|The role of the priest is essential for the
proclamation of the word
On Thursday, 17 September , at the
Papal Summer Residence in Castel Gandolfo, the Holy Father spoke to the
Bishops of the North East II Region of Brazil. They were the second
group of Brazilian Prelates to make their "ad limina visit" to Rome this
year. The following is a translation of the Pope's Address, which was
given in Portuguese.
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Like the Apostle Paul at the dawn of the Church, you
have come, beloved Pastors of the Ecclesiastical Provinces of Olinda e
and Natal, to visit Peter (cf. Gal : 8). I welcome and greet with
affection each one of you, starting with Archbishop Antônio
I thank him for conveying your sentiments and also expressing the joys,
difficulties and hopes of the pilgrim People of God in the North East II
Region. Through each one of you, I embrace the priests and faithful of
your diocesan communities.
With her faithful and with her ministers, the Church is
the priestly community on earth. She is organically structured as the
Body of Christ to carry out effectively her historical mission of
salvation, united with her Head. This is what St Paul teaches us: "You
are the body of Christ and individually members of it" (1 Cor 12:27). In
fact, the members do not all have the same function: it is this that
constitutes the beauty and life of the body (cf. 1 Cor 12:14-17). The
specific identity of the ordained faithful and lay people may be
understood through the fundamental difference between the ministerial
priesthood and the common priesthood. This is why the secularization of
priests and the clericalization of lay people must be avoided. Thus, in
this perspective, the lay faithful must engage to express in reality —
and also through political commitment — the Christian anthropological
vision and the social doctrine of the Church.
In other words priests must steer clear of personal
involvement in politics in order to encourage the unity and communion of
all the faithful and thus be a reference point for all. It is important
to increase this knowledge in priests, in religious and in the lay
faithful, encouraging and taking care in order that each may feel
motivated to act according to his or her own state.
The harmonious, correct and
clear deepening of the relationship between the common priesthood and
the ministerial priesthood is one of the most delicate issues in the
existence and life of the Church. In fact, the small number of priests
could lead communities to resign themselves to this shortage, finding
comfort, at times, in the fact that the lack of priests makes the role
of the lay faithful more prominent.
However, it is not the lack
of priests that justifies a more active and consistent participation of
lay people. The more aware the faithful become of their responsibilities
in the Church the more clearly stand out the priest's identity and his
irreplaceable role as Pastor of the community overall, as a witness of
the authenticity of the faith and a steward on behalf of Christ the Head
of the mysteries of salvation.
We know that the "saving
mission entrusted by the Father to his incarnate Son was committed to
the Apostles and through them to their successors: they receive the
Spirit of Jesus to act in his name and in his person. The ordained
minister is the sacramental bond that ties the liturgical action to what
the Apostles said and did and, through them, to the words and actions of
Christ, the source and foundation of the sacraments" (Catechism of
the Catholic Church, n. 1120).
For this reason, the role
of the priest is essential and irreplaceable for the proclamation of the
word and for the celebration of the sacraments, especially of the
Eucharist, the memorial of the supreme Sacrifice of Christ who gives his
Body and his Blood. I therefore urge you to ask the Lord to send
labourers to his harvest; furthermore, it is necessary for priests to
express the joy of fidelity to their identity with the enthusiasm of the
Beloved Brothers, I am sure
that with your pastoral concern and with prudence, you will take special
pains to guarantee the communities of your respective dioceses the
presence of an ordained minister. Although many of you are obliged to
organize ecclesial life with few priests, it is important to ensure that
the current situation is not regarded as normal or typical of the
As I recalled last week to
the first group of Brazilian Bishops, you must focus your efforts on
awakening new priestly vocations and on finding the indispensable
pastors for your dioceses, helping one another so that all may have at
their disposal better trained and more numerous priests to support the
life of faith and the apostolic mission of the faithful.
On the other hand, those
who have received Sacred Orders are also called to live with consistence
and in fullness the grace and commitments of Baptism, in other words to
offer themselves and their whole life in union with Christ's sacrifice.
The daily celebration of
the Sacrifice of the Altar and praying daily the Liturgy of the Hours
must always be accompanied by the testimony of an existence that becomes
a gift to God and to others and thus serves as an orientation for the
In recent months, the
Church has had her gaze fixed on the exemplary Holy Curé
d'Ars who asked the faithful to unite their own lives with the Sacrifice
of Christ and offered himself, exclaiming: "How well a priest does to
offer himself as a sacrifice to God every morning!" (Le Curé
d'Ars. Sa pensée
son Coeur, coord. Bernard Nodet, 1966, p. 104).
He continues to be an
up-to-date model for your priests, especially in living celibacy as a
requirement of the total gift of self, an expression of that pastoral
charity which the Second Vatican Council presents as a unifying centre
of priestly existence and action. Frei Antônio
de Sant'Anna Galvão
[Fra Anthony of St Anne Galvão],
whom I had the joy of canonizing on May 2007, lived in almost the same
period as the Curé
d'Ars in São
Paulo, in our beloved Brazil. He too left us a "witness as an ardent
adorer of the Eucharist", living in "laus perennis, in a
constant attitude of adoration" (Homily for the canonization of Bl.
Fra Anthony of St Anne Galvão,
n. 2; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 16 May 2007, p.
In this way they both
sought to imitate Jesus Christ, each making himself not only a priest
but also a victim and an oblation, like Jesus.
Beloved Brothers in the
Episcopate, numerous signs of hope for the future of your particular
Churches are already visible, a future that God is preparing through the
zeal and fidelity with which you exercise your episcopal ministry. I
would like to assure you of my fraternal support and at the same time I
ask you for your prayers so that I may be granted to strengthen everyone
in the faith of the Apostles (cf. Lk 22:32). May the Blessed Virgin.
Mary intercede for the whole People of God in Brazil, so that Pastors
and faithful, with courage and joy may boldly "proclaim the mystery of
the Gospel" (cf. Eph 6:19). With this prayer, I impart my Apostolic
Blessing to you, to the priests, and to all the faithful of your
dioceses "Peace to all of you that are in Christ" (1 Pt 5:14).