Archbishop: Priesthood Is a Gift, Not a Right

Says Dignity Should Be Manifest in Clerical Life

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 3, 2010 ( The priesthood is a gift from God, and thus it cannot be claimed as a right, says the secretary of the Congregation for Clergy.

Archbishop Mauro Piacenza stated this in a letter addressed to all priests of the world in this year dedicated to the clergy.

He offered a reflection on a prayer from the ordination rite that reads: «Almighty Father, grant to these servants of yours the dignity of the priesthood. Renew within them the Spirit of holiness.

«As co-workers with the order of bishops may they be faithful to the ministry that they receive from you, Lord God, and be to others a model of right conduct.»

The archbishop stated that a «central part of the prayer of ordination recalls how the priest is essentially a gift.»

In view of this «supernatural gift,» he continued, the presbyter «carries himself with a dignity which everyone, clergy and lay faithful, are called to recognize.»

«One has in mind a dignity that is not the work of man, but which is the pure gift of grace, to which one is called and which no one can demand as a right,» the prelate affirmed.

He stated that the dignity of the priesthood «must be evident in the life of priests: in their sanctity, in their welcoming humanity full of humility and pastoral charity, in the clarity of their faithfulness to the Gospel and the doctrine of the Church, in the sobriety and solemnity of their celebration of the divine mysteries, in their ecclesiastical garb.»

«Everything in the priest must lead him to recall, to himself and to the world, that he is the object of an unmerited gift beyond any merit of his, which makes him an efficacious presence of the Absolute in the world for the salvation of men,» Archbishop Piacenza affirmed.

He added that the priest, «clothed with the Spirit of the Almighty Father, is called to guide the journey of sanctification of the people entrusted to him by teaching and the celebration of the sacraments.»

He does this «above all with his own life,» the prelate stated, «with the certainty that this is the only end for which the priest himself exists: Paradise!»

He concluded his letter by expressing the hope that «the memory of the gift received, always renewed by the Spirit and the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary» will «allow each priest to faithfully fulfill his mission in the world, in joyful expectation of the heavenly reward kept safe for the chosen sons, who are also heirs.»

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