By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
During a general audience this week in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope explained the reason why he called for a Year for Priests, to support them in their daily struggles and help them rediscover the gift of Grace which the ordained ministry represents.
“The aim of this Year for Priests is to support each priest’s struggle towards spiritual perfection, upon which the effectiveness of his ministry particularly depends, and to help priests, and with them the entire People of God, to rediscover and revive an awareness of the extraordinary and indispensable gift of Grace which the ordained ministry represents, for the person who receives it, for the entire Church, and for the world which would be lost without the real presence of Christ.”
He went on to say that in a world where there is little room for the sacred, the Catholic concept of the priesthood could risk losing its due regard.
There are two conceptions of the priesthood, “which do not in fact contradict one another,” he said.
“On the one hand ‘a social-functional conception which identifies the essence of priesthood with the concept of ‘service’. … On the other hand there is a sacramental-ontological conception’ which sees priestly ministry “as determined by a gift called Sacrament, granted by the Lord through the mediation of the Church.”
He then asked, “What does it mean for priests to evangelise? In what does the primacy of announcement exist? … Announcement coincides with the person of Christ”, he said, “a priest cannot consider himself as ‘master’ of the Word, but as its servant”.
Priests are Christ’s servants, he said. “The priest is in Christ, for Christ and with Christ at the service of humankind. Precisely because he belongs to Christ, the priest is radically at the service of man.”
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