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Pope's Address to Clergy of Rome

5/22/2005 - 6:00 AM PST

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"Dear Priests of Rome, the Lord Calls Us Friends"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 22, 2005 (Zenit) - Here is the Vatican's translation of Benedict XVI's address given to the clergy of Rome, which he delivered in Italian on May 13 in the Basilica of St. John Lateran.

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Dear priests and deacons who serve the Diocese of Rome with your pastoral work,

I am happy to meet you at the beginning of my ministry as Bishop of this Church, "which presides in charity." I greet with affection the Cardinal Vicar and thank him for his kind words, and I also greet the Vicegerent and the Auxiliary Bishops. I offer a friendly greeting to each one of you, and at this very first meeting I want to express my gratitude to you for your daily efforts in the Lord's vineyard.

The extraordinary experience of faith that we lived on the occasion of the death of our beloved Pope John Paul II showed us a Church of Rome that is deeply united, full of life and rich in zeal: all this is also the fruit of your prayers and apostolate.

Thus, humbly attached to Christ, our One Lord, together we can and must encourage that "exemplarity" of the Church of Rome which is genuine service to our sister Churches across the world. The indissoluble bond between "romanum" and "petrinum" implies and indeed requires the Church of Rome's participation in the universal concern of her Bishops.

But responsibility for this participation concerns you in a special way, dear priests and deacons, united to your Bishop by the sacramental bond that also makes you his precious collaborators. I am therefore counting on you, on your prayers, your acceptance and your dedication, so that our beloved Diocese may respond ever more generously to the vocation the Lord has entrusted to it.

For my part, I assure you that despite my limitations, you can count on the sincerity of my paternal affection for you all.

Dear priests, the quality of your lives and your pastoral service seem to indicate that in this Diocese, as in many others of the world, we have now left behind us that period of identity crisis that troubled so many priests. However, still present are the causes of the "spiritual wilderness" that afflict humanity in our day and consequently also undermine the Church, which dwells among humankind. How can we not fear that they may also ensnare the lives of priests?

It is indispensable, therefore, to return ever anew to the solid root of our priesthood. This root, as we well know, is one: Jesus Christ our Lord. It is he whom the Father sent, he is the cornerstone (cf. 1 Peter 2:7). Through him, through the mystery of his death and Resurrection, the Kingdom of God is established and the salvation of the human race brought about.

This Jesus, however, possesses nothing of his own; everything he has is from the Father and for the Father. So he says that his doctrine is not his own but comes from the One who sent him (cf. John 7:16): and that he, the Son, cannot do anything by himself (cf. John 5:19,30).

Dear friends, this is also the true nature of our priesthood. In fact, all that constitutes our priestly ministry cannot be the product of our personal abilities. This is true for the administration of the Sacraments, but it is also true for the service of the Word: we are not sent to proclaim ourselves or our personal opinions, but the mystery of Christ and, in him, the measure of true humanism. We are not charged to utter many words, but to echo and bear the message of a single "Word", the Word of God made flesh for our salvation. Consequently, these words of Jesus also apply to us: "My doctrine is not my own; it comes from him who sent me" (John 7:16).

Dear priests of Rome, the Lord calls us friends, he makes us his friends, he entrusts himself to us, he entrusts to us his Body in the Eucharist, he entrusts to us his Church. Therefore, we must be true friends to him, we must have the same perception as he has, we must want what he wants and not what he does not want. Jesus himself tells us: "You are my friends if you do what I command you" (John 15:14). Let this be our common resolution: all of us together, to do his holy will, in which lies our freedom and our joy.

Since the priesthood is rooted in Christ, it is by its nature in the Church and for the Church. Indeed, the Christian faith is not something purely spiritual and internal, nor is our relationship with Christ itself exclusively subjective and private.

Rather, it is a completely concrete and ecclesial relationship. At times, the ministerial priesthood has a constitutive relationship with the Body of Christ in his dual and inseparable dimensions as Eucharist and as Church, as Eucharistic body and Ecclesial body.

Therefore, our ministry is "amoris officium" (St. Augustine, "In Iohannis Evangelium Tractatus" ...

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