VATICAN CITY, JUNE 13, 2011 ( The work and mission of a papal representative is informed first and foremost by his priestly identity, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope made this reflection Friday when he addressed members of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, which is responsible for training candidates for the Holy See diplomatic service.

The Pontiff reflected with the students on the qualities of a representative of the Pope.

"Loyalty, coherence and profound humanity are the essential virtues of any envoy," he said, "who is called to put not only his own work and qualities, but in some way, his entire self at the service of a word that is not his."

But a diplomat who represents the Pope, the Holy Father noted, is characterized above all by the fact that they he is "a priest first, a bishop," and a man "who has already chosen to live at the service of a Word that is not his own.

"In fact," Benedict XVI explained, the papal representative "is a servant of the Word of God who, like every priest, has received a mission that cannot be carried out part time but that requires him to be, with his entire life, an echo of the message that has been entrusted to him, the Gospel message."

The Holy Father said that because of the priestly identity of the papal envoy, the task of bearing the word of the Pope should be a task he takes up "with a certain naturalness."

"In the exercise of such a delicate ministry," the Pontiff reminded, "the care of one's own spiritual life, the practice of human virtues, and the formation of a solid culture are interwoven and mutually sustained."

He said the foundations of a strong spiritual life will help the envoys to "maintain a deep inner balance in a work that requires, among other things, the capacity of openness to others, an equanimity of judgment, a critical distance from personal opinions, sacrifice, patience, constancy, and, at times, even firmness in dialogue with others."

Benedict XVI said that representing the Pope "allows one to live in constant and profound reference to the catholicity of the Church."

"Where there is openness to the objectivity of catholicity," he explained, "there also exists a principle of true personalization: a life dedicated to the service of the Pope and ecclesial communion is, in this sense, extremely enriching."

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