Cardinal Sodano's Address at Celebration of Benedict's Ordination Anniversary

«The priesthood must lead the men of today to ‘the Light of God and the Love of God'»

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Here is a ZENIT translation of the address Cardinal Angelo Sodano gave at today’s celebration of the 65th anniversary of ordination of Benedict XVI.

Venerable and Dear Pope Francis,
Today, on the occasion of the 65th <anniversary> of priesthood of your beloved Predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, you wished to render this right and proper homage in the name of all the Holy Church, which has enjoyed his pastoral ministry for 65 years, first as Presbyter and subsequently as Bishop in the Munich and Freising See and then as Bishop of Rome, “mater et caput omnium ecclesiarum.”
Holy Father, allow me also now to present to the dear celebrated one the homage of Brother Cardinals and Bishops, while the words gush from the heart of Psalm 133: “Ecce quam bonum et quam jucundum habitare fratres in unum” (Psalm 133)! Yes, at this moment we experience an atmosphere of spiritual gladness and intense fraternity, in the common bond of service to the Holy Church of Christ.
Dear and Venerable Pope Emeritus, on June 29 of that distant 1951, on the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, you received Presbyterial Ordination from the hands of the late Cardinal Faulhaber, together with your dear brother Georg, to whom at this moment goes our dear greeting, and a good 42 other companions. It was a great celebration for the whole of your beloved Bavarian Archdiocese. You wished to tell us the sentiments you felt on that day, when you returned as Successor of Peter to your dear Archdiocese, in September of 2006. Celebrating Holy Mass in the Cathedral of Freising, where your Ordination took place, you recalled, in front of numerous priests present, the sentiments that pervaded your heart. I was also present under the vaults of that stupendous Cathedral and I remember well the emotion with which you spoke to the priests present.
In recent days I went to reread your homily and it seemed to me that I was hearing again the words that at that moment were born from your heart. Some of your words sound like this in the Italian translation: “When I was here prostrated on the ground and as though enveloped by the Litanies of All the Saints, I realized that we are not alone on this way, but that the great array of Saints walks with us and that the Saints still alive, namely the faithful of today and of tomorrow, support and accompany us. Then there was the imposition of hands and when Cardinal Faulhaber said to us: “Jam non dico vos servos, sed amicos” (I no longer call you servants but friends), then I felt that priestly Ordination is like an initiation in the community of Jesus’ friends, who are called to be with Him and to proclaim His message” (cf. L’Osservatore Romano, September 16, 2006).
You then described the nature of this Christian message that priests are called to spread in the world, synthesizing it in two phrases: the priesthood must lead the men of today to “the Light of God and the Love of God,” or exactly, to use your words in German, the priest must lead men : ‘Gottes Kucht und Gottes Liebe.” Moreover, in your homily, you added an urgent invitation to the priests present, namely, the invitation to take to the world the Light and Love of Christ with the same “feeling” of Jesus, or to use your own words, with the same “Gesinnung Jesu Christi.” It was the concept expressed by the Apostle Paul in the Letter to the Philippians (Philippians 2:5-8). This “feeling” of Christ should imply, therefore, a great love for those that are far, for the poor, the sick, the elderly and children.
Reading your words today, they seem to be an anticipation of the luminous Magisterium of Pope Francis, who always invites us to encounter those who suffer most, taking to them our brotherly love. This is, moreover, the message of the Great Jubilee of Mercy, which we are celebrating.
Holiness, in the happy anniversary of that distant day of 65 years ago, the College of Cardinals, together with Pope Francis, presses around you, thanking you for your long and generous ecclesial service. At the same time, we want to ask you to continue, even if in another way, your long priestly ministry, just as you promised us on February 24, 2013, after having announced your decision to leave in new hands the guidance of Peter’s bark. Then in fact you said to us: “The Lord calls me to go up on the mountain, and to dedicate myself yet more to prayer and meditation. But this does not mean to abandon the Church, rather, if God asks me this, it is precisely so that I can continue to serve her with the same dedication and the same love with which I have tried to do up to now, but in a way more adapted to my age and my strength” (cf. Insegnamenti of Benedict XVI, Vol. IX, page 263).
We are happy because of that promise, certain that you will always be close to us with your prayer and your affection. Finally we say to you with a typical greeting of your Bavarian land: “Behut’s Sie Gott”! May God protect you! Meanwhile the Church of Rome, under the guidance of Pope Francis, the Venerable Successor that Divine Providence has given us, will continue her journey in history with renewed vigor, in the service of the Christian community and of the whole of humanity! Best wishes.
[Translation by ZENIT]

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