Letter to Priests From Clergy Congregation

«We have accepted the invitation to ‘sanctify ourselves’ and to become ‘ministers of sanctification’ for our brothers»

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 26, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Leading up to the World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of the Clergy, held on the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (this year, June 15), the Congregation for Clergy has written a letter to priests. It is signed by Cardinal Maura Piacenza, the prefect, and Archbishop Celso Morga Iruzubieta, secretary.

* * *

Dear Priests,

on the forthcoming solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (June 15, 2012), as usual, we shall celebrate World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of the Clergy. The expression found in Scripture “This is the will of God: your holiness!” (1 Thess 4:3), though addressed to all Christians, refers to us priests in particular, for we have accepted the invitation to “sanctify ourselves” and to become “ministers of sanctification” for our brothers. In our case, this “will of God” is, so to speak, doubled and multiplied to infinity, and we must obey it in everything we do. This is our wonderful destiny: we cannot be sanctified without working on the holiness of our brothers, and we cannot work on the holiness of our brothers unless we have first worked on and continue to work on our own holiness.

Ushering the Church into the new millennium, Blessed John Paul II reminded us that this “ideal of perfection”, which must be offered to everyone, is normal indeed: “To ask catechumens: ‘Do you wish to receive Baptism?’ means at the same time to ask them: ‘Do you wish to become holy?’”[1]

On the day of our Priestly Ordination the same baptismal question surely resounded in our heart, calling for a personal answer; but it was also entrusted to us so that we might address it to the faithful, cherishing its beauty and preciousness. This does not mean that we are not aware of our personal shortcomings, or of the faults committed by some who have brought shame upon the priesthood before the world. Ten years later – considering that the situation has grown ever more serious – we must let the words pronounced by John Paul II on Holy Thursday of 2002 resound in our heart with greater strength and urgency: “At this time too, as priests we are personally and profoundly afflicted by the sins of some of our brothers who have betrayed the grace of Ordination in succumbing even to the most grievous forms of the mysterium iniquitatis at work in the world. Grave scandal is caused, with the result that a dark shadow of suspicion is cast over all the other fine priests who perform their ministry with honesty and integrity and often with heroic self-sacrifice. As the Church shows her concern for the victims and strives to respond in truth and justice to each of these painful situations, all of us – conscious of human weakness, but trusting in the healing power of divine grace – are called to embrace the ‘mysterium Crucis’ and to commit ourselves more fully to the search for holiness. We must beg God in his Providence to prompt a wholehearted reawakening of those ideals of total self giving to Christ which are the very foundation of the priestly ministry. ”[2]

As ministers of God’s mercy, we know that the search for holiness can always begin again through repentance and forgiveness. But we also feel the need to ask for it, as individual priests, on behalf of all priests and for all priests.[3] Our faith is further strengthened by the Church’s invitation to cross the Porta fidei again, accompanying all of our faithful. As we know, this is the title of the Apostolic Letter with which the Holy Father Benedict XVI called the Year of Faith that will begin on October 12, 2012.

It may be useful to reflect on the circumstances of this invitation. It takes place on the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council (October 11, 1962) and on the twentieth anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (October 11, 1992). Furthermore, the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will be held in October 2012, and its theme will be “The new evangelization for the transmission of the Christian faith.”

We will therefore be expected to work in depth on each of these “chapters”:

– on II Vatican Council, so that it may be accepted once again as “the great grace bestowed on the Church in the twentieth century ”: “a sure compass by which to take our bearings in the century now beginning ”, “increasingly powerful for the ever necessary renewal of the Church”[4];

– on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, that it may be truly accepted and used as “a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion and a sure norm for teaching the faith”[5];

– on the preparation of the next Synod of Bishops in order that it may truly be “a good opportunity to usher the whole Church into a time of particular reflection and rediscovery of the faith.”[6]

For the time being – as an introduction to this work – we can meditate briefly on this indication provided by the Pope, towards which everything converges: “It is the love of Christ that fills our hearts and impels us to evangelize. Today as in the past, he sends us through the highways of the world to proclaim his Gospel to all the peoples of the earth (cf. Mt 28:19). Through his love, Jesus Christ attracts to himself the people of every generation: in every age he convokes the Church, entrusting her with the proclamation of the Gospel by a mandate that is ever new. Today too, there is a need for stronger ecclesial commitment to new evangelization in order to rediscover the joy of believing and the enthusiasm for communicating the faith.”[7]

“The people of every generation”, “all the peoples of the earth”, “new evangelization”: before such a universal horizon, we priests must ask ourselves how and where such statements can come together and stand. So we can begin by recalling that the Catechism of the Catholic Church itself begins with a universal outlook, recognizing “Man’s ‘capacity’ for God”[8]; but it does so choosing – as its first quotation – the following text of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council: “The root reason (“eximia ratio”) for human dignity lies in man’s call to communion with God. From the very circumstance of his origin man is already invited to converse with God. For man would not exist were he not created by Gods love (“ex amore”), and constantly preserved by it  (“ex amore”); and he cannot live fully according to truth unless he freely acknowledges that love and devotes himself to His Creator. Still, many of our contemporaries have never recognized this intimate and vital link with God, or have explicitly rejected it.”  (“hanc intimam ac vitalem coniunctionem cum Deo”)[9].

How could we forget that, with the text quoted above – and in the richness of the wording chosen – the Conciliar Fathers intended to speak directly to atheists, upholding the immense dignity of the vocation from which they had departed? And they did so with the same words used to describe the Christian experience, at the peak of its mystic intensity! The Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei also begins stating that it “ushers us into the life of communion with God”, which means that it allows us to become directly immersed in the central mystery of the faith we are called to profess: “To profess faith in the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – is to believe in one God who is Love ” (ibid. n. 1).

All this must resound in a special way in our heart and in our mind, making us aware of what is the greatest tragedy of our times. Christianized nations are no longer tempted to surrender to a general sort of atheism (as they were in the past) which results from having forgotten the beauty and warmth of the Trinitarian Revelation. Today it is especially priests, in their daily worship and ministry, who must refer everything to the Trinitarian Communion: only by starting from it and by immersing oneself in it can the faithful really disc
over the face of the Son of God and of His contemporariness, and really reach the heart of every man and the homeland they are all called to. Only this way can us priests restore contemporary man’s dignity, the sense of human relationships and social life, and the purpose of the whole of creation. “Believing in only One God who is love ”: no new evangelization will really be possible unless us Christians are able to surprise and move the world again by proclaiming the Nature of Our God who is Love, in the Three Divine Persons that express it and that involve us in their own life.

Today’s world, with its ever more painful and preoccupying lacerations, needs God- The Trinity, and the Church has the task to proclaim Him. In order to fulfil this task, the Church must remain indissolubly embraced with Christ and never part from Him; it needs Saints who dwell “in the heart of Jesus” and are happy witnesses of God’s Trinitarian Love. And in order to serve the Church and the World, Priests need to be Saints!

From the Vatican, March 26, 2012 Solemnity of the Annunciation of the B.V.

Mauro Card. Piacenza, Prefect

Celso Morga Iruzubieta, Tit. Archbishop of Alba Marittima, Secretary   

— — —


[1] Apostolic Letter Novo millennio ineunte, n. 31.

[2] JOHN PAUL II, Letter to Priests on Holy Thursday 2002.

[3] CONGREGATION FOR THE CLERGY, The priest, minister of Divine Mercy. An aid for confessors and spiritual directors, 9 March 2011, 14-18; 74-76; 110-116 (the priest as penitent and spiritual disciple ).

[4] Cfr. Porta fidei, n.5.

[5] Cfr. Ibid., n. 11.

[6] Ibid., n. 5.

[7] Ibid., n. 7.

[8] Section One. Chapter I.

[9] Gaudium et Spes, n. 19 and Catechism of the Catholic Church n. 27.      

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry


Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation