VATICAN CITY, MARCH 16, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is proclaiming a Year for Priests on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the death of St. Jean Marie Vianney, the Curé of Ars.
The Pope announced this today during an audience granted to participants in the plenary assembly of the Congregation for the Clergy, a Vatican communiqué reported.
The theme for the priestly year is “Faithfulness of Christ, Faithfulness of Priests.” The Pope is scheduled to open the year with a celebration of vespers June 19, the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in the presence of the relic of the Curé of Ars, to be brought to Rome by Bishop Guy Bagnard of Belley-Ars, the press release stated.
The closing ceremony will take place exactly one year later, with a World Meeting of Priests in St. Peter’s Square.
During this year, a directory for confessors and spiritual directors will be published, along with a compilation of texts by the Pope on the core issues of the life and mission of priests in the modern times. As well, Benedict XVI will officially proclaim St. Jean Marie Vianney as “patron saint of all the priests of the world.”
The congregation will aim in this year to promote initiatives that will “highlight the role and mission of the clergy in the Church and in modern society.”
Another goal will be to address “the need to intensify the permanent formation of priests, associating it with that of seminarians.”
An entire year devoted to our priests! I love it! Love it, love it, love it! Thank you, Holy Father!
In an article talking of the importance of priestly ministry and of the distinction between the ordained priesthood and the priesthood we are all called to due to our baptism:
The Pope stressed the importance of the ministry, without which “there would be no Eucharist, no mission, not even the Church” and he recalled that the mission of the priest “has its roots in a special way in a good formation, carried out in communion with unbroken ecclesial Tradition, without pausing or being tempted by discontinuity.”
“In this regard,” he continued, “it is important to encourage priests, especially the young generations, to correctly read the texts of the Second Vatican Council, interpreted in the light of all the Church’s doctrinal inheritance.”
The Pontiff spoke about the urgent need for priests to be “present, identifiable and recognizable — for their judgment of faith, personal virtues and attire — in the fields of culture and of charity which have always been at the heart of the Church’s mission.”
He said the mission of the priest concerns the Church, communion, hierarchy and doctrine, and added that these aspects should not be separated.
He explained: “The mission is ecclesial because no one announces or brings themselves, but rather in and through his own humanity, every priest should be very conscious of bringing Another, God himself, to the world. God is the only treasure that, definitively, mankind wishes to find in a priest.”
The Holy Father said the mission concerns communion “because it takes place in a unity and communion which only at a secondary level possess important aspects of social visibility. These, moreover, are derived essentially from that divine intimacy of which the priest is called to be an expert, so that he can bring, with confidence and humility, the souls entrusted to him to the same meeting with the Lord.”
He said that “the ‘hierarchical’ and ‘doctrinal’ dimensions emphasize the importance of ecclesiastical discipline — a term related to that of ‘disciple’ — and of doctrinal — not just theological, initial and permanent — formation.”
The Pope concluded by urging those present to discover the centrality of Jesus Christ who gives meaning and value to the ministerial priesthood.
He added, “As Church and as priests we announce Jesus of Nazareth, Lord and Christ, crucified and risen, Sovereign of time and history, in the joyful certainty that this truth coincides with the deepest hopes of the human heart.”
I absolutely believe in the necessity and blessing of a visible, valid, faithful and orthodox priesthood. These are our shepherds — the men who guide us and care for us and bring us life. They provide us access to Jesus in the sacraments, break open the Word of God for us, demonstrate to us a holy life and what it means to love our neighbor and give our entire selves in service to others. They give and they love, and they help us to do the same.