VALLETTA, Malta, OCT. 20, 2004 (Zenit.org).- People come to priests seeking Christ, and they have a right to see him in ministers, the prefect of the Congregation for Clergy told 1,000 participants at an international congress.
Some 1,000 of the world’s priests, from more than 80 countries, have gathered on this Mediterranean island to reflect and pray on the topic “Priests, Forgers of Saints for the New Millennium — Following in the Footsteps of the Apostle Paul.”
John Paul II will join the congress on Thursday via satellite.
During the solemn concelebrated opening Mass on Monday, in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Valletta, Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, prefect of the organizing dicastery, described the priest as a “man of God, … chosen and sent to be Christ on the paths of the world, … and to reflect the Eucharistic face of Christ by his own holiness of life.”
“We priests are a great work of the mercy of God,” the cardinal said. “On your toils and sufferings, on your successes and joys, on the fecund mystery of your priestly ministry united to the Cross of Christ, flowers, grows and is reinvigorated in the People of the New Covenant the new life, that of Christ crucified and resurrected.”
The priest’s necessary “identification with Christ” means letting himself “be indwelled by him, the living Word, in such a way that it becomes his own word,” he said.
“As priests we cannot carry forward ‘our’ ideas, uprooted from Christ, by whom we have been sent,” the prefect said. It is Christ “who gives salvific efficacy to our preaching, the light that enlightens human uncertainties and fears.”
He added: “We are called to speak with the ‘I of Christ’! This is our identity, our real dignity, the source of our joy, and the certainty of our lives!”
Cardinal Castrillón recalled also that the priest is not author of the sacraments, but rather Christ is “who by the will of God the Father” makes the priest “instrument of his holiness for the good of all.”
“That is why I like to think of our ordained priesthood as a gift of the divine mercy that fills all our being,” he said.
“Men wish to see in us the face of Christ.” Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos pointed out. “Christ crucified is the supreme image of the love of the invisible God, and the humble love of the incarnated, crucified and resurrected God is the door of holiness in the world, and we, his ministers, are in this door.”
“Let us not close this door, let us open it wide!” he exhorted. “To us priests, men ask for Christ, and they have a right to see him in us! Only those who have learned to ‘be with Jesus’ at the foot of the cross are ready to let him be seen, ready to be sent to evangelize.
“Therefore, let us start afresh from Christ, in the way of the cross whose fruit is the Eucharist. To be holy in our priestly life and to point out the remedies and solutions to human hearts disoriented, hopeful or disillusioned by the most varied forms of alienation we must pause before the Eucharistic face of Christ, pointing out forcefully to all Christians the centrality of the sacred Eucharist.”