VATICAN CITY, 26 MAY 2010 (VIS) - In today's general audience, celebrated in St. Peter's Square, the Pope focused his remarks on the duty of the priest to "govern and guide - with the authority of Christ, not with his own - that portion of the people which God has entrusted to his care".
In the last of three catechesis on the essential tasks of priestly ministry, the Holy Father asked: "how, within contemporary culture, can we understand this dimension which implicates the concept of authority and has its origin in the Lord's command to feed His sheep?"
"The regimes which spread death and terror last century are a powerful reminder that authority, in all fields, when exercised without reference to the transcendent, when it ignores the supreme authority that is God Himself, inevitably ends up by turning against man. It is important, then, to recognise that human authority is never an end but always and only a means, and that, necessarily and at all times, the end is always the person".
"In order to be pastors after God's heart, we need to be profoundly rooted in a living friendship with Christ (not only of our minds, but also of our freedom and will), clearly aware of the identity we received at priestly ordination, and unconditionally ready to lead our flock where the Lord wills, not in the direction which seems most convenient and easy. This requires, first and foremost, a continuous and progressive willingness to allow Christ Himself to govern the priestly lives of clergy. No-one, in fact, is truly capable of feeding the flock if they do not live in profound and authentic obedience to Christ and the Church; and the docility of the people towards their priests depends on the docility of priests towards Christ".
Referring then to the concept of "hierarchy" in the Church, the Pope noted how a prevalent idea among the public is of "an element of subordination, ... and for many people this contrasts with the flexibility and vitality of pastoral service. ... This is an erroneous interpretation which has its origins in the abuses of history", he explained. "The true meaning is of a sacred origin, it is an authority that comes from another, and subjects the person to the mystery of Christ, making him His servant. Only as His servant can he govern and guide, for Christ and with Christ".
Thus "the Pope, who is a point of reference for the communion of all the pastors of the Church, cannot do as he pleases; quite the contrary, he is the custodian of obedience to Christ and His word".
"Without this clear and explicit supernatural vision, priests' duty to govern cannot be understood. It is however, when supported by true concern for the salvation of each member of the faithful, a particularly important and necessary duty, also in our own time".
"Where", the Pope asked, "can a priest today draw the strength to exercise his ministry in complete faithfulness to Christ and to the Church, with total dedication to his flock? There is", he said, "only one answer: in Christ the Lord".
Benedict XVI told priests: "Do not be afraid to guide to Christ each of the brothers and sisters He has entrusted to you, certain that each word, each action, if they come from obedience to God's will, will bear fruit. Appreciate the advantages and recognise the limits of the culture in which we live, in the firm certainty that announcing the Gospel is the greatest service we can do mankind. In fact, there is no greater good in this earthly life than to lead man to God, to reawaken the faith, to raise mankind from inertia and desperation, and infuse the hope that God is close and guides the history of individuals and of the world. This is the profound and ultimate meaning of the task of government the Lord has entrusted to us".
The Pope concluded by inviting priests to participate in the closing celebrations of the Year for Priests, due to take place in Rome from 9 to 11 June when, he said, "we will meditate on conversion and mission, on the gift of the Holy Spirit and on our relationship with the Blessed Virgin; and we will renew our priestly promises, supported by the entire People of God".
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