Thursday, 14 August 2008

On leadership and delegation

Cath News today highlighted some comments of Pope Benedict XVI on the role of priests, given at his meeting with clergy while on holiday. He emphasizes the importance of the role of the priest in the Church, but also talks about the need for proper delegation.

On delegation

As anyone who has been a leader or manager knows, delegation is the most difficult skill of all. It often seems easier to just do it all yourself - and it generally is, at least in the short term. In the longer term though, doing it all yourself is generally unsustainable!

The problem in the Church in recent times has mostly been inappropriate delegation - allowing the laity to take over tasks that really do belong with the priest. Nor do traditional communities appear to be immune from this problem, as the recent decision of the Institute of the Good Shepherd to pull out of its Brazilian apostolate attests.

But equally, I think there are areas where the laity can and indeed should be engaged. The issue is getting the balance right.

What the Pope said

You can find the full transcript of the remarks in English here, but the version of the Pope's comments on the Vatican Radio site are as follows:

"Fr Franz Pixner a priest with the task of guiding two big parishes then put the issue of the increasing pastoral demands on a decreasing number of priests, before the Pope, asking for advice on priestly celibacy, on the role of lay collaborators and women in parish life and for a word of encouragement for the many men who often find themselves alone beneath the burden of responsibilities.

The Pope began his reply noting the prominence of these concerns among today’s pastors. He noted no-one has a ready answer and that these issues are high on the agenda of the Synod of Bishops. We will always need priests who are totally dedicated to the Lord and therefore also to mankind….This means that we are taken from the community and given to the Lord, we totally belong to Him and we totally belong to the community…Therefore the priesthood is irreplaceable because through the Eucharist it builds the Church, in the Sacrament of Penitence it purifies.

I know only too well that today a priest finds himself guiding more than one parish, that he must always be available, and has difficulty in living this way…. He must find time for prayer and meditation, this will help him to prioritise and know how to delegate responsibilities to collaborators. I have the impression that people understand and appreciate when a priest is with God in prayer. Thus he must distinguish the tasks that others can do better than he, giving wider space to charisms within the community, particularly the movements, in communion with the diocese and its bishop..."

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