we were not canonised,” the Pope said. Each priest and religious continues to be a person in need of God’s mercy and forgiveness, a person who must devote time to prayer.
Ambition, riches and prestige have no place in the life of a priest or religious, Francis said. Anyone who does not think he or she can live a life of poverty, chastity and obedience should leave and start a family, he added.
The Pope was welcomed to the meeting with cheers and the ululations of hundreds of Kenyan sisters. He set aside his prepared text and instead reflected on the importance of priests and religious recognising that the Lord called them to serve and that serving is what their lives must be about.
Kenya, which has more than 13.8 million Catholics, is served by more than 5,300 religious women, close to 800 religious brothers, some 2,700 diocesan priests, just over 900 religious-order priests and four permanent deacons.
Pope Francis said he could imagine that some of the priests and religious were thinking, “‘What a rude pope. He told us what to do, he told us off and did not even say thank you.’ So the last thing I want to say to you, the cherry on the cake, is to thank you for following Jesus, for every time you realise you are a sinner, for every caress you give someone in need.”