VATICAN CITY, JAN. 12, 2004 (Zenit.org).- If shrines are to be places where people encounter God, they must be served by priests of great pastoral sensitivity, apostolic zeal and a spirit of warm welcome, says John Paul II.
The Pope described the traits that should characterize priests who serve in shrines when he addressed the plenary assembly of the Vatican Congregation for Clergy, which studied this topic in its working agenda.
Shrines “attract numerous faithful in search of God, ready therefore for a more incisive proclamation of the Good News and open to accept the invitation to conversion,” the Holy Father said in his address Saturday.
“It is important, therefore, that in them priests carry out their ministry with acute pastoral sensitivity, animated by apostolic zeal, gifted with a paternal spirit of welcome, and with experience in the art of preaching and catechesis,” he said.
John Paul II emphasized the need for shrines to offer pilgrims the possibility of going to confession.
“The confessor, particularly in shrines, is called to reflect with each one of his actions and words the merciful love of Christ,” the Pope said. “Therefore, he needs appropriate doctrinal and pastoral formation.”
He added: “At the center of every pilgrimage there are liturgical celebrations, in the first place, Holy Mass.” He urged that the latter always be prepared with care and animated “by a profound devotion, eliciting the active participation of the faithful.”