Cardinal: Priests Essential for Evangelization

Prefect of Clergy Congregation Says Church Counts on Them

VATICAN CITY, JULY 17, 2008 ( The Church counts on the energy and work of its priests to fulfil its urgent evangelizing mission, says the prefect of the Congregation for Clergy.

Cardinal Cláudio Hummes wrote this in a letter to priests sent Tuesday, ahead of the Aug. 4 feast of St. John Marie Vianney, the Curé of Ars.

“The Church knows today that there is an urgent mission, not only ‘ad gentes,’ but also to those Christians living in areas and regions where the Christian faith has been preached and established for centuries and where ecclesial communities already exist,” began the cardinal. “Within this flock, the mission, or the missionary evangelization, has as its target those who are baptized but who, for different circumstances, have not been evangelized sufficiently, or those who have lost their initial fervour and fallen away.

“The postmodern culture of contemporary society — a relativist, secular, and agnostic culture — exerts a strong erosive action on the religious faith of many people.”

The 73-year-old cardinal reminded the priests that the “Church is missionary by its very nature.”

“The Church knows that it cannot remain inert or limit itself to receiving and evangelizing those who are seeking the faith in its churches and communities. It is also necessary to rise up and go to where people and families dwell, live and work,” the prefect explains. “We must go to everyone: companies, organizations, institutions and different fields of human society.

“In this mission, all members of the ecclesial community are called: pastors, religious and laity.”

Driving force

Cardinal Hummes acknowledged the special role of priests: “The Church recognizes that priests are the great driving force behind daily life in local communities. When priests move, the Church moves. If this were not so, it would be very difficult to achieve the Church’s mission.”

“You are the great richness, the energy, the pastoral and missionary inspiration in the midst of the Christian faithful,” he writes. “Without your crucial decision to ‘put out into the deep’ for fish […] as the Lord himself calls us, little or nothing will happen in the urgent mission, either ‘ad gentes’ or in the territories that have previously been evangelized.”

“The Church is certain that it can count on you,” continued the cardinal, “because it knows and explicitly recognizes that the overwhelming majority of priests — despite our weaknesses and human limitations — are worthy priests, giving their life daily to the Kingdom of God and loving Jesus Christ and the people entrusted to them. These are the priests who are sanctifying themselves in their daily ministry and who are persevering until the harvest of the Lord.”

He said the Church “rejoices in and is proud of the immense majority of its priests, who are good and exceedingly worthy of praise.”

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