VATICAN CITY, FEB. 2, 2011 (Zenit.org).- In a circular letter recently publicized, the Congregation for Clergy is emphasizing the need for a renewal in the missionary commitment of priests as an essential element of their vocation.
Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, prefect of the congregation, wrote a presentation, dated Jan. 21, for the circular letter on “The Missionary Identity of the Priest in the Church, as an Intrinsic Dimension of the Exercise of the ‘Tria Munera.'” ZENIT will publish the circular letter in its Saturday document service.
The “tria munera” refers to the clergy’s ministries of teaching, sanctifying and governing, which correspond to Christ’s threefold office of Prophet, Priest and King.
The letter was the fruit of the congregation’s last plenary assembly, which was held in March 2009.
As a forward to the letter, the March 16, 2009 address of Benedict XVI to the assembly participants was included.
In that address, the Pontiff affirmed, “In the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word, that is, of the fact that God became man like us, lies both the content and the method of Christian proclamation.”
He continued: “The true dynamic center of the mission is here: precisely in Jesus Christ. The centrality of Christ brings with it the correct appreciation of the ministerial priesthood, without which there would be neither the Eucharist, nor even the mission nor the Church itself.”
Cardinal Piacenza underlined the priority of renewing the commitment to missionary activity as stressed by the plenary assembly participants.
He acknowledged that “the progressive pace of secularism, with its corrosive consequences for those social and cultural structures which facilitated the transmission of the faith, suggests a need for a genuine ‘leap’ of responsibility both in terms of mission ad gentes, as well as in the daily exercise of the ministry that must be lived in an authentically apostolic, and therefore missionary fashion.”
The prelate noted that this mission is “founded explicitly on the mission of Christ in which all priests share by virtue of sacramental ordination.”
“There can be no authentic and effective pastoral and missionary activity unless accompanied with an effective and affective consciousness of being disciples of the Lord,” he affirmed.
“Understood in this sense,” the cardinal continued, “mission is not so much the organization of events, the results of which are dependent on human capacities, and even less so a strategy for some form of universal indoctrination.”
He explained, “Mission happens and is effective wherever an authentic disciple of the Lord lives, prays, suffers and works.”
Cardinal Piacenza stated, “An essential element of any possible renewal of missionary praxis must be a deepening of discipleship.”
He continued, “If our particular Churches, or communities, or even if we ourselves have no sense of the urgency of proclaiming Christ to all whom we encounter, we have to ask ourselves the primary and fundamental question: To what extent are we disciples of Jesus of Nazareth, Lord and Christ?”
“The missionary characteristic is not something extraneous that is appended externally to the structure of the Church,” he stated. “Rather, it is almost a note of the Church that is intimately connected with apostolicity and catholicity.”
The circular letter from the congregation offered some concrete proposals for renewing the missionary commitment, and called on the various episcopal conferences to develop local applications.
Cardinal Piacenza concluded, “It is hoped that the circular letter will contribute to sustaining the daily missionary commitment of priests, conscious that this derives from, and in a certain sense depends on, the fundamental acceptance of the operation of the Holy Spirit in their lives.”
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On ZENIT’s Web page:
Text of presentation letter: www.zenit.org/article-31639?l=english