PRIESTS’ EUCHARISTIC-SACRIFICIAL MISSION IS INSEPARABLE FROM THEIR PASTORAL MISSION
Today, the fourth Sunday of Easter, Benedict XVI conferred priestly ordination upon nine deacons from Roman diocesan seminaries. During the ceremony, which was held in St. Peter’s Basilica, the Holy Father told the ordinands that the Roman tradition of celebrating ordinations on this Sunday, known as Good Shepherd Sunday, is rich in significance, its meaning being “associated with the convergence between the Word of God, the liturgical rite and the period of Easter in which it falls. The figure of the pastor in particular, so relevant in Sacred Scripture and naturally very important for our definition of priests, acquires its full truth and clarity in the face of Christ, in the light of the mystery of His death and resurrection,” he said.
The Pope commented on the reading from the Gospel of St. John, which begins with Jesus’ words: “I am the good shepherd” who “lays down his life for the sheep.” This phrase leads us immediately “to the apex of the revelation of God as pastor of His people,” he explained. “This center or apex is Jesus . . . Who died on the cross then rose from the grave on the third day. He rose with all His humanity, and so He involves us all . . . in His transition from death to life. This event — Christ’s Easter — in which God’s pastoral work was fully and definitively achieved, was a sacrificial event; therefore the Good Shepherd and the High Priest come together in Jesus, Who gave His life for us.”
The second reading, from the First Letter of St. John, tells us of “the fruits of Christ’s Easter: the fact that we have become children of God. . . . In fact, man’s status as child is the result of the salvific act of Jesus. Through His incarnation, death and resurrection, and the gift of the Holy Spirit, He gave man a new relationship with God: His own relationship with the Father. . . . This relationship is already real in every sense, but it is not yet fully manifest; it will be in the end when — if God wills — we see His face unveiled.
“This, dear ordinands, is where the Good Shepherd wishes to lead us,” the Pope added. “This is where the priest is called to lead the faithful under his care: to true life, to life ‘in abundance.’” At the same time, Jesus reaffirms that the characteristic of the true pastor is that of giving his life. “The biblical figure of the king-pastor, whose main task is to support the people of God, keep them united and guide then . . . is fully realized in Jesus Christ in the sacrificial dimension, in His offer of life. It is realized . . . in the mystery of the cross; that is, in the supreme act of humility and oblational love.”
This, the Pope noted, is the direction in which the formula used in the rite of Ordination lead. Indeed, among the questions regarding the “promises of the elect,” the last, which is as the culmination and summary of the others, says “do you wish to be ever more closely united to Christ, the High Priest Who, as pure victim, offered Himself to the Father for us, consecrating yourselves to God together with Him for the salvation of all mankind?”
By responding, “the priest becomes uniquely involved in the mystery of Christ’s sacrifice, through a personal bond with Him that prolongs His salvific mission. This union, which comes about through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, requires ‘ever closer union’ through the generous response of the priest himself.”
Benedict XVI also mentioned the formula used at the moment of consigning the bread and wine to the new priests: “Receive the offer of the holy people for the Eucharistic sacrifice. Understand what you do, imitate what you administer; conform your life to the mystery of the cross of Christ the Lord.” These words, he said, “underline the fact that, for priests, celebrating Mass every day does not mean merely undertaking a ritual function, but accomplishing a mission which involves all of existence, in communion with the risen Christ Who continues to enact the redeeming sacrifice in His Church.”
The Holy Father went on to note that “Eucharistic and sacrificial aspects are inseparable from the pastoral aspect, of which they are the nucleus of truth and salvific strength upon which the effectiveness of all activity depends. . . . The preaching, works and other activities which the Church carries out with her many initiatives would lose their salvific fruitfulness if the celebration of Christ’s sacrifice were lacking. This celebration is entrusted to ordained priests. . . . Only through the ‘door’ of the Paschal sacrifice can men and women of all times and places enter eternal life. It is through this ‘holy path’ that they can make the exodus which leads them to the ‘promised land’ of true freedom, to the ‘green fields’ of endless peace and joy.
“Dear ordinands, “the Holy Father added in conclusion, “may this Word of God illuminate your lives. And when the weight of the cross becomes more burdensome, know that that is the most precious moment, for you and for the people entrusted to your care. By faithfully and lovingly renewing your ‘yes with God’s help I want it,’ you help Christ, High Priest and Good Pastor, to feed His sheep; perhaps only the sheep which was lost, but for which there will be great joy in heaven.”
DAY FOR VOCATIONS: TO BE FREE IS TO RESPOND TO THE LOVE OF GOD
At midday today, the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, the Holy Father asked people to pray “that all young people may be attentive to the inner voice of God, which speaks to their hearts and calls them to abandon everything in order to serve Him.” Addressing faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the Regina Coeli Benedict XVI affirmed that “the Lord calls always, but often we are not listening.
“We are distracted by many things, by other more superficial voices,” he added. “We are afraid to listen to the voice of the Lord because we believe it can detract from our freedom. The truth is that each of us is the fruit of love; the love of our parents, of course, but also and more profoundly the love of God. . . . When we become aware of this our lives change; they become a response to that love which is greater than any other, and thus our freedom is fully realized.”
The Pope then mentioned the new priests he had ordained that morning during Mass in the Vatican Basilica. “They are no different to other young men,” he affirmed, “But they have been profoundly touched by the beauty and love of God, and could not but respond with the whole of their lives.” They discovered the love of God in Jesus Christ, in His Gospel, in the Eucharist and in the community of the Church. “In the Church we discover that the life of each human being is a story of love,” he said.
To conclude Benedict XVI exhorted the faithful to pray that “the seeds of vocation which God so generously scatters” may germinate and come to fruit in all areas of the Church, “in the joy of having been called and in the variety of gifts. Families in particular must be the first place in which to ‘breathe’ the love of God, which gives inner strength even in the midst of the difficulties and trials of life. People who experience the love of God in their family, receive a priceless gift which, in time, will come to bear fruit.”
PERENNIAL IMPORTANCE OF THE ENCYCLICAL “PACEM IN TERRIS”
The Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences has been holding its eighteenth plenary session in Rome over recent days, during which participants focused their attention on the contribution Blessed John XXIII’s Encyclical “Pacem in Terris” has made to the social doctrine of the Church.
“At the height of the Cold War, when the world was still coming to terms with the threat posed by the existence and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, Pope John addressed what has been described as an “open letter to the world.” It was a heartfelt appeal . . . for the cause of peace and justice to be vigorously promoted at every level of society, nationally and internationally.” These words were expressed by Benedict XVI in a message to Mary Ann Glendon, president of the academy. The message, written in English, was made public today.
“While the global political landscape has changed significantly in the intervening half-century, the vision offered by Pope John still has much to teach us as we struggle to face the new challenges for peace and justice in the post-Cold-War era, amid the continuing proliferation of armaments,” the Pope writes. “Pope John’s Encyclical was and is a powerful summons to engage in that creative dialogue between the Church and the world, between believers and non-believers, which Vatican Council II set out to promote. It offers a thoroughly Christian vision of man’s place in the cosmos, confident that in so doing it is holding out a message of hope to a world that is hungry for it, a message that can resonate with people of all beliefs and none, because its truth is accessible to all.
“In that same spirit, after the terrorist attacks that shook the world in September 2001, Blessed John Paul II insisted that there can be “no peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness.” The notion of forgiveness needs to find its way into international discourse on conflict resolution, so as to transform the sterile language of mutual recrimination which leads nowhere. If the human creature is made in the image of God, a God of justice Who is “rich in mercy,” then these qualities need to be reflected in the conduct of human affairs. . . . Forgiveness is not a denial of wrong-doing, but a participation in the healing and transforming love of God which reconciles and restores.”
“Historic wrongs and injustices can only be overcome if men and women are inspired by a message of healing and hope, a message that offers a way forward, out of the impasse that so often locks people and nations into a vicious circle of violence. Since 1963, some of the conflicts that seemed insoluble at the time have passed into history. Let us take heart, then, as we struggle for peace and justice in the world today, confident that our common pursuit of the divinely established order, of a world where the dignity of every human person is accorded the respect that is due, can and will bear fruit,” the Holy Father concludes.
INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS ON BLINDNESS
The Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care has organized an international congress entitled: “The Blind. ‘My Teacher, let me see again!’” The event is due to be held on 4 and 5 May in the Pius X Hall on Via della Conciliazione in Rome, and will focus primarily on the theological-pastoral and medical-scientific aspects of treating blind and partially sighted persons.
Participants will include Cardinal Peter Kodwo Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and Silvio Paolo Mariotti, head of the blindness and deafness prevention program of the World Health Organization. Also present will be Msgr. Roberto Brunelli, director of the diocesan museum of Mantua, Italy, who will illustrate the planning and realization of a special room for blind people, and the results obtained. Two touch-perceptible versions of works from the museum will be on display at the congress.
BENEDICT XVI’S PRAYER INTENTIONS FOR MAY
Pope Benedict’s general prayer intention for May is: “That initiatives which defend and uphold the role of the family may be promoted within society.”
His mission intention is: “That Mary, Queen of the World and Star of Evangelization, may accompany all missionaries in proclaiming her Son Jesus.”
The Holy Father today received in audience:
• Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, accompanied by Bishop Frans Daneels, secretary of the tribunal.
• Archbishop Jean-Louis Brugues O.P., secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education.
• Archbishop Luciano Russo, apostolic nuncio to Rwanda, accompanied by members of his family.
On Saturday 28 April he received in audience:
• Cesar Castillo Ramirez, the new Peruvian ambassador to the Holy See, for the presentation of his Letters of Credence.
• Cardinal Marc Ouellet P.S.S., prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.
OTHER PONTIFICAL ACTS
The Holy Father appointed:
• Msgr. Pawel Malecha as substitute promoter of justice at the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, and Fr. Jose Fernando Mejia Yanez M.G., as head of the chancellery of the same tribunal.
• Antonio Chiminello, consultor of the prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See, as vice director of the Auditors Office of Vatican City State.
On Saturday 28 April it was made public that the Holy Father:
• Appointed Msgr. Tadeusz Litynski of the clergy of Zielona Gora-Gorzow, Poland, pastor of the parish of Christ the King at Gorzow Wielkopolski, as auxiliary of Zielona Gora-Gorzow (area 10,805, population 1,120,158, Catholics 1,088,947, priests 629, religious 297). The bishop-elect was born in Kozuchow, Poland in 1962 and ordained a priest in 1988. He has worked in pastoral care in a number of parishes, and has served in the diocesan tribunal, first as notary, then as defender of the bond and judge.
• Accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the diocese of Gweru, Zimbabwe, presented by Bishop Martin Munyanyi, in accordance with canon 401 para. 2 of the Code of Canon Law, appointing Bishop Michael Dixon Bhasera of Masvingo as apostolic administrator “sede vacante et ad nutum Sanctae Sedis” of Gweru.
Tomorrow Tuesday 1 May, feast of St. Joseph the Worker and a holiday in the Vatican, no VIS bulletin will be transmitted. Service will resume on Wednesday 3 May.