VATICAN CITY, 29 SEP 2009 (VIS) - Made public today were the contents of a video Message from the Pope to participants in an international spiritual retreat for priests at the French shrine of Ars for the 150th anniversary of the death of St. John Mary Vianney. The preacher of the retreat, which is taking place from 27 September to 3 October, is Cardinal Christoph Schonborn O.P., archbishop of Vienna, Austria, and the theme of the spiritual exercises is: "The joy of being a priest, consecrated for the salvation of the world".
"The priest", says the Holy Father in his Message, "is called to serve human beings and to give them life in God. ... He is a man of the divine Word and of all things holy and, today more than ever, he must be a man of joy and hope. To those who cannot conceive that God is pure Love, he will affirm that life is worthy to be lived and that Christ gives it its full meaning because He loves all humankind".
Benedict XVI then turns to address priests who have to serve a number of parishes and who "commit themselves unreservedly to preserving sacramental life in their various communities. The Church's recognition for you all is immense", he says. "Do not lose heart but continue to pray and to make others pray that many young people may accept the call of Christ, Who always wishes to see the number of His apostles increase".
The Holy Father also invites priests to consider "the extreme diversity of the ministries" they perform "in the service of the Church", and "the large number of Masses you celebrate or will celebrate, each time making Christ truly present at the altar. Think of the numerous absolutions you have given and will give, freeing sinners from their burdens. Thus you may perceive the infinite fruitfulness of the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Your hands and lips become, for a single instant, the hands and lips of God".
"This thought", the Pope added, "should bring you to ensure harmonious relations among the clergy so as to form the priestly community as St. Peter wanted, and so build the body of Christ and consolidate you in love".
"The priest is the man of the future. ... What he does in this world is part of the order of things directed towards the final Goal. Mass is the only point of union between the means and the Goal because it enables us to contemplate, under the humble appearance of the bread and the wine, the Body and Blood of Him Whom we adore in eternity".
"Nothing will ever replace the ministry of priests in the heart of the Church", the Pope concluded. "You are the living witnesses of God's power at work in the weakness of human beings, consecrated for the salvation of the world, chosen by Christ Himself to be, thanks to Him, salt of the earth and light of the world".
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