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Papal Address to Priests in Warsaw Cathedral

5/26/2006 - 5:45 AM PST

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"To Be an Expert in the Spiritual Life"

WARSAW, Poland, MAY 26, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave to priests Thursday in Warsaw Cathedral, on the first day of his apostolic visit to Poland.

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"First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you. ... For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you, that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine" (Romans 1:8-12).

Dear priests, I address to you these words of the Apostle Paul, because they perfectly reflect my feelings and thoughts today, my wishes and my prayers. I greet in particular Cardinal Jozef Glemp, archbishop of Warsaw and primate of Poland, to whom I extend my most cordial congratulations on his 50th anniversary of priestly ordination this very day.

I have come to Poland, the beloved homeland of my great predecessor Pope John Paul II, in order to inhale, as he used to do, this atmosphere of faith in which you live, and to "convey to you some spiritual gift so that you may be strengthened by it." I am confident that my pilgrimage during these days will "encourage the faith that we share, both yours and mine."

I am meeting you today in the great cathedral of Warsaw, every stone of which speaks of the tragic history of your capital and your country. How many trials you have endured in the recent past! We call to mind heroic witnesses to the faith, who gave their lives to God and to their fellow human beings, both canonized saints and ordinary people who persevered in rectitude, authenticity and goodness, never giving way to despair.

In this cathedral I recall particularly the Servant of God Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, whom you call "the Primate of the Millennium." Abandoning himself to Christ and to his Mother, he knew how to serve the Church faithfully, despite the tragic and prolonged trials that surrounded him. Let us remember with appreciation and gratitude those who did not let themselves be overwhelmed by the forces of darkness, and let us learn from them the courage to be consistent and constant in our adherence to the Gospel of Christ.

Today I am meeting you, priests called by Christ to serve him in the new millennium. You have been chosen from among the people, appointed to act in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. Believe in the power of your priesthood! By virtue of the sacrament, you have received all that you are. When you utter the words "I" and "my" ("I absolve you ... This is my body ..."), you do it not in your own name, but in the name of Christ, "in persona Christi," who wants to use your lips and your hands, your spirit of sacrifice and your talent.

At the moment of your ordination, through the liturgical sign of the imposition of hands, Christ took you under his special protection; you are concealed under his hands and in his Heart. Immerse yourselves in his love, and give him your love! When your hands were anointed with oil, the sign of the Holy Spirit, they were destined to serve the Lord as his own hands in today's world. They can no longer serve selfish purposes, but must continue in the world the witness of his love.

The greatness of Christ's priesthood can make us tremble. We can be tempted to cry out with Peter: "Lord, depart from me, for I am a sinful man" (Luke 5:8), because we find it hard to believe that Christ called us specifically. Could he not have chosen someone else, more capable, more holy? But Jesus has looked lovingly upon each one of us, and in this gaze of his we may have confidence. Let us not be consumed with haste, as if time dedicated to Christ in silent prayer were time wasted. On the contrary, it is precisely then that the most wonderful fruits of pastoral service come to birth.

There is no need to be discouraged on account of the fact that prayer requires effort, or because of the impression that Jesus remains silent. He is indeed silent, but he is at work. In this regard, I am pleased to recall my experience last year in Cologne. I witnessed then a deep, unforgettable silence of a million young people at the moment of the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament! That prayerful silence united us, it gave us great consolation. In a world where there is so much noise, so much bewilderment, there is a need for silent adoration of Jesus concealed in the Host. Be assiduous in the prayer of adoration and teach it to the faithful. It is a source of comfort and light particularly to those who are suffering.

The faithful expect only one thing from priests: that they be specialists in promoting the encounter between man and God. The priest is not asked to be an expert in economics, construction or politics. He is expected to be an expert in the spiritual life. With this end in view, when a young priest takes his first steps, he ...

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