Pope Urges Bishops to Help Priests

Recalls That Main Priority Is Spiritual Life

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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 22, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Being available for his people should not bring a bishop to diminish his availability for the Lord, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope affirmed this Monday when he was visited at Castel Gandolfo by bishops who have been ordained over the last year. In his address to them, the Holy Father pointed to the Year for Priests and emphasized the need for prelates to support their priests.

“The imitation of Jesus the Good Shepherd is, for every priest, the obligatory path for their own sanctification and the essential condition for exercising the pastoral ministry responsibly. If this is true for priests, it is even more so for us, dear brother bishops,” the Holy Father said. “What is more, it is important not to forget that one of the essential tasks of the bishop is precisely to help priests, by example and with fraternal support, to follow their vocation faithfully, and to work with enthusiasm and love in the Lord’s vineyard.”

The Pontiff said that a particular mission for bishops is nourishing the spiritual life of priests, “to foster in them harmony between prayer and the apostolate, looking at the example of Jesus and of the Apostles, whom he called first of all ‘to be with him.'”

Benedict XVI acknowledged that priests, and even more so, bishops, face a “lot of work that tends to absorb [them] continually and totally.”

“Nevertheless,” he affirmed, “attention to the problems of every day and the initiatives directed to leading men on the way of God, must never distract us from our profound and personal union with Christ. To be available to people should not diminish or obfuscate our availability to the Lord. The time that the priest and bishop dedicate to God in prayer is always the best employed, because prayer is the soul of pastoral activity.”

In this regard, the Pope encouraged a profound Eucharistic life, as well as devotion in the Liturgy of the Hours, lectio divina, and the rosary.

He concluded with a reference to St. John Vianney, patron of the Year for Priests, who “with the Word and the sacraments […] edified his people” and was thus able to plant the “love of God” in Ars.

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