The Vatican published the Holy Father’s annual letter to priests today. It contains the usual things: reflections on his own priesthood, a call to encourage vocations by personal holiness and witness, and so on.
One strange note: The Pope calls altar servers a “garden of priestly vocations” and encourages priests to use that service as a natural training ground for the priesthood. Unfortunately, by the Pope’s own order in 1994, most altar servers, at least in the US, are not eligible for the priesthood. Most parishes that I’ve been in lately have more girls serving at the altar than boys. In fact, it seems the Pope is making a good argument for reversing his own order, something which I don’t expect would happen. Could you imagine the outcry?
Another darker note: calling attention to priests forming relationships with altar servers after the events of the last two years is probably not a good idea. I know, we can’t live in fear of the conclusions people will draw, but still some sensitivity to the issue may have been called for.