VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis ordained 19 men to the priesthood on Sunday in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Most of them are Italians, but other seminarians are from Croatia, Peru, Haiti and Japan.

Wearing white robes, the seminarians stood in three rows before the central altar after replying, “Here I am,” as their names were called one by one. Francis in a ritual asked if they were worthy to become priests.

During his homily, which largely tracked with the prescribed talk outlined in the Church’s ordination ritual, Francis told them to carry out their mission “in joy and charity” and to never “tire of being merciful” toward the faithful.

“This is the closeness fitting for a priest: Close to God in prayer, close to the bishops who’s your father, close to your presbyterate, your fellow priests, as brothers, without speaking badly of one another, and close to the People of God,” the pope said.

“Always have before your eyes the example of the Good Shepherd, who didn’t come to be served but to serve and to save those who are lost,” he said.

The seminarians’ ages range from mid-20s to 46.

The ordinations come as the church and many of its clergy have lost credibility with rank-and-file Catholics after decades of scandals involving pedophile priests and systematic cover-up by bishops.

RELATED: At Rome’s American seminary, scandals aren’t deterring future priests

Cardinal Angelo DeDonatis, the Vicar for Rome, concelebrated the ordination Mass with Francis, along with Cardinal Abril y Castelló Santos, a retired Archpriest of the Basilica of St. Mary Major, and several other bishops. seminary superiors and pastors of the parishes to which the new priests will be assigned.

Crux staff also contributed to this report.