Benedict XVI’s love for Christ Jesus is the thread that runs through his entire life, particularly his 65 years as a priest, Pope Francis said today.
The Holy Father said this in praising his predecessor at a celebration today in the Apostolic Palace to mark the 65th anniversary of the priestly ordination of the 89-year-old German Pontiff Emeritus. Young Joseph Ratzinger was ordained on June 29, 1951, in Freising.
The Holy Father noted a passage from a just published book that collects some of Ratzinger’s thoughts on the priesthood. Francis wrote the foreword for the book.
“In one of the many beautiful pages that you dedicate to the priesthood,” he noted, “you underscore how, at the hour of Simon’s definitive call, Jesus, looking at him, basically asks him only one thing: ‘Do you love me?’ How beautiful and true this is! Because it is here, you tell us, it is in that ‘do you love me,’ that the Lord founded the feeding, because only if there is love for the Lord can He feed through us.”
“This is the note that dominates a whole life spent in priestly service and true theology that you have not accidentally described as ‘the search for the Beloved’; it is this that you have always witnessed and still witness today: that the decisive thing in our day – of sun or rain – that alone with which all the rest comes, is that the Lord be truly present, that we desire Him, that we be close to Him interiorly, that we love Him, that we truly believe profoundly in Him and believing that we truly love Him,” Francis added.
Benedict’s Franciscan ministry
The Pope also spoke about his predecessor’s role in the Church since his retirement, saying that Benedict XVI continues to serve the Church, that he does not cease to “truly contribute with vigor and wisdom to her growth.”
The Pope Emeritus’ ministry from the Mater Ecclesias convent is the opposite of what happens in today’s throwaway culture, Francis affirmed.
“It is altogether the opposite,” he said, “and allow your Successor to say this forcefully, who chose to call himself Francis! Because Saint Francis’ spiritual journey began at San Damiano, but the true place he loved, the beating heart of the Order, there where he founded it and where finally he rendered his life to God was the Porziuncola, the ‘small portion,’ the little corner near the Mother of the Church; near Mary.”
“Thus, Providence willed that you, dear Brother arrive in a place so to speak precisely ‘Franciscan’ from which emanates a tranquillity, a peace, a strength, a trust, a maturity, a faith, a dedication and a fidelity that do me so much good and give strength to me and to the whole Church.”
“The wish with which I desire to conclude is therefore a wish that I address to you and together with all of us and with the entire Church: that you, Holiness, be able to continue feeling the hand of the merciful God that supports you, that you be able to experience and witness to us the love of God; that, with Peter and Paul, you be able to continue to exult with great joy while you journey toward the goal of the faith.”
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