VATICAN CITY, NOV. 26, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II praised the service rendered to the Church by Father Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legionaries of Christ and of the Regnum Christi Movement, on the 60th anniversary of his priestly ordination.
The Pope expressed his appreciation in a full message, which resounded today in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, in Rome.
The message was read on his behalf by Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, substitute of the Secretariat of State for general affairs, at the end of the thanksgiving Mass at which Father Maciel presided.
Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, participated in the Eucharistic celebration, as did numerous cardinals and bishops, including members of the Roman Curia.
The day before, in the Basilica of St. Mary Major, the prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Archbishop Franc Rodé, ordained 59 Legionaries to the priesthood.
The new priests hail from the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Ireland, Spain, Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela, Chile and Vietnam.
At the end of that Mass, Archbishop Rodé read the decree with which his Vatican congregation announced that John Paul II had approved the statutes of the Regnum Christi Movement.
In his message to Father Maciel, John Paul II recalled that day 60 years ago when the founder was ordained a priest in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, in Mexico City.
“On that day was completed the journey of formation for the priesthood, initiated by you at 16 with the dream of giving rise to priests totally dedicated to the proclamation of the Gospel and the moral and social uplifting of the poorest and most marginalized brothers,” affirmed the Pope.
“This project of love of Christ, fidelity to the Church, and service to man was able to be realized with the birth in Mexico City on January 3, 1941, of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ, whose Constitutions were, later, approved definitively by me in the year 1983,” he recalled.
“Your 60 years of priestly life, Reverend Father, have been characterized by significant spiritual and missionary fecundity with different apostolic works and activities such as the Regnum Christi Movement, the network of schools called ‘Mano Amiga’ [Helping Hand], the numerous educational and charitable institutions — present today in 16 countries of the five continents — whose objective is to promote the values of the family and the human person, [and] university centers of study and formation,” the Pope continued.
“And, what to say, moreover, of the apostolate of the priests Legionaries of Christ as well as the commitment of the whole congregation in favor of the integral formation of future diocesan priests, particularly through the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum, and the two Mater Ecclesiae international seminaries of Rome and Sao Paulo in Brazil?” the Pope asked.
The Holy Father expressed his personal gratitude to the Mexican priest, born in 1920 in Cotija de la Paz, for the services rendered “in these years to the Holy See, which has made use — on several occasions and in different ways — of your generous and competent collaboration, whether on the occasion of some of my apostolic trips, or in the activity of organizations of the Roman Curia.”
“I am happy to join in the canticle of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord, that rises from many hearts for the ‘great things’ that the grace of God has realized in these 60 years of your intense, generous, and fruitful priestly ministry,” John Paul II stated.
The Legion of Christ is a religious congregation of pontifical right, founded in 1941. Its mission is the extension of the Kingdom of Christ in society according to the exigencies of Christian justice and charity, and in close collaboration with the pastors and programs of each diocese.
It has more than 600 priests and close to 2,500 major and minor seminarians. It has established houses in 18 countries.
Regnum Christi has about 65,000 members: laypeople, consecrated members, deacons and priests.