VATICAN CITY, MARCH 28, 2002 ( In a Holy Thursday homily, John Paul II requested prayers for all priests who are persecuted in the name of Christ, as well as for those who have abandoned their ministry or are experiencing a crisis.

The Pope made his appeal during the Chrism Mass, which he concelebrated with hundreds of priests. The Holy Father consecrated the holy chrism, the oil of catechumens and of the sick.

The priests attending the Mass renewed the promises they made on the day of their ordination.

"Let us pray for all priests," the Pope exhorted, "in particular for those working in the midst of difficulties and who suffer persecutions, remembering especially those who have paid for their fidelity to Christ with their blood."

He also requested prayers "for those brothers of ours who have failed in the fulfillment of the commitments made at their priestly ordination or who are going through a period of difficulty and crisis."

The Pontiff reminded the more than 400,000 priests of the world that, "conscious of human weakness, but confident in the healing power of divine grace, we are called to embrace the ´Mysterium Crucis´ [mystery of the cross] and to commit ourselves ultimately to the quest for holiness."

The Eucharist was presided over by John Paul II and officiated by Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy.

The Pope read the formula of the eucharistic consecration, but it was the cardinal who raised the Host and chalice.

On Wednesday, Bishop Piero Marini, master of papal liturgical celebrations, explained that the cardinal´s help was due to the persistent arthritic pain in the Pope´s right knee.