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 | Justin McLellan | Catholic News Service

Fill Empty Lands with God, Pope Tells Seminarians from Rural Areas

Pope Francis urged the future pastors of “empty Spain,” the Spanish regions known for their historical richness but currently facing depopulation and economic challenges, to remember that "Jesus wants me in these empty lands to fill them with God."

Meeting with seminarians of the Archdiocese of Burgos April 27, the pope said that they have been called to serve in Spain's rural regions "to build community, to the build up the church (and) the people."

According to the Spanish National Statistics Institute, the population of the province of Burgos -- comprised of four dioceses -- fell from 375,657 in 2011 to 355,045 in 2022. In 2023, Burgos' population had its first mild uptick in more than 10 years due to the rise in foreign immigrants to the province.

Pope Francis praised the group of seminarians for representing a "mosaic of races, cultures and ages" unified in their response to Jesus' call to priesthood; he said that building community in rural regions "is realized by being a heterogeneous group that knows how to welcome and enrich each other."

Without love for God and for others and "without walking two by two -- as the evangelist says -- we cannot bring God (to others)," he said, referencing Jesus' sending out the apostles as told in St. Luke's Gospel.

The pope also urged the seminarians to offer their "absolute availability" to be sent wherever God needs them and accept whatever task they are given, "even though we may seem little in the face of a job, a harvest, that is so large."

Though they may be serving in largely empty areas, Pope Francis asked the seminarians to let the only sense of emptiness in their hearts be "letting go of false human securities" in order to "welcome God and brothers and sisters into it."

"Having God in us fills us with peace, a peace that we can communicate, that we can bring to every town and city, that we can desire for every home," he said. "In that way, you will fill with his light the fields that now seem barren, fertilizing them with hope."