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Pope Francis requires year of missionary work for future Vatican diplomat priests

Vatican City, Feb 17, 2020 / 05:09 am (CNA).- Pope Francis has requested that priests in formation for the Holy See’s diplomatic service be required to spend one year in missionary work, the Vatican announced Monday.

The pope has asked the change to go into effect for the 2020/2021 academic year. He called for the curriculum update in a letter to the president of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, Bishop Joseph Marino.

In order to face “growing challenges for the Church and for the world, future diplomats of the Holy See must acquire, in addition to solid priestly and pastoral formation, and the specific one offered by this Academy, also a personal mission experience outside their own Diocese of origin,” Francis wrote.

It is an opportunity for the priests to share “with the missionary churches a period of journey together with their community, participating in their daily evangelizing activity,” he added.

The pope noted in his letter, signed Feb. 11, that he had first expressed the desire for the formation of priest-diplomats to include a missionary year at the end of the Amazon synod in 2019.

“I am convinced that such an experience will be useful to all young people who prepare or begin priestly service,” he said, “but in particular to those who in the future will be called to collaborate with the Pontifical Representatives and, subsequently, may in turn become Envoys of the Holy See to the nations and particular churches.”

The Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy is a training academy for priests from around the world who may be asked to enter the diplomatic corps of the Holy See.

In addition to studying theology and canon law at pontifical universities in Rome, the students learn topics and skills relevant to diplomatic work, such as languages, international diplomacy, and diplomatic history.

American Bishop Joseph Marino has been president since October 2019. He has been in the diplomatic service of the Holy See since 1988.

The pope said implementation of the missionary year will require cooperation with the Secretariat of State, especially with the section for diplomatic personnel.

He added that, “having overcome the initial concerns that could arise,” he is sure the experience “will be useful not only to young academics, but also to individual churches with whom they will collaborate.”

Francis also said he hopes it will inspire other priests to volunteer to serve as a missionary outside his own diocese for a period.  


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Virgil Dechant, long-serving KofC Supreme Knight, dies at 89

Washington D.C., Feb 16, 2020 / 06:55 pm (CNA).- The longest serving Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus died Saturday at 89.

Virgil Dechant was Supreme Knight from 1977 to 2000. He died in his sleep Feb. 15.

“God has called home a good man and one of the Knights’ great leaders,” Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said in a Feb. 16 statement.

“Virgil Dechant used to say that his goal was to leave the Knights better than he found it, and in myriad ways, he accomplished that. He leaves a lasting legacy and an excellent example of what it means to be a Knight and a fraternalist,” Anderson added.

The Knights of Columbus say Dechant was instrumental in helping to grow the Knights of Columbus, and fostering the organization’s collaboration with the Vatican during the pontificate of Pope St. John Paul II.

Dechant “forged a close relationship with the Vatican during the pontificate of St. John Paul II, leading the Order to sponsor numerous renovation projects – including of the façade of St. Peter’s Basilica, and working with the pope to promote the faith in Eastern Europe, which was then behind the iron curtain,” the Knights of Columbus said in a press release.

He also “oversaw tremendous growth in the Order’s membership as well as in its assets and insurance business, while also opening the Order to greater involvement by the wives and families of its members,” according to the statement.

Dechant was a Kansas native who farmed, sold farm equipment, and owned a car dealership before he began working for the Knights of Columbus as Supreme Secretary in 1967. He became Supreme Knight ten years later.

In recognition of his committment to the pro-life movement, Dechant received the National Right to Life Award in 1998. He was also the recipient of several Vatican honors,

In 2005, he escorted President George W. Bush to the funeral of Pope St. John Paul II at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. 

In 2012, Anderson said that his predecessor “was the model of Catholic fraternalism for an entire generation."

Dechant is survived by his wife Ann, four children, and the couple's grandchildren and great-grandchildren.


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