VATICAN CITY, MARCH 21, 2002 ( In his Letter to Priests for Holy Thursday, John Paul II expresses his sorrow over the widely publicized scandals caused by priests.

"As priests, we are personally and profoundly afflicted by the sins of some of our brothers, who have betrayed the grace of Ordination in succumbing even to the most grievous forms of the ´mysterium iniquitatis´ at work in the world," the Pontiff laments. Sex-abuse scandals involving priests, especially in the United States, have received wide media attention in recent months.

The Holy Father refers to the "grave scandal caused, with the result that a dark shadow of suspicion is cast over all the other fine priests who perform their ministry with honesty and integrity, and often with heroic self-sacrifice."

Faced with this situation, the Bishop of Rome has given a double response.

In the first place, "the Church shows her concern for the victims and strives to respond in truth and justice to each of these painful situations," John Paul II writes.

In the second place, the Pope appeals to priests, "conscious of human weakness, but trusting in the healing power of divine grace," to "embrace the ´mysterium Crucis´ and to commit ourselves more fully to the search for holiness."

"We must beg God in his Providence to prompt a whole-hearted reawakening of those ideals of total self-giving to Christ which are the very foundation of the priestly ministry," the Pope continues.

John Paul II ends his letter by explaining that faith in Christ "gives us the strength to look trustingly to the future."

"We know that the human heart has always been attracted to evil, and that man will be able to radiate peace and love to those around him only if he meets Christ and allows himself to be ´overtaken´ by him," the Holy Father emphasizes.

"As ministers of the Eucharist and of sacramental Reconciliation, we, in particular, have the task of communicating hope, goodness, and peace to the world," the Pope concludes.