VATICAN CITY, JUNE 26, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI appealed to priests not to confuse their ministry with political office.
The Pope made that appeal Saturday when receiving in audience the bishops of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, who were on their five-yearly visit to Rome.
“Priestly identity must never be likened to any secular title or confused with civic or political office,” the Holy Father told the bishops in his address delivered in English.
“Rather, configured to Christ who emptied himself taking the form of a servant, the priest lives a life of simplicity, chastity and humble service, which inspires others by example,” Benedict XVI indicated.
He asked the prelates from Oceania “to uphold the unique identity of your priests, to encourage their personal sanctification in the ministry, and to foster a deepening of their pastoral commitment.”
In this context, the Pope said that “the proper formation of priests and religious is absolutely integral to successful evangelization.”
“Your concern for the human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral development of your seminarians, as well as men and women religious in training, will bear much fruit in your dioceses,” he continued.
The Holy Father encouraged the bishops “to ensure careful selection of candidates, to supervise your seminaries personally and to provide regular programs of ongoing formation so necessary for deepening priestly and religious identity and enriching joyful commitment to celibacy.”
About 20% of the Solomons’ approximately 538,000 inhabitants are Catholics. About 45% are Anglican.
In Papua New Guinea, a country of 5.5 million inhabitants, Catholics comprise 22% of the population.