From Catholic News Service
By John Thavis
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI ordained 19 priests and urged them to make sure their ministry is not contaminated by a worldly mentality.
Priests should dedicate their lives to prayer and service, and never lose sight of the self-sacrifice of Christ, the pope said during the lengthy liturgy in St. Peter's Basilica May 3.
The Mass marked the annual celebration of the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. The new priests, who will serve in the Diocese of Rome, included 13 from Italy and six from other countries on four continents.
After prostrating themselves on the floor of the basilica as a litany of the saints was chanted, each of the candidates knelt before the pope as he imposed his hands on their heads, part of the ordination rite.
In his sermon, the pope quoted the First Letter of John, who contrasted the spirit of the Gospel with the spirit of the "world," a term he used to refer to all that is hostile toward God.
St. John said that "the world does not know us" because it did not know God, a lament that remains true today, the pope said.
"It's true, and we priests experience this: the 'world,' in John's meaning of the term, does not understand the Christian, does not understand the ministries of the Gospel. In part because in fact it does not know God, and in part because it does not want to know him," he said.
Accepting God would place this worldly attitude in "crisis," the pope said.
"Here we need to pay attention to a reality: that this 'world,' in the evangelical sense, threatens even the church, infecting its members and the ordained ministers themselves," he said.
"The 'world' is a mentality, a manner of thinking and living that can pollute even the church, and in fact does pollute it, and therefore requires constant vigilance and purification," the pope said. The Christian vocation, he said, is to be free from evil and different from the world, though living in the world.
The pope emphasized the centrality of prayer in the life of each priest. This prayer should be Christ-centered, and its highest form is the Eucharist, he said. From prayer comes the effectiveness of all other priestly ministry, he said.
"The priest who prays often and prays well becomes progressively expropriated from himself and increasingly united with Jesus, the good shepherd, and the servant of his brothers," he said.
The pope, who recently turned 82, looked good during the two-and-a-half-hour Mass. It was his last major liturgy before his departure May 8 on a weeklong pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
Afterward, at his noon blessing, the pope urged the entire church community to pray for priestly vocations.
The pope recently proclaimed a year for priests that will run from June 2009 to June 2010. In recent years, Vatican statistics have shown that the number of priests and seminarians in the world is increasing somewhat, but not as fast as the general Catholic population.
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