VATICAN CITY, MARCH 12, 2010 (Zenit.org).- When a priest sees himself as nothing more than a “social agent,” he runs the risk of betraying the priesthood itself, says Benedict XVI.
The Pope said this today upon receiving in audience the participants in the International Theological Conference “Fidelity of Christ, Fidelity of the Priest,” organized by the Congregation for Clergy.
The two-day event ended today, which was attended by more than 50 bishops and over 500 priests and was organized around the theme of the Year for Priests.
The Pontiff broached the topic of priestly identity, which he said is important to have clear so as to not “yield to the temptation to reduce it to the prevailing cultural categories.”
He noted that especially within the context of secularization, which sees the priest as something “strange,” it is important to “overcome dangerous reductionism that, in past decades, using categories that were more functional than ontological, has presented the priest almost as a ‘social agent,’ running the risk of betraying the priesthood of Christ itself.”
Benedict XVI then called for an hermeneutic “of priestly continuity,” that would show the uninterruptedness of the priesthood beginning with Jesus Christ and leading up through modern times.
Charism of prophecy
“Dear brother priests,” the said, “at this time in which we live, it is especially important that the call to participate in the one priesthood of Christ in the ordained ministry flower in the ‘charism of prophecy’: There is a great need of priests that speak of God to the world and that present God to the world; men not subject to ephemeral cultural ways, but capable of living in an authentic way that liberty, that only the certainty of belonging to God is in a condition to give.”
The Pontiff said the most necessary prophecy is that of fidelity, which is to “live one’s priesthood in total adherence to Christ and to the Church.”
Referring to the Catechism f the Catholic Church, the Holy Father said the “priest no longer belongs to himself but, because of the sacramental seal received, is ‘property’ of God. This ‘being of Another’ must be made recognizable by all, through a clear witness.”
He said this “belonging to God” also provides the “appropriate framework to understand and reaffirm, also in our days, the value of sacred celibacy.”
The Pontiff called celibacy an “authentic prophecy of the Kingdom, sign of consecration to the Lord and to the ‘things of the Lord’ with an undivided heart, expression of the gift of self to God and to others.”
“The vocation of the priest, which continues being a great mystery also for those of us who have received it as a gift, is sublime,” Benedict XVI affirmed.
“Our limitations and weaknesses must lead us to live and protect with profound faith that precious gift, with which Christ has configured us to himself, making us participants in his salvific mission,” he said.
“Beloved priests, the men and women of our time do not only ask that we be thorough priests and no more,” the Holy Father continued. “The lay faithful will find in many other persons what they humanly need, but only in the priest will they be able to find that Word of God that must always be on their lips; the mercy of the Father, which is lavished abundantly and free in the sacrament of reconciliation; the Bread of New Life, ‘true nourishment given to men.'”
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