POPE CELEBRATES BIRTHDAY, JUBILEE FOR PRIESTS
VATICAN (CWNews.com) -- Pope John Paul II presided at the Jubilee for priests on May 18--
his birthday-- with a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica concelebrated by 8,000 priests, 250 bishops, and
In his homily the Pope offered special thoughts for those priests who are now sick, or lonely, or
"suffering through various difficulties." He also added a word for those priests "who, for diverse
circumstances, no longer exercise their priestly ministy," and said that he kept them in his prayer.
Over 2,000 priests had come to Rome, at the invitation of the Congregation for the Clergy,
especially for the Jubilee for priests, which included events stretching from May 14- 18. (At least
250 received some financial help from the Vatican so that they could make the trip.) Several
thousand more-- including many priests from Rome itself-- joined the Holy Father for the
concluding liturgical celebration. For those priests who participated in the entire Jubilee program,
the most dramatic moments came on the evening of May 16, when they made the Stations of the
Cross outdoors, in a field near the Tiber River. The priests, divided into different nationalities and
linguistic groups, moved slowly through the 14 stations, which were marked by candles. Then they
gathered to hear the Slovakian Cardinal Jan Chryzostom Korec tell the story of a priest who was
imprisoned for 12 years under the Czech Communist regime.
On the following evening, several hundred priests gathered in St. Peter's Square to pray the
Rosary, and Pope John Paul appeared at the window of his apartment to
During their Jubilee, the priests who traveled to Rome had opportunities to hear-- and in many
cases to speak personally with-- Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican Secretary of State; Cardinal
Lucas Moreira Neves, the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops (who had only recently been
released from the hospital after a serious illness); and Cardinal Dario Castrillo Hoyos, the prefect
of the Congregation for the Clergy.
In his homily at the final Mass, Pope John Paul insisted that every priest should struggle to offer
"exemplary witness" to the faith, and be prepared for martyrdom if that is necessary. Because it
was the Pope's 80th birthday, the official Vatican newspaper carried a long series of greetings and
plaudits for the Pontiff. Among the world leaders whose words of praise were printed in the May
18 issue of L'Osseravtore Romano were: Yasser Arafat, Ehud Barak, Michael Gorbachev, Kofi
Annan, Lech Walesa, and Hosni Mubarak. The Holy Father also received congratulatory
telegrams from the Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople and the Russian
Orthodox Metropolitan of Smolensk, who conveyed the greetings of the Patriarch of Moscow.