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Pope's Meeting With Roman Clergy (Part 3 of 3)

"The Pastor Leads the Way"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 12, 2007 (Zenit) - Here is the third part of the Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's Feb. 22 session of questions-and-answers with Roman clergy.

Part 1 and Part 2 as published on Catholic Online.

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Fr Angelo Mangano, Parish Priest of San Gelasio, a parish that since 2003 has been entrusted to the pastoral care of the World Church Mission Community, spoke on pastoral work on the Feast of the Chair of St Peter. He pointed out the importance of developing unity between spiritual life and pastoral life, which is not an organizational technique but coincides with the life of the Church itself. Fr Mangano asked the Holy Father how to spread the concept of pastoral service among God's People as the true life of the Church, and how to ensure that pastoral work is always nourished by conciliar ecclesiology.

Pope Benedict XVI: I think there are several questions here. One question is: how can we inspire parishes with conciliar ecclesiology and make the faithful live this ecclesiology? Another is how should we behave and make pastoral work spiritual within us?

Let us start with the latter question. There is always a certain tension between what I absolutely have to do and what spiritual reserves I must have. I always see it in St Augustine, who complains about this in his preaching. I have already cited him: "I long to live with the Word of God from morning to night but I have to be with you". Augustine nonetheless finds this balance by being always available but also by keeping for himself moments of prayer and meditation on the Sacred Word, because otherwise he would no longer be able to say anything.

Here in particular, I would like to underline what you said about the fact that pastoral work must never be mere strategy or administrative work but must always be a spiritual task. Nor, of course, can the latter be totally lacking either, because we are on this earth and such problems exist: the efficient management of money, etc. This too is a sector that cannot be totally ignored.

Nonetheless, the fundamental emphasis must be on the very fact that being a pastor is in itself a spiritual act. You rightly referred to John's Gospel, chapter 10, in which the Lord describes himself as the "Good Shepherd". And as a first definitive moment, Jesus says that the Pastor goes first. In other words, it is he who shows the way, he is the first to be an example to others, the first to take the road that is the road for others. The Pastor leads the way.

This means that he himself lives first of all on the Word of God; he is a man of prayer, a man of forgiveness, a man who receives and celebrates the sacraments as acts of prayer and encounter with the Lord. He is a man of charity, lived and practised, thus all the simple acts, conversation, encounter, everything that needs to be done, become spiritual acts in communion with Christ. His "pro omnibus" becomes our "pro meis".

Then, he goes before us and I think that in having mentioned this "leading the way", the essential has already been said. Chapter 10 of John continues, saying that Jesus goes before us, giving himself on the Cross. And this is also inevitable for the priest. The offering of himself is also participation in the Cross of Christ, and thanks to this we too can credibly comfort the suffering and be close to the poor, the marginalized, etc.

Therefore, in this programme that you have developed, it is fundamental to spiritualize daily pastoral work. It is easier to say this than to do it, but we must try.

Moreover, to be able to spiritualize our work, we must again follow the Lord. The Gospels tell us that by day he worked and by night he was on the mountain with his Father, praying. Here, I must confess my weakness. At night I cannot pray, at night I want to sleep. However, a little free time for the Lord is really necessary: either the celebration of Mass or the prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours and even a brief daily meditation following the Liturgy, the Rosary. But this personal conversation with the Word of God is important; it is only in this way that we can find the reserves to respond to the demands of pastoral life.

The second point: you rightly underlined the ecclesiology of the Council. It seems to me that we must interiorize this ecclesiology far more, that of Lumen Gentium and of Ad Gentes, which is also an ecclesiological Document, as well as the ecclesiology of the minor Documents and of Dei Verbum.

By interiorizing this vision we can also attract our people to this vision, which understands that the Church is not merely a large structure, one of these supranational bodies that ...

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