Papal Address to Priests and Parents

«No Vocation Is a Private Issue»

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ANCONA, Italy, SEPT. 12, 2011 ( Here is a translation of the address to priests and families that Benedict XVI gave Sunday during his visit to Ancona. He made a one-day trip to the Italian port city for the close of the 25th Italian National Eucharistic Congress.

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Dear priests and dear spouses,

The hill on which this cathedral is built has enabled us to have a most beautiful view of the city and the sea; but if one crosses the majestic portico, the soul is fascinated by the harmony of the Romanesque style, enriched by an interweaving of Byzantine influences and Gothic elements. Also in your presence, priests and married couples from various Italian dioceses, [we can] perceive the beauty of the harmony and complementarity of your different vocations. Mutual knowledge and esteem, and sharing the same faith, lead to appreciating the other’s charism and to recognizing one another within the one «spiritual house» (1 Peter 2:5) that, having Jesus Christ himself as the cornerstone, grows well ordered to be a holy temple in the Lord (cf. Ephesians 2:20-21). Thank you, therefore, for this meeting: thank you to the beloved archbishop, Edoardo Menichelli, also for the kind words with which he presented this meeting, and to each one of you.

I would like to pause briefly on the need to lead holy orders and matrimony back to their unique Eucharistic source. Both states of life have — in the love of Christ, who gives himself for the salvation of humanity — the same root; they are called to a common mission: to give witness and to make present this love for the good of the community, for the building up of the People of God (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1534). This perspective makes it possible above all to surmount a reductive vision of the family, which considers it as a mere recipient of pastoral work. It is true that, in this difficult time, the family needs particular care. Not because of this, however, must its identity be diminished or its specific responsibility be denied. The family is richness for the spouses, most irreplaceable for children, the indispensable foundation of society, and a vital community for the journey of the Church.

At the ecclesial level, to appreciate the family means to recognize its importance in pastoral activity. The ministry born from the sacrament of matrimony is important for the life of the Church: The family is the privileged place for human and Christian education and continues to be, for this end, the best ally of the priestly ministry; it is a precious gift for the building up of the community. The priest’s closeness to the family helps him in turn to become aware of his own profound reality and his own mission, fostering the development of a strong ecclesial sensitivity. No vocation is a private issue, and matrimony much less so, because its horizon is the whole Church. Hence, in pastoral work, it is a question of being able to integrate and harmonize the priestly ministry with «the authentic Gospel of matrimony and of the family» (encyclical «Familiaris Consortio,» 8), for a real and fraternal communion. And the Eucharist is the center and the source of this unity, which animates all the action of the Church.

Dear priests, by the gift that you received at ordination, you are called to serve the ecclesial community as pastors, this community that is a «family of families,» and, hence, you are called to love each one with a paternal heart, with genuine forgetfulness of yourselves, with full, continual and faithful dedication. You are the living sign that points to Christ Jesus, the only Good Shepherd. Conform yourselves to him, to his style of life, with that total and exclusive service of which celibacy is an expression. The priest also has a spousal dimension; it is to be lost in the heart of Christ the Spouse, who gives his life for the Church his Bride (cf. postsynodal apostolic exhortation «Sacramentum Caritatis,» 24). Cultivate a profound familiarity with the Word of God, Light on your way. May the daily and faithful celebration of the Eucharist be the place to obtain the strength to give of yourselves every day in the ministry and to live constantly in the presence of God: He is your abode and heritage. You must be witnesses of this for the family and for every person that the Lord puts on your path, also in the most difficult circumstances (cf. ibid., 80). Encourage spouses, share their educational responsibilities, help them to continually renew the grace of their marriage. Make the family a protagonist in pastoral work. Be hospitable and merciful, also with those for whom it is most difficult to fulfill the commitments they assumed in the matrimonial bond and with all those who, unfortunately, have failed.

Dear spouses, your matrimony is rooted in the faith that «God is love» (1 John 4:8) and that to follow Christ means «to abide in love» (cf. John 15:9-10). Your union — as the Apostle Paul teaches — is a sacramental sign of the love of Christ for the Church (cf. Ephesians 5:32), a love that culminates on the cross and which is «signified and made present in the Eucharist» (apostolic exhortation «Sacramentum Caritatis,» 29). May the Eucharistic Mystery influence ever more profoundly your daily life: You will draw inspiration and strength from this sacrament for your conjugal relationship and for the educational mission to which you are called. Build your families in unity, a gift that comes from on high and which nourishes your commitment in the Church and in promoting a just and fraternal world. Love your priests, express to them your appreciation for the service they carry out. May you be able also to bear with their limitations, without ever ceasing to ask them to be exemplary ministers among you, who speak to you of God and who lead you to him. Your fellowship is for them a valuable spiritual help and support in the trials of life.

Dear priests and dear spouses, may you be able to find always in Holy Mass the strength to live your membership in Christ and his Church, in forgiveness and in the gift of self and in gratitude. May your daily work have its origin and center in sacramental communion, so that all is done for the glory of God. In this way, Christ’s sacrifice of love will transform you, until it makes you in him «one body and one Spirit» (cf. Ephesians 4:4-6). Educating new generations in the faith is linked to your coherence too. Give them a witness of the demanding beauty of Christian life, with the trust and patience of the one who knows the power of the seed thrown to the earth. As in the evangelical passage we have heard (Mark 5:21-24.35-43), be for all those entrusted to your responsibility a sign of the benevolence and tenderness of Jesus: He makes visible how the God who loves life is not foreign to or distant from human vicissitudes, but is the friend who never abandons. And in the moments when the temptation is insinuated that all educational commitment is vain, obtain from the Eucharist the light to reinforce faith, certain that the grace and power of Jesus Christ can reach man in every situation, including the most difficult.

Dear friends, I entrust you all to the protection of Mary, venerated in this cathedral with the title «Queen of All Saints.» Tradition joins her image to the ex-voto of a sailor, in thanksgiving for the salvation of his son, who came through a storm at sea unharmed. May the maternal gaze of the Mother also accompany your steps in holiness to a port of peace.

[Translation by ZENIT]
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