Closeness is more than the name of a specific virtue; it is an attitude that engages the whole person, our way of relating, our way of being attentive both to ourselves and to others... When people say of a priest, “he is close to us”, they usually mean two things. The first is that “he is always there” (as opposed to never being there: in that case, they always begin by saying, “Father, I know you are very busy...”). The other is that he has a word for everyone. “He talks to everybody”, they say, with adults and children alike, with the poor, with those who do not believe... Priests who are “close”, available, priests who are there for people, who talk to everyone... street priests.Pope Francis suggests that we should recognise closeness as as the key to truth, and he does this by proposing the two dimensions of "truth as definition" and "truth as fidelity":
Closeness, dear brothers, is crucial for an evangelizer because it is a key attitude in the Gospel (the Lord uses it to describe his Kingdom). We can be certain that closeness is the key to mercy, for mercy would not be mercy unless, like a Good Samaritan, it finds ways to shorten distances. But I also think we need to realize even more that closeness is also the key to truth; not just the key to mercy, but the key to truth. Can distances really be shortened where truth is concerned? Yes, they can. Because truth is not only the definition of situations and things from a certain distance, by abstract and logical reasoning. It is more than that. Truth is also fidelity (émeth). It makes you name people with their real name, as the Lord names them, before categorizing them or defining “their situation”. There is a distasteful habit, is there not, of following a “culture of the adjective”: this is so, this is such and such, this is like… No! This is a child of God. Then come the virtues or defects, but [first] the faithful truth of the person and not the adjective regarded as the substance.He then goes on to speak of three particular moments of closeness for priests:
Closeness in spiritual conversation. Let us reflect on this by considering the encounter of the Lord with the Samaritan woman. The Lord teaches her to discern first how to worship, in spirit and in truth. Then, he gently helps her to acknowledge her sin, without offending her. And finally, the Lord infects her with his missionary spirit and goes with her to evangelize her village. The Lord gives us a model of spiritual conversation; he knows how to bring the sin of the Samaritan woman to light without its overshadowing her prayer of adoration or casting doubt on her missionary vocation.
Closeness in confession. Let us reflect on this by considering the passage of the woman caught in adultery. It is clear that here closeness is everything, because the truths of Jesus always approach and can be spoken face to face. Looking the other in the eye, like the Lord, who, after kneeling next to the adulteress about to be stoned, stood up and said to her, “Nor do I condemn you” (Jn 8:11). This is not to go against the law. We too can add, “Go and sin no more”, not with the legalistic tone of truth as definition – the tone of those who feel that that they have to determine the parameters of divine mercy. On the contrary, those words need to be spoken with the tone of truth as fidelity, to enable the sinner to look ahead and not behind. The right tone of the words “sin no more” is seen in the confessor who speaks them and is willing to repeat them seventy times seven.
Finally, closeness in preaching. Let us reflect on this by thinking of those who are far away, and listening to Peter’s first sermon, which is part of the Pentecost event. Peter declares that the word is “for all that are far off” (Acts 2:39), and he preaches in such a way that they were “cut to the heart” by the kerygma, which led them to ask: “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). A question, as we said, we must always raise and answer in a Marian and ecclesial tone. The homily is the touchstone “for judging a pastor’s closeness and ability to communicate to his people” (Evangelii Gaudium, 135). In the homily, we can see how close we have been to God in prayer and how close we are to our people in their daily lives.Now, if Pope Francis' words are read for what they actually say, rather than for what some might like the Holy Father to have said instead, they are rather beautiful - particularly the three Scriptural images that are used to represent the three instances of closeness. They reflect the "pastoral conversion" to which Pope Francis has repeatedly called the Church, including with his Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia. Do read the whole, from the original source, rather than relying on commentary.