VATICAN CITY, MAY 7, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Despite the crisis of vocations in some countries, Christ continues to call adolescents, youths and adults to the priesthood, says Benedict XVI.
The Pope made these comments today, World Day of Prayer for Vocations, after ordaining 15 priests in St. Peter’s Basilica, and before praying the midday Regina Caeli with crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
The Holy Father referred to “the experience of Jesus’ first disciples that, after meeting him on the lake and in the villages of Galilee, were captivated by his attractiveness and love” to explain why men and women decide to consecrate their whole life to Christ.
“The Christian vocation always implies renewing this personal friendship with Jesus Christ, which gives meaning to one’s life and makes it available for the Kingdom of God,” the Pontiff said.
Benedict XVI continued: “The Church lives from this friendship, nourished by the word and the sacraments, holy realities entrusted in a particular way to the ministry of bishops, presbyters and deacons, consecrated by the sacrament of holy orders.
“The mission of the priest is irreplaceable and, although in some regions there is a lack of clergy, there is no doubt that God continues to call adolescents, youths and adults to leave all to dedicate themselves to the preaching of the Gospel and the pastoral ministry.”
“Another special way of following” Christ, the Pope said, “is the vocation to the consecrated life, which is expressed in a poor, chaste and obedient life, totally dedicated to God, in contemplation and prayer, placed at the service of brothers, especially the little ones and the poor.”
Also, the Holy Father said, “let us not forget that Christian marriage is a vocation to holiness in the full sense of the word, and that the example of holy parents is the first condition favorable for the flowering of priestly and religious vocations.”
Benedict XVI concluded by appealing for the prayers of all believers “so that the seeds of the vocation that God sows in the hearts of the faithful will mature and bear fruits of holiness in the Church and the world.”
According to data in the latest Statistical Yearbook of the Church, the number of priests fell by 3.5%, from 420,971 to 405,891, in the period 1978-2004.
In the same period, women religious decreased by 22.5%, from 990,768 to 767,459.