Audiences 2005-2013 17069

Wednesday, 17 June 2009 - Saints Cyril and Methodius

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today I would like to talk about Sts Cyril and Methodius, brothers by blood and in the faith, the so-called "Apostles to the Slavs". Cyril was born in Thessalonica to Leo, an imperial magistrate, in 826 or 827. He was the youngest of seven. As a child he learned the Slavonic language. When he was 14 years old he was sent to Constantinople to be educated and was companion to the young Emperor, Michael III. In those years Cyril was introduced to the various university disciplines, including dialectics, and his teacher was Photius. After refusing a brilliant marriage he decided to receive holy Orders and became "librarian" at the Patriarchate. Shortly afterwards, wishing to retire in solitude, he went into hiding at a monastery but was soon discovered and entrusted with teaching the sacred and profane sciences. He carried out this office so well that he earned the nickname of "Philosopher". In the meantime, his brother Michael (born in about 815), left the world after an administrative career in Macedonia, and withdrew to a monastic life on Mount Olympus in Bithynia, where he was given the name "Methodius" (a monk's monastic name had to begin with the same letter as his baptismal name) and became hegumen of the Monastery of Polychron.

Attracted by his brother's example, Cyril too decided to give up teaching and go to Mount Olympus to meditate and pray. A few years later (in about 861), the imperial government sent him on a mission to the Khazars on the Sea of Azov who had asked for a scholar to be sent to them who could converse with both Jews and Saracens. Cyril, accompanied by his brother Methodius, stayed for a long time in Crimea where he learned Hebrew and sought the body of Pope Clement I who had been exiled there. Cyril found Pope Clement's tomb and, when he made the return journey with his brother, he took Clement's precious relics with him. Having arrived in Constantinople the two brothers were sent to Moravia by the Emperor Michael III, who had received a specific request from Prince Ratislav of Moravia: "Since our people rejected paganism", Ratislav wrote to Michael, "they have embraced the Christian law; but we do not have a teacher who can explain the true faith to us in our own language". The mission was soon unusually successful. By translating the liturgy into the Slavonic language the two brothers earned immense popularity.

However, this gave rise to hostility among the Frankish clergy who had arrived in Moravia before the Brothers and considered the territory to be under their ecclesiastical jurisdiction. In order to justify themselves, in 867 the two brothers travelled to Rome. On the way they stopped in Venice, where they had a heated discussion with the champions of the so-called "trilingual heresy" who claimed that there were only three languages in which it was lawful to praise God: Hebrew, Greek and Latin. The two brothers obviously forcefully opposed this claim. In Rome Cyril and Methodius were received by Pope Adrian ii who led a procession to meet them in order to give a dignified welcome to St Clement's relics. The Pope had also realized the great importance of their exceptional mission. Since the middle of the first millennium, in fact, thousands of Slavs had settled in those territories located between the two parts of the Roman Empire, the East and the West, whose relations were fraught with tension. The Pope perceived that the Slav peoples would be able to serve as a bridge and thereby help to preserve the union between the Christians of both parts of the Empire. Thus he did not hesitate to approve the mission of the two brothers in Great Moravia, accepting and approving the use of the Slavonic language in the liturgy. The Slavonic Books were laid on the altar of St Mary of Phatmé (St Mary Major) and the liturgy in the Slavonic tongue was celebrated in the Basilicas of St Peter, St Andrew and St Paul.

Unfortunately, Cyril fell seriously ill in Rome. Feeling that his death was at hand, he wanted to consecrate himself totally to God as a monk in one of the Greek monasteries of the City (probably Santa Prassede) and took the monastic name of Cyril (his baptismal name was Constantine). He then insistently begged his brother Methodius, who in the meantime had been ordained a Bishop, not to abandon their mission in Moravia and to return to the peoples there. He addressed this prayer to God: "Lord, my God... hear my prayers and keep the flock you have entrusted to me faithful .... Free them from the heresy of the three languages, gather them all in unity and make the people you have chosen agree in the true faith and confession". He died on 14 February 869.

Faithful to the pledge he had made with his brother, Methodius returned to Moravia and Pannonia (today, Hungary) the following year, 870, where once again he encountered the violent aversion of the Frankish missionaries who took him prisoner. He did not lose heart and when he was released in 873, he worked hard to organize the Church and train a group of disciples. It was to the merit of these disciples that it was possible to survive the crisis unleashed after the death of Methodius on 6 April 885: persecuted and imprisoned, some of them were sold as slaves and taken to Venice where they were redeemed by a Constantinopolitan official who allowed them to return to the countries of the Slavonic Balkans. Welcomed in Bulgaria, they were able to continue the mission that Methodius had begun and to disseminate the Gospel in the "Land of the Rus". God with his mysterious Providence thus availed himself of their persecution to save the work of the holy Brothers. Literary documentation of their work is extant. It suffices to think of texts such as the Evangeliarium (liturgical passages of the New Testament), the Psalter, various liturgical texts in Slavonic, on which both the Brothers had worked. Indeed, after Cyril's death, it is to Methodius and to his disciples that we owe the translation of the entire Sacred Scriptures, the Nomocanone and the Book of the Fathers.

Wishing now to sum up concisely the profile of the two Brothers, we should first recall the enthusiasm with which Cyril approached the writings of St Gregory of Nazianzus, learning from him the value of language in the transmission of the Revelation. St Gregory had expressed the wish that Christ would speak through him: "I am a servant of the Word, so I put myself at the service of the Word". Desirous of imitating Gregory in this service, Cyril asked Christ to deign to speak in Slavonic through him. He introduced his work of translation with the solemn invocation: "Listen, O all of you Slav Peoples, listen to the word that comes from God, the word that nourishes souls, the word that leads to the knowledge of God". In fact, a few years before the Prince of Moravia had asked the Emperor Michael III to send missionaries to his country, it seems that Cyril and his brother Methodius, surrounded by a group of disciples, were already working on the project of collecting the Christian dogmas in books written in Slavonic. The need for new graphic characters closer to the language spoken was therefore clearly apparent: so it was that the Glagolitic alphabet came into being. Subsequently modified, it was later designated by the name "Cyrillic", in honour of the man who inspired it. It was a crucial event for the development of the Slav civilization in general. Cyril and Methodius were convinced that the individual peoples could not claim to have received the Revelation fully unless they had heard it in their own language and read it in the characters proper to their own alphabet.

Methodius had the merit of ensuring that the work begun by his brother was not suddenly interrupted. While Cyril, the "Philosopher", was more inclined to contemplation, Methodius on the other hand had a leaning for the active life. Thanks to this he was able to lay the foundations of the successive affirmation of what we might call the "Cyrillian-Methodian idea": it accompanied the Slav peoples in the different periods of their history, encouraging their cultural, national and religious development. This was already recognized by Pope Pius XI in his Apostolic Letter Quod Sanctum Cyrillum, in which he described the two Brothers: "Sons of the East, with a Byzantine homeland, of Greek origin, for the Roman missions to reap Slav apostolic fruit" (AAS 19 [1927] 93-96). The historic role they played was later officially proclaimed by Pope John Paul II who, with his Apostolic Letter Egregiae Virtutis, declared them Co-Patrons of Europe, together with St Benedict (31 December 1980; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 19 January 1981, p. 3).
Cyril and Methodius are in fact a classic example of what today is meant by the term "inculturation": every people must integrate the message revealed into its own culture and express its saving truth in its own language. This implies a very demanding effort of "translation" because it requires the identification of the appropriate words to present anew, without distortion, the riches of the revealed word. The two holy Brothers have left us a most important testimony of this, to which the Church also looks today in order to draw from it inspiration and guidelines.
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To special groups:

I offer a warm welcome to the participants in the 2009 Church Music Festival. I greet the pilgrims from the Parishes of Sacred Heart, Dontozidon, Ilapayan and Tuaran from the Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, accompanied by Archbishop John Lee, and also the pilgrims from St Francis Parish, Singapore. I am also pleased to greet the many student groups, and all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors.

I extend my greetings to the various religious leaders present today who have gathered in Rome for an International Conference of Interreligious Dialogue. I commend this initiative organized by the Italian Bishops' Conference in collaboration with the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I am confident that it will do much to draw the attention of world political leaders to the importance of religions within the social fabric of every society and to the grave duty to ensure that their deliberations and policies support and uphold the common good. Upon all those taking part I invoke an abundance of the Almighty's Blessings.

I now address the young people, the sick and the newlyweds. Next Friday we shall celebrate the feast of the Sacred Heart, a day of priestly sanctification and the beginning of the Year for Priests which I desired for the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the death of the Holy Curé d'Ars. Dear young people I greet you with affection and offer a special greeting to the children with you from the after-school prayer and recreation centres of the Diocese of Foligno, accompanied by their Pastor, Bishop Gualtiero Sigismondi. Dear friends, may the riches of Christ's Heart always sustain you. May they help you, dear sick people, to entrust yourselves to the hands of divine Providence; and may they encourage you, dear newlyweds, to live your Christian union with reciprocal dedication.

I now take pleasure in introducing to you the Syrian-Catholic Delegation: the Patriarch of the Church of Antioch for Syrian Catholics, H.B. Mar Ignace Youssef III Younan, on his first official visit, accompanied by the Patriarchs emeritus, Bishops and faithful who have come from the Middle East and from the various parts of the world in which Syrian Catholics live and nurture their ties with the Eastern Christian tradition and with the Bishop of Rome.

I greet with affection venerable Patriarch Youssef, to whom I have already granted the ecclesiastica communio which, in accordance with the sacred norms he requested of me upon his election. This communion will be publicly acknowledged during the Divine Liturgy in the Syrian-Antiochean rite that will be celebrated in the Basilica of St Mary Major tomorrow. Taking part as my Representative will be Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches. As I assure you, venerable Brother, and all those who have accompanied you, of my prayers, I would like at the same time to express my concern and my esteem to all the Eastern Catholic Churches, as I encourage them to persevere in their ecclesial mission, even amid a thousand difficulties, in order to build unity and peace everywhere.

Saint Peter's Square

Wednesday, 24 June 2009 - Year for Priests

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Last Friday, 19 June, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and a Day traditionally dedicated to prayer for the sanctification of priests, I had the joy of inaugurating the Year for Priests which I established on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the "birth in Heaven" of the Curé d'Ars, St John Baptist Mary Vianney. And on entering the Vatican Basilica for the celebration of Vespers, first by way of a symbolic gesture I paused in the Chapel of the Choir to venerate the relic of this holy pastor of souls: his heart. Why a Year for Priests? Why precisely in memory of the Holy Curé d'Ars who did not, apparently, achieve anything extraordinary?

Divine Providence has ensured that his figure be juxtaposed with that of St Paul. Indeed, while the Pauline Year, dedicated to the Apostle to the Gentiles an extraordinary evangelizer who made several missionary voyages in order to spread the Gospel is drawing to a close, this new Jubilee Year invites us to look at a poor peasant who became a humble parish priest and carried out his pastoral service in a small village. If the two saints differ widely because of the paths through life that characterized them one went from one region to the next to proclaim the Gospel, the other welcomed thousands and thousands of the faithful while remaining in his own tiny parish some basic factor binds them together nevertheless; and it is their total identification with their own ministry, their communion with Christ, which made St Paul say "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (
Ga 2,20). And St John Mary Vianney used to like to repeat: "if we had faith, we would see God hidden in the priest like a light behind glass or like wine mixed with water". The purpose of this Year for Priests, as I wrote in my Letter addressed to priests for this occasion, is therefore to encourage every priest in this striving for spiritual perfection on which, above all, the effectiveness of their ministry depends, and first and foremost to help priests and with them the entire People of God to rediscover and to reinforce their knowledge of the extraordinary, indispensable gift of Grace which the ordained minister represents for those who have received it, for the whole Church and for the world which would be lost without the Real Presence of Christ.

There is no doubt that the historical and social conditions in which the Curé d'Ars lived have changed and it is right to wonder how priests in today's globalized societies can imitate him by identifying with him in their own ministries. In a world in which the common vision of life includes less and less of the sacred, instead of which "functionality" becomes the only crucial element, the Catholic concept of the priesthood might risk losing its natural esteem, at times even within the ecclesial conscience. Two different conceptions of the priesthood are frequently compared and at times even set against one another, in theological milieus as well as in actual pastoral practice and the formation of the clergy. In this regard I pointed out several years ago that there is: "on the one hand a social and functional concept that defines the essence of the priesthood with the concept of "service': service to the community in the fulfilment of a function.... Moreover, there is the sacramental-ontological concept, which of course does not deny the priesthood's character of service but sees it anchored to the minister's existence and claims that this existence is determined by a gift granted by the Lord through the mediation of the Church, whose name is sacrament" (J. Ratzinger, Ministero e vita del Sacerdote, in Elementi di Teologia fondamentale. Saggio su fede e ministero, Brescia 2005, p. 165). The terminological shifting of the word "priesthood" to "service, ministry, assignment", is also a sign of this different conception. The primacy of the Eucharist, moreover, is linked to the former, the ontological-sacramental conception, in the dual term: "priesthood-sacrifice", whereas the primacy of the word and of the service of proclamation is held to correspond with the latter.

Clearly these two concepts are not contradictory and the tension which nevertheless exists between them may be resolved from within. Thus the Decree of the Second Vatican Council on the Ministry and Life of Priests, Presbyterorum ordinis, says: "For, through the apostolic proclamation of the Gospel, the People of God is called together and assembled so that when all who belong to this People have been sanctified by the Holy Spirit, they can offer themselves as "a sacrifice, living, holy, pleasing to God' (Rm 12,1). Through the ministry of priests the spiritual sacrifice of the faithful is made perfect in union with the sacrifice of Christ, the sole Mediator. Through the hands of priests and in the name of the whole Church, the Lord's sacrifice is offered in the Eucharist in an unbloody and sacramental manner until he himself returns" (n. 2).

Then let us ask ourselves: "What precisely does "to evangelize' mean for priests? What does the "primacy' of proclamation consist in?". Jesus speaks of the proclamation of the Kingdom of God as the true purpose of his coming into the world and his proclamation is not only a "discourse". At the same time it includes his action: the signs and miracles that he works show that the Kingdom comes into the world as a present reality which ultimately coincides with Jesus himself. In this sense it is only right to recall that even in the primacy of proclamation, the word and the sign are indivisible. Christian preaching does not proclaim "words", but the Word, and the proclamation coincides with the very Person of Christ, ontologically open to the relationship with the Father and obedient to his will. Thus, an authentic service to the Word requires of the priest that he strive for deeper self-denial, to the point that he can say, with the Apostle, "it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me". The priest cannot consider himself "master" of the Word, but its servant. He is not the Word but, as John the Baptist, whose birth we are celebrating precisely today, proclaimed, he is the "voice" of the Word: "the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight" (Mc 1,3).

For the priest, then, being the "voice" of the Word is not merely a functional aspect. On the contrary, it implies a substantial "losing of himself" in Christ, participating with his whole being in the mystery of Christ's death and Resurrection: his understanding, his freedom, his will and the offering of his body as a living sacrifice (cf. Rm Rm 12,1-2). Only participation in Christ's sacrifice, in his kenosis, makes preaching authentic! And this is the way he must take with Christ to reach the point of being able to say to the Father, together with Christ: let "not what I will, but what you will" be done (Mc 14,36). Proclamation, therefore, always involves self-sacrifice, a prerequisite for its authenticity and efficacy.

As an alter Christus, the priest is profoundly united to the Word of the Father who, in becoming incarnate took the form of a servant, he became a servant (Ph 2,5-11). The priest is a servant of Christ, in the sense that his existence, configured to Christ ontologically, acquires an essentially relational character: he is in Christ, for Christ and with Christ, at the service of humankind. Because he belongs to Christ, the priest is radically at the service of all people: he is the minister of their salvation, their happiness and their authentic liberation, developing, in this gradual assumption of Christ's will, in prayer, in "being heart to heart" with him. Therefore this is the indispensable condition for every proclamation, which entails participation in the sacramental offering of the Eucharist and docile obedience to the Church.

The saintly Curé d'Ars would often say with tears in his eyes: "How dreadful it is to be a priest!". And he would add: "How a priest who celebrates Mass like an ordinary event is to be pitied! How unfortunate is a priest with no inner life!". May the Year for Priests lead all priests to identify totally with the Crucified and Risen Jesus so that, in imitation of St John the Baptist, they may be prepared to "shrink" that Christ may grow and that, in following the example of the Curé d'Ars, they feel constantly and profoundly the responsibility of their mission, which is the sign and presence of God's infinite mercy. Let us entrust to Our Lady, Mother of the Church, the Year for Priests which has just begun and all the priests of the world.
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To special groups

Dear Brothers and Sisters, I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors present at today's Audience, especially those from Norway, Sweden, Malawi, South Africa, Indonesia and the United States. My particular greeting goes to the Catholic educators participating in the annual Rome Seminar sponsored by the Lay Centre at Foyer Unitas. I also greet the many student groups present. Upon all of you I invoke God's blessings of joy and peace!

Lastly, I greet the young people, the sick and the newlyweds. Today we are celebrating the Feast of the birth of St John the Baptist, sent by God to bear witness to the light and to prepare a people well disposed to the Lord. I hope that you, dear young people, may find in friendship with Jesus the necessary strength always to be equal to the responsibilities that await you. I urge you, dear sick people, to consider your suffering and daily trials as an opportunity that God offers you to cooperate in the salvation of souls. And I ask you, dear newlyweds, to express the Lord's love in reciprocal faithfulness and in generous openness to life.

I now address a cordial welcome to the Delegation led by the Undersecretary of the United Nations Organization and Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict. In expressing to you and to those who accompany you my deep appreciation of your work in defence of children, the victims of violence and weapons, I am thinking of all the world's children, especially those exposed to fear, neglect, hunger, abuse, illness and death. The Pope is close to all these small victims and always remembers them in his prayers.

On 24 June 150 years ago the idea was conceived of a far-reaching mobilization in aid of war victims, which was subsequently to acquire the name of the "Red Cross". As the years have passed, the values of universality, neutrality and independence in service have inspired the adherence of millions of volunteers in every part of the world, forming an important bulwark of humanity and solidarity in numerous contexts of war and conflict, as well as in many emergencies. In expressing the hope that the human person, in his dignity and in all his dimensions may always be the centre of the humanitarian work of the Red Cross, I encourage young people especially to undertake practical work in this praiseworthy institution.

I make the most of this opportunity to request the release of all those who have been kidnapped in war zones and ask once again for the liberation of Eugenio Vagni, a Red Cross worker in the Philippines.

Saint Peter's Square

Wednesday, 1st July 2009 - Year for Priests

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The celebration of First Vespers of the Solemnity of the Holy Apostles, Peter and Paul in the Basilica of St Paul-Outside-the-Walls on 28 June, as you know, brought to a close the Pauline Year commemorating the 2,000th anniversary of the birth of the Apostle to the Gentiles.
Let us thank the Lord for the spiritual fruit that this important initiative has brought to so many Christian communities. We may accept the Apostle's invitation to deepen our knowledge of the mystery of Christ as a precious heritage of the Pauline Year because he is at the heart and the centre of our personal and community existence. This is in fact the indispensable condition for a true spiritual and ecclesial renewal. As I emphasized during the first Eucharistic Celebration in the Sistine Chapel after my election as Successor of the Apostle Peter, it is precisely from full communion with Christ that "flows every other element of the Church's life: first of all, communion among all the faithful, the commitment to proclaiming and witnessing to the Gospel, the ardour of love for all, especially the poorest and lowliest". This applies to priests in the first place. For this reason let us thank God's Providence for offering us the possibility of celebrating the Year for Priests now. My heartfelt hope for every priest is that it will be an opportunity for inner renewal and, consequently, that it will firmly strengthen him in his commitment to his mission.

Just as during the Pauline Year our constant reference point was St Paul, so in the coming months we shall look in the first place to St John Mary Vianney, the Holy Curé d'Ars, recalling the 150th anniversary of his death. In the Letter I wrote to priests on this occasion, I wished to underline what shines brightest in the life of this humble minister of the altar: his "complete identification... with his ministry". He used to like to say that "a good shepherd, a pastor after God's heart, is the greatest treasure which the good Lord can grant to a parish, and one of the most precious gifts of divine mercy", and, almost not managing to understand the greatness of the gift and task entrusted to a poor human creature, he would sigh: "O, how great is the priest! ... If he realized what he is, he would die... God obeys him: he utters a few words and the Lord descends from heaven at his voice, to be contained within a small host".

In fact, precisely by considering the pairing of identity with mission each priest is able to be more aware of the need for that gradual identification with Christ which will guarantee him fidelity and the fruitfulness of Gospel witness. The very title of the Year for Priests Faithfulness of Christ, faithfulness of priests highlights the fact that the gift of divine grace precedes every possible human response and pastoral initiative. Thus, in the priest's life, missionary preaching and worship can never be separated, just as the ontological-sacramental identity and evangelizing mission must never be separated. Moreover, we might say that the purpose of every priest's mission is one of worship. Thus may all people offer themselves to God as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to him (cf. Rm
Rm 12,1), which in Creation itself, in people, becomes worship, praise of the Creator, receiving that love which they in turn are called to offer to each other in abundance. The early Christian communities were already clearly aware of this. St John Chrysostom said, for example, that the sacrament of the altar and the "sacrament of the brother" or "sacrament of the poor man", are two aspects of the same mystery. Love for one's neighbour, attention to justice and to the poor are not so much themes of a moral society as they are an expression of a sacramental conception of Christian morality. This is because, through the ministry of priests, the spiritual sacrifice of all the faithful is fulfilled in union with that of Christ, the one Mediator: a sacrifice that priests offer in an unbloody and sacramental way as they wait for the Lord to come again. This is the principal, essentially missionary and dynamic dimension of the priestly ministry and identity: through the proclamation of the Gospel they generate faith in those who do not yet believe, so that they may combine their sacrifice with Christ's through love of God and of one's neighbour.

Dear brothers and sisters, in the face of so much uncertainty and weariness that also arises in the exercise of the priestly ministry, the recovery of a clear and unequivocal opinion on the absolute primacy of divine grace is urgent, remembering what St Thomas Aquinas wrote: "The good of grace in one is greater than the good of nature in the whole universe" (Summa Theologiae, I-II 113,9, ad 2). The mission of each individual priest will therefore depend also and above all on knowledge of the sacramental reality of his "new being". His ever renewed enthusiasm for the mission depends on the certainty of his own identity not artificially and humanly constructed but freely and divinely given and received. And what I wrote in the Encyclical Deus Caritas Est also applies to priests: "Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction" ().

Having received such an extraordinary gift of grace with their "consecration", priests become permanent witnesses of their encounter with Christ. Starting precisely from this inner awareness, they can fully carry out their "mission" through the proclamation of the word and the administration of the Sacraments. After the Second Vatican Council, an impression spread that there was a more pressing need in the mission of priests in our time; some thought that above all it was necessary for a new society to be built. The Gospel passage that we heard at the outset recalls instead the two essential elements of the priestly ministry. Jesus sends the Apostles out to proclaim the Gospel and gives them the power to expel evil spirits. "Proclamation" and "power", that is, "word" and "sacrament", are therefore the two basic pillars of priestly service, over and above its possible multiple circumstances.

When the "diptych" of consecration and mission is not taken into account, it becomes truly difficult to understand the identity of the priest and his ministry in the Church. Indeed, who is the priest if not a man who has been converted and renewed by the Spirit, who lives on his personal relationship with Christ, ceaselessly making the Gospel criteria his own? Who is the priest if not a man of unity and truth, aware of his own limitations and at the same time of the extraordinary greatness, of the vocation he has received, namely that of helping to spread the Kingdom of God to the very ends of the earth? Yes! The priest is a man who belongs totally to the Lord, for it is God himself who has called him and establishes him in his apostolic service. For the very reason that he belongs completely to the Lord, he belongs completely to the people, for the people. During this Year for Priests that will last until the next Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, let us pray for all priests. Let us pray that in dioceses, parishes, religious and especially monastic communities, in associations and movements, in the various pastoral groups that exist throughout the world there may be an increase in prayer initiatives and in particular in Eucharistic Adoration for the sanctification of the clergy and for priestly vocations, in response to Jesus' invitation to pray "the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest" (Mt 9,38). Prayer is the first commitment, the true path of sanctification for priests and the soul of an authentic "vocations ministry". Not only must the scarcity of ordinations to the priesthood in certain countries not discourage us, but it must also be an incentive to increase the number of places of silence and listening to the word, to better attend to spiritual direction and the sacrament of Confession. In this way God's voice, which always continues to call and to strengthen, may be heard and promptly followed by numerous young people. Those who pray are not afraid; those who pray are never alone; those who pray are saved! St John Mary Vianney is without a doubt the model of an existence made prayer. May Mary, Mother of the Church, help all priests to follow his example in order to be, like him, witnesses of Christ and apostles of the Gospel.

To special groups

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors present at today's Audience, including the pilgrimage groups from England, Scotland, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Canada and the United States. I thank the choirs for their praise of God in song. Upon all of you I cordially invoke God's Blessings of joy and peace!

Lastly I address a cordial greeting to the young people, the sick and the newlyweds. Many of you, dear friends, will have the possibility in these months of spending a holiday period and I hope that it will be peaceful and fruitful for you all. But there are also many who for various reasons will be unable to benefit from a holiday. I reach out to you with my affectionate greeting and the hope that you will not lack the solidarity and closeness of your loved ones. Lastly, I address a special thought to the young people who are sitting examinations in these days, and assure each one of my remembrance in prayer. May the Lord whom we now invoke with the singing of the Pater Noster watch over everyone with his love. a greater appreciation of the role of the priest in the life of the ecclesial community.

Paul VI Audience Hall

Audiences 2005-2013 17069