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Benedict XVI on Problems of Priestly Life (Part 1)

"We Have to Leave Most Things to the Lord"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 23, 2006 (Zenit) - Benedict XVI answered a number of questions posed by priests of the Diocese of Albano, during a meeting Aug. 31. The diocese is where the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo is located.

Here is the first of five questions the Pope answered. Other questions and answers will appear Sunday.

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Swiss Hall at the Papal Summer Residence
Thursday, Aug. 31

Some problems for priests

Father Giuseppe Zane, vicar "ad omnia," 83 years old:

Our bishop, if briefly, has described to you the situation of our Diocese of Albano. We priests are fully integrated into this Church and experience all the relative problems and complexities. Young and old, we all feel inadequate. This is firstly because we are so few in comparison with the many needs and we come from different backgrounds; we also suffer from a shortage of priestly vocations. That is why we sometimes feel discouraged.

We try to patch things up here and there and are often forced to attend only to emergencies, without any precise projects. Seeing how much there is to do, we are tempted to give priority to "doing" and to neglect "being"; this is inevitably reflected in our spiritual life, our conversation with God, our prayer and our charity (love) for our brethren, especially those who are far away.

Holy Father, what can you tell us about this? I am a certain age ... but is it possible for these young confreres of mine to hope?

Benedict XVI:

Dear brothers, I would like first of all to offer you a word of welcome and thanks: thanks to Cardinal Sodano for his presence, with which he expresses his love and care for this suburbicarian Church; thanks to you, Your Excellency, for your words.

In a few sentences, you have presented to me the situation of this diocese with which I was not so well acquainted. I knew that it was the largest of the suburbicarian dioceses, but I did not know that its population had increased to 500,000. Thus, I see a diocese full of challenges and difficulties but certainly also full of joy in the faith. And I see that all the issues of our time are present: emigration, tourism, marginalization, agnosticism, but also a firm faith.

I have no claim to be, as it were, an "oracle" that could respond adequately to every question. St. Gregory the Great's words, which you quoted, Your Excellency, which everyone knows, "infirmitatem suam," also apply to the Pope. Day after day, the Pope too must know and recognize "infirmitatem suam," his shortcomings.

He must recognize that only in collaboration with everyone, in dialogue, in common cooperation, in faith as "cooperatores veritatis" -- of the Truth that is a Person, Jesus -- can we carry out our service together, each one doing his share. This means that my answers will not be exhaustive but piecemeal. Yet, let us agree that actually it is only in unison that we can piece together the "mosaic" of a pastoral work that responds to the immense challenges.

Cardinal Sodano, you said that our dear confrere, Father Zane, seems somewhat pessimistic. However, I have to say that each one of us has moments of discouragement in the face of all that needs to be done, and the limits of what, instead, can realistically be done. Once again, this also concerns the Pope. What must I do at this time for the Church, with so many problems, so many joys, so many challenges that concern the universal Church?

So many things happen, day after day, and I am unable to respond to them all. I do my part, I do all I can. I try to identify the priorities. And I am glad that I have so many good collaborators to help me. I can already say, here at this moment: I see every day the great amount of work that the Secretariat of State does under your wise guidance. And only with this network of collaboration, fitting myself and my own limited capacities into a broader reality, can I and dare I move ahead.

Therefore, naturally, a parish priest who is on his own sees even better that so many things still need to be done in this situation which you, Father Zane, have briefly described. And he can only do something to "patch things up," as you said, a kind of "first-aid" operation, knowing that far more ought to be done.

I would say, then, that firstly, what is necessary for all of us is to recognize our own limitations, to humbly recognize that we have to leave most things to the Lord. Today, we heard in the Gospel the parable of the faithful servant (Matthew 24:42-51). This servant, the Lord tells us, gives food to the others at the proper time. He does not do everything at once but is a wise and prudent servant who knows what needs to be done in a specific situation. He does so humbly, and is also sure of his master's ...

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