VATICAN CITY, FEB. 13, 2011 ( While community life might help to attract vocations to the priesthood, or help priests avoid a life a solitude, it's true value is that it's a "path for immersing oneself in the reality of communion," says Benedict XVI.

The Pope said this today upon greeting the priests and seminarians of the Fraternity of St. Charles on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the foundation of the community.

During his address, the Holy Father addressed the "place of the ordained priesthood in the life of the Church," and the "place of communal life in the priestly experience."

"The Christian priesthood is not an end in itself," the Pontiff stated. "It was willed by Christ in function of the birth and the life of the Church."

Benedict XVI explained that the "glory and joy of the priesthood is to serve Christ and his Mystical Body. It represents a very beautiful and singular vocation in the Church, which makes Christ present because it participates in the one and eternal priesthood of Christ."

Regarding communal life for priests, the Pope noted that he has spoken on many occasions about the importance for priests to live in community: "It is important for priests not to live off on their own somewhere, but to accompany one another in small communities, to support one another, and so to experience, and constantly realize afresh, their communion in service to Christ and in renunciation for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven."

The Holy Father recalled that communal life is not first and foremost a "strategy" to help attract vocations, nor is it "only a form of help in the face of the solitude and weakness of man."

"All of this may certainly be true," he continued, "but only if it is conceived and lived as a path for immersing oneself in the reality of communion. Communal life is in fact an expression of the gift of Christ that is the Church, and it is prefigured in the apostolic community from which the priesthood arose."

"Communal life thus expresses a help that Christ provides for our life, calling us, through the presence of brothers, to an ever more profound conformity to his person," the Holy Father added. "Living with others means accepting the need of my own continual conversion and above all discovering the beauty of such a journey, the joy of humility, of penance, but also of conversation, of mutual forgiveness, of mutual support."

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