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Pope's Q&A Session With Members of Roman Clergy (Part 1)

"Our Priestly Vocation: to Choose Life Ourselves"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 25, 2006 (Zenit) - Benedict XVI addressed members of the Roman clergy on March 2, in the Hall of Blessings.

After a greeting by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, vicar of Rome, the Pope responded to questions and statements by 10 priests, and later responded to the interventions of five additional priests. The following is a synopsis of the 15 questions and a translation of the Holy Father's responses.

Part 2 of this text, published by the Holy See, will appear on Sunday.

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I am going to speak straightaway, for otherwise, if I wait until the end of all the interventions, my monologue will become too long.

I would first like to express my joy at being here with you, dear priests of Rome. It is a true joy to see so many good pastors at the service of the "Good Shepherd" here, in the first See of Christianity, in the Church which "presides in charity" and must be a model for other local Churches. Thank you for your service!

We have the shining example of Father Andrea, who shows us what it means to "be" a priest to the very end: dying for Christ during a moment of prayer, thereby witnessing on the one hand to the interiority of his own life with Christ, and on the other, to his own witness for people at a truly "panpherical" point in the world, surrounded by hatred and the fanaticism of others. It is a witness that inspires everyone to follow Christ, to give one's life for others and thus to find Life.

* * *

1. Holy Father, we are meeting you at this Lenten gathering for the first time. I want to remember the beloved Servant of God John Paul II. In the words you spoke at his funeral I saw a sign of continuity between you and your beloved Predecessor: "We can be sure that our beloved Pope is standing today at the window of the Father's House, that he sees us and blesses us." This thought inspires a sonnet written in Roman dialect that I have dedicated to you: "A window on high in Heaven."

Benedict XVI: With regard to the first intervention, I first of all say a big "thank you" for this marvelous poem! There are also poets and artists in the Church of Rome, in the presbyterate of Rome, and I will have the possibility of further meditating upon and interiorizing these beautiful words, mindful that this "window" is always "open." Perhaps this is an opportunity to recall the fundamental legacy of the great Pope John Paul II in order to continue to increasingly assimilate this legacy.

Yesterday, we began Lent. Today's liturgy gives us a profound idea of the essential significance of Lent: It is a guide for our life.

It therefore seems to me -- I speak with reference to Pope John Paul II -- that we should insist a little on today's First Reading. Moses' great discourse, on the threshold of the Holy Land after the 40-year pilgrimage in the desert, sums up the whole of the Torah, the whole of the Law. Here we find the essential, not only for the Jewish people but also for us. This essential is the Word of God: "I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore, choose life" (Deuteronomy 30:19).

These fundamental words of Lent are also the fundamental words of the legacy of our great Pope John Paul II: "choose life." This is our priestly vocation: to choose life ourselves and to help others to choose life. It is a matter of renewing in Lent our own, so to speak, "fundamental option," the option for life.

But the question immediately arises: How can we choose life, how should we do this? Reflecting upon this, I remembered that the great defection from Christianity which has occurred in the West in the past 100 years was precisely in the name of the option for life. It was said -- I am thinking of Nietzsche but also of so many others -- that Christianity is an option opposed to life. With the Cross, with all the Commandments, with all the "nos" that it proposes to us, some have said that it closes the door to life.

But we, we want to have life and we choose, we opt, ultimately, for life, freeing ourselves by the Cross, freeing ourselves by all these Commandments, by all these "nos." We want to have life in abundance, nothing but life.

Here, the words of today's Gospel immediately come to mind: "Whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it" (Luke 9:24). This is the paradox we must first be aware of in opting for life. It is not by arrogating life to ourselves but only by giving life, not by having life and holding on to it but by giving it, that we can find it. This is the ultimate meaning of the Cross: not to seek life for oneself, but to give one's own life.

Thus, the New and Old Testaments go together. In the First Reading from Deuteronomy God's response is: "I command you this day, by loving ...

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