Speeches 2005-13 20020


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am glad to greet you and to address my cordial welcome to all of you who represent the variegated world of Italian civil aviation. I greet respectfully the Civil and Military Authorities, with a special thought for Senator Altero Matteoli, Minister of Infrastructure and Transport, and Prof. Vito Riggio, President of ENAC, whom I thank for his courteous words. I greet Dr Gianni Letta, Undersecretary of the Office of the Prime Minister, who has deigned to be present at this important meeting. Lastly, I address my thoughts to the directors and all the operators of ENAC, ENAV and the other bodies that make up the civil aviation system.

In the past century, the frontiers of mobility were enormously expanded by the ever more frequent use of aeroplanes. Today the skies increasingly represent what we might call the "highways" of modern viability, and airports have consequently become the privileged crossroads of the global village; as has been said, millions of people pass through them every day. To you and to the bodies you represent are entrusted the management and the ever more complex organization of this structure of contemporary life and communication among persons and peoples. Your work is often discreet and little known; it is not always noticed by the users. However it does not escape the eyes of God, who sees human efforts even when they are hidden (cf.
Mt 6,6).

The tasks entrusted to you are truly noteworthy! You are called to regulate and to control air traffic and to provide for the efficiency of the national transport system, with respect for the country's international commitments. You must guarantee safe flights to individuals and businesses, as well as the protection of their rights, the quality of services at the stopovers, and fair competition with respect for the environment. In all these commitments it is important to remember that in every project and activity the primary capital to be safeguarded and valued is man, the human person in his or her integrity (cf. Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate, n. 25). In fact the person must not be the means but rather the end for which to strive constantly. St Ambrose reminds us that "man is the summit and, as it were, compendium of the universe and the supreme beauty of Creation" (Exameron IX, 75). Respect for these principles may appear particularly complicated and difficult in today's context. This is because of the economic crisis that is giving rise to problematic effects in the sector of civil aviation and because of the threat of international terrorism that also targets airports and aircraft in order to carry out its subversive plots. In this situation too one must never lose sight of respect for the primacy of the person and attention to his or her needs. This does not make the service any less efficient or penalize financial management; on the contrary, it constitutes an important guarantee of true efficacy and authentic quality.

Today's airport is increasingly appearing as a mirror of the world and a "place" of humanity where people of diverse nationalities, cultures and religions meet. Millions of passengers pass through airports every year, bound for holiday or work destinations or to join relatives in order to share happy or sorrowful events with them. Many on pilgrimage travel by air seeking moments of spirituality and an experience of God. Moreover, in recent years airports have become places where migrants and refugees experience the trial of waiting, with hope and fear for their future. In addition, the number of children and of the elderly, the disabled and the sick who require special care and attention is ever increasing. In the last few decades, also for the Successor of Peter, the aeroplane has become an indispensable means of evangelization. How can we forget the place that airports and aeroplanes have occupied in Apostolic Journeys, my own and those of my Venerable Predecessors? I cannot but thank you all for this precious service!

Furthermore the Church reserves special pastoral care for the world of Civil Aviation. Indeed, as Venerable Pope John Paul ii recalled, thinking precisely of your milieu, so varied and complex: "How greatly they want to see a friendly face, hear a soothing word, receive an act of kindness or concrete understanding!" (Homily at Mass for the Feast of Our Lady of Loreto, Leonardo da Vinci Airport, Fiumicino, 10 Dec. 1991; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 16 Dec. 1991, p. 23). The Christian community responds to these needs with the service provided by airport chapels and chaplains. They are mainly for both flight and land personnel, for police, customs and security officials as well as for medical and paramedical staff, but they are also for the use of all who pass through the airport. This presence reminds us that every person has a transcendent, spiritual dimension and helps people recognize that they belong to one family, made up of members who are not merely beside each other but who, through their relations with others and with God, build brotherly solidarity on the basis of justice and peace (cf. Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate, nn. 53-54).

Dear friends, on 24 March 1920, my Predecessor Benedict XV, of venerable memory, crowning the wish of several pioneers in aviation, proclaimed Our Lady of Loreto Patroness of all air navigators with reference to the Archangel Gabriel, who came down from Heaven to bring Mary the glad tidings of her Divine Motherhood (cf. Lc 1,26-28) and to the devout tradition linked to the Holy House. I entrust your work and all your projects to Our Lady of Loreto. May she help you seek always and in all things God's "Kingdom and his righteousness" (Mt 6,33). May the Apostolic Blessing which I warmly impart to each one of you and to your loved ones go with you.



Dear Brothers,
Dear Fr Enrico,

On behalf of all of us here I would like to thank you warmly, Fr Enrico, for these Exercises, for the passionate and very personal way in which you led us on the path towards Christ, on the path to the renewal of our priesthood.

You chose as the starting point, as the ever present background, as the finishing post we have now seen it Solomon's prayer for "a heart that listens". It really seems to me that this sums up the whole of the Christian vision of the human being. In himself man is not perfect; he is a relational being. It is not his cogito [I think] that can cogitare [think] of the whole of reality. He needs listening, he needs to listen to the other and especially to the Other with a capital "O", to God. Only in this way does he know himself, only in this way does he become himself.

From my place here I could always see the Mother of the Redeemer, the Sedes Sapientiae, the living throne of wisdom with Wisdom incarnate on her lap. And, as we have seen, St Luke presents Mary precisely as a woman with a heart that listens, who is steeped in the word of God, who listens to the Word, meditates on it (synballein), composes it and preserves it, who cherishes it in her heart. The Fathers of the Church say that at the moment of the conception of the eternal Word in the Virgin's womb, the Holy Spirit entered Mary through her ear. In listening she conceived the eternal Word, she gave flesh to this Word. And thus she tells us what it means to have a listening heart.

Here Mary is surrounded by the Fathers and Mothers of the Church, by the Communion of Saints. And thus, in these very days we have seen and understood precisely that it is not in the isolated "I" that we can truly listen to the Word but only in the "we" of the Communion of Saints.

And, dear Fr Enrico, you showed us, you gave voice to five exemplary figures of priests, from Ignatius of Antioch to the beloved and venerable Pope John Paul II. Thus we truly perceived anew what it means to be a priest, what it means to develop as priests.

You also stressed that consecration leads toward mission; it is destined to become mission. In these days, with God's help we have examined our consecration in depth. Thus, let us now face our mission with fresh courage. May the Lord help us. Thank you for your assistance, Fr Enrico.

TO THE BISHOPS OF UGANDA ON THEIR "AD LIMINA" VISIT Consistory Hall Friday, 5 March 2010


Your Eminence,
Dear Brother Bishops,

I am pleased to greet you, the Bishops of Uganda, on your Ad Limina visit to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul. I thank Bishop Ssekamanya for the gracious sentiments of communion with the Successor of Peter which he expressed on your behalf. I willingly reciprocate and assure you of my prayers and affection for you and for the People of God entrusted to your care. In a particular way my thoughts go to those who have been affected by the recent landslides in the Bududa region of your country. I offer prayers to Almighty God, the Father of all mercies, that he may grant eternal rest to the souls of the deceased, and give strength and hope to all who are suffering the consequences of this tragic event.

The recently celebrated Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops was memorable in its call for renewed efforts in the service of a more profound evangelization of your continent (cf. Message to the People of God, 15). The power of the word of God and the knowledge and love of Jesus cannot but transform people’s lives by changing for the better the way they think and act. In the light of the Gospel message, you are aware of the need to encourage the Catholics of Uganda to appreciate fully the sacrament of marriage in its unity and indissolubility, and the sacred right to life. I urge you to help them, priests as well as the lay faithful, to resist the seduction of a materialistic culture of individualism which has taken root in so many countries. Continue to call for lasting peace based on justice, generosity towards those in need and a spirit of dialogue and reconciliation. While promoting true ecumenism, be especially close to those who are more vulnerable to the advances of sects. Guide them to reject superficial sentiments and a preaching that would empty the cross of Christ of its power (cf.
1Co 1,17); in this way you will continue, as responsible Pastors, to keep them and their children faithful to the Church of Christ. In this regard I am pleased to learn that your people find spiritual consolation in popular forms of evangelization such as the organized pilgrimages to the Shrine of the Ugandan Martyrs at Namugongo, where the active pastoral presence of Bishops and numerous priests guides the piety of the pilgrims towards renewal as individuals and communities. Continue to sustain all who with generous hearts assist displaced persons and orphans from war-torn areas. Encourage those who care for people afflicted by poverty, Aids and other diseases, teaching them to see in those whom they serve the suffering face of Jesus (cf. Mt 25,40).

Renewed evangelization gives rise in turn to a deeper Catholic culture which takes root in the family. From your Quinquennial Reports I am aware that programmes of education in parishes, schools and associations, and your own interventions on topics of common interest, are indeed spreading a stronger Catholic culture. Great good can come from well-prepared lay people who are active in the media, in politics and culture. Courses for their adequate formation, especially in Catholic Social Doctrine, should be provided, taking advantage of resources at Uganda Martyrs University or other institutions. Encourage them to be active and outspoken in the service of what is just and noble. In this way, society as a whole will benefit from trained and zealous Christians who take up leadership roles in the service of the common good. Ecclesial movements also deserve your support for their positive contribution to the life of the Church in many sectors.

Bishops, as the first agents of evangelization, are called to bear clear witness to the practical solidarity born of our communion in Christ. In a spirit of Christian charity Dioceses that enjoy more resources, both materially and spiritually, should assist those that have less. At the same time, all communities have a duty to strive for self-sufficiency. It is important that your people develop a sense of responsibility towards themselves, their community and their Church, and become more deeply imbued with a Catholic spirit of sensitivity to the needs of the universal Church.

Your priests, as committed ministers of evangelization, already benefit greatly from your fatherly concern and guidance. In this Year for Priests offer them your assistance, your example and your clear teaching. Exhort them to prayer and vigilance, especially with regard to self-centred, worldly or political ambitions, or excessive attachment to family or ethnic group. Continue promoting vocations, providing for due discernment of candidates and for their proper motivation and formation, especially their spiritual formation. Priests must be men of God, capable of guiding others, through wise counsel and example, in the Lord’s ways.

Religious men and women in Uganda are called to be an example and a source of encouragement to the whole Church. By your advice and prayers, assist them as they strive for the goal of perfect charity and bear witness to the Kingdom. Priests and religious require constant support in their lives of celibacy and consecrated virginity. By your own example, teach them of the beauty of this way of life, of the spiritual fatherhood and motherhood with which they can enrich and deepen the love of the faithful for the Creator and Giver of all good gifts. Your catechists likewise are a great resource. Continue to be attentive to their needs and formation, and place before them, for their encouragement, the example of martyrs such as Blessed Daudi Okello and Blessed Jildo Irwa.

Dear Brother Bishops, with the Apostle Paul, I exhort you: "always be steady, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry" (2Tm 4,5). In the Blessed Ugandan Martyrs you and your people have models of great courage and endurance in suffering. Count on their prayers and strive always to be worthy of their legacy. Commending you and those entrusted to your pastoral care to the loving protection of Mary, Mother of the Church, I affectionately impart to all of you my Apostolic Blessing.


Dear Friends,

I am very glad to receive you and to address my cordial welcome to each one of you. I greet my Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood and all the Authorities. I greet Mr Guido Bertolaso, Undersecretary of the Office of the Prime Minister and Head of the Department for Civil Protection and I thank him for his courteous words to me on behalf of all and for all that he does for civil society and for all of us. I greet Mr Gianni Letta, Undersecretary of the Office of the Prime Minister, present at this meeting. I address my affectionate greeting to the many volunteers and to the representatives of several sections of the National Service for Civil Defence.

This Meeting was preceded by a joyful and festive moment, brightened by the musical performance of the "Istituzione Sinfonica Abruzzese" my grateful thoughts to you all. You have wished to review the Civil Defence's role over the past 10 years, on the occasion of both national and international emergencies and in support activities for important and specific events. How could one fail to mention in this regard the interventions on behalf of the earthquake victims in San Giuliano di Puglia and, above all, in Abruzzo? In visiting Onna and l'Aquila last April I was able to see for myself how hard you had worked to help those who had lost their loved ones and their homes. The words I addressed to you on that occasion seem to me to be appropriate: "Thank you for all you have done and especially for the love with which you have done it. Thank you for the example you have given" (Visit to Abruzzo Region, Address to the faithful, volunteers, rescue teams, the military and other authorities, 28 April 2009). And how can we fail to think with admiration of the many volunteers who provided assistance and security to the immense crowd of young people and not only to them present at the unforgettable World Youth Day in the year 2000, or to those who came to Rome to pay their last respects to Pope John Paul II?

Dear volunteers of the Civil Defence I know how much you have been looking forward to this Meeting. I can assure you that it is something that I too eagerly awaited. You constitute one of the most recent and mature expressions of the long tradition of solidarity that is rooted in the altruism and generosity of the Italian people. The Civil Defence's voluntary service has become a national phenomenon that has acquired characteristics of participation and organization that are particularly significant and today has about 1,300,000 members, divided into more than 3,000 organizations. Your Association's aim and intentions have been recognized in appropriate legislative norms which have helped to shape the national identity of the Civil Defence's voluntary service which is attentive to the primary needs of the individual and of the common good.

The terms "defence" and "civil" are precise terms and a profound expression of your mission, or I would say your "vocation": to protect people and their dignity which are central goods to civil society in the tragic cases of calamities and emergencies that threaten the life and security of families or entire communities. This mission does not consist solely in emergency management but also in making a prompt and praiseworthy contribution to achieving the common good, which always constitutes the horizon of human coexistence even, and above all, in times of great trial. Such trials constitute an occasion for discernment rather than for desperation. They afford the opportunity to formulate a new social programme that focuses more on virtue and on the good of all.

The twofold dimension of protection, which is expressed both during the emergency and after it, is clearly seen in the figure of the Good Samaritan, taken from Luke's Gospel (cf.
Lc 10,30-35). In assisting the unfortunate traveller in the moment of his greatest need the Good Samaritan certainly showed charity, humility and courage. And he did so when everyone else some through indifference, others because they were hard-hearted looked away. The Good Samaritan, however, teaches us to go beyond the emergency and to prepare, we might say, for the return to normality. Indeed, not only did he bind up the wounds of the man who had been left lying on the ground, but he then took the trouble to entrust him to the innkeeper so that once the emergency was past he might recover. As this Gospel passage teaches us, love for neighbour cannot be delegated: the State and politics, even with the necessary concern for welfare, cannot replace it.

As I wrote in my Encyclical Deus Caritas Est: "Love caritas will always prove necessary, even in the most just society. There is no ordering of the State so just that it can eliminate the need for a service of love. Whoever wants to eliminate love is preparing to eliminate man as such. There will always be suffering which cries out for consolation and help. There will always be loneliness. There will always be situations of material need where help in the form of concrete love of neighbour is indispensable" (n. 28, b). This always requires and always will require personal and voluntary commitment. For this very reason volunteers are not "stopgaps" in the social network but people who truly contribute to tracing society's human and Christian features. Without voluntary service the common good and society could not last long, for their progress and dignity depend to a large extent precisely on those people who do more than their duty strictly demands of them.

Dear friends, your commitment is a service to the dignity of the human beings founded on their having been created in God's image and likeness (cf. Gn Gn 1,26). As the episode of the Good Samaritan has shown us, sometimes seeing can turn to emptiness or even contempt, but a gaze can also express love. In addition to being custodians of the territory, you are, increasingly, living icons of the Good Samaritan, attentive to your neighbour, remembering human dignity and inspiring hope. When a person does not limit himself to doing no more than his professional or family duties require but seeks to help others, his heart expands. Those who love and freely serve others as their neighbour live and act in accordance with the Gospel and take part in the mission of the Church that always looks at the whole person and wants him to feel God's love.

Dear volunteers, the Church and the Pope support your invaluable service. May the Virgin Mary who went "with haste" to her kinswoman Elizabeth to help her (cf. Lc 1,39), be your model. As I entrust you to the intercession of your Patron, St Pius of Pietrelcina, I assure you of my remembrance in prayer and with affection impart the Apostolic Blessing to you and to your dear ones.


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I thank you with all my heart for this beautiful pre-Easter experience which you have given me this Sunday morning. I read a bit about the history of your parish which really began from nothing. In the meantime you have built a fine pastoral centre, you have erected the building, the structures, but above all you have built the living Church of living stones. It is now lovely to see how lively the Church is here, alive with the word of God, with participation in the Blessed Eucharist, with so many elements of spiritual life and the movements, all united in a single pastoral project in the common Church of Christ.

For this I am deeply grateful and I ask you to continue in this direction. Always build the Church with living stones and thus always be a centre of outreach of the word of God in our world which has so great a need for this word of God, for life that comes from God.

Today, in the First Reading, we heard precisely how God introduced himself, entering history, making himself one of us. And we heard that God is a God who listens to us, who is not remote, who is interested in us, who is for us and with us. And this demands our response. It also requires us to listen to God and to be open to his presence; thus Heaven and earth communicate and become more closely united and the world becomes more luminous and more beautiful.

Thank you for all your work! I wish you a Happy Easter and further spiritual progress in communion with Christ and in the community of priests, especially of your dear parish priest. I have heard how he started by going to the supermarket to see who was there and this is how your parish developed. Thank you, Monsignor Parish Priest, and my thanks to you all. Happy Easter!


Dear Friends,

I am pleased to meet you and to welcome each one of you on the occasion of the annual Course on the Internal Forum organized by the Apostolic Penitentiary. I cordially greet Archbishop Fortunato Baldelli, who has directed your study sessions for the first time as Major Penitentiary, and I thank him for his words to me.

Together with him I greet Bishop Gianfranco Girotti, Regent, the staff of the Penitentiary and all of you who, in taking part in this initiative express the great need to deepen your knowledge of a subject that is essential to the ministry and life of priests.

Your course is providentially taking place in the Year for Priests, which I established to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the birth in Heaven of St John Mary Vianney, who exercised the ministry of reconciliation both heroically and fruitfully.

As I said in the Letter for the inauguration of the Year, "We priests should feel that the following words, which he [the Curé d'Ars] put on the lips of Christ, are meant for each of us personally: "I will charge my ministers to proclaim to sinners that I am ever ready to welcome them, that my mercy is infinite". From the Holy Curé d'Ars we can learn to put our unfailing trust in the sacrament of Penance, to set it once more at the centre of our pastoral concerns, and to take up the "'dialogue of salvation' which it entails".

Where did the heroism and fruitfulness with which St John Mary Vianney lived his ministry as a confessor stem from? First of all from an intense personal penitential dimension. His knowledge of his own limitations and his need to have recourse to Divine Mercy to ask forgiveness, to convert his heart and to be sustained on the journey to holiness are fundamental in the life of a priest. Only those who have first experienced its greatness can be convinced preachers and administrators of God's mercy.

Every priest becomes a minister of Penance through his ontological configuration to Christ, the Eternal High Priest, who reconciles humanity with the Father; so the priest is charged with the responsibility of faithfully administering the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

We live in a cultural context marked by the hedonistic and relativistic mindset that tends to delete God from the horizon of life and does not encourage the acquisition of a clear set of values to refer to that would help one to discern good from evil and develop a proper sense of sin.

This situation makes even more urgent the service of stewards of Divine Mercy. We must not forget, in fact, that a sort of vicious circle exists between the clouding of the experience of God and the loss of the sense of sin. However, if we look at the cultural context in which St John Mary Vianney lived we see that in various aspects it was not so very unlike our own. In his time too, in fact, there was a mentality hostile to faith, expressed by forces that even sought to prevent the exercise of the ministry. In this circumstance, the Holy Curé d'Ars "chose the Church as his home", in order to lead people to God.

He lived radically the spirit of prayer, his personal and intimate relationship with Christ, the celebration of Holy Mass, Eucharistic Adoration and evangelical poverty, appearing to his contemporaries such a conspicuous sign of God's presence that he impelled a great many penitents to come to his confessional.

In the conditions of freedom in which it is now possible to exercise the priestly ministry, priests must live the response to their vocation "in a lofty manner", for only those who become every day a living and clear presence of the Lord can awaken in the faithful a sense of sin, impart courage and give rise to the desire for God's forgiveness.

Dear confrères, it is necessary to return to the confessional as a place in which to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation, but also as a place in which "to dwell" more often, so that the faithful may find compassion, advice and comfort, feel that they are loved and understood by God and experience the presence of Divine Mercy beside the Real Presence in the Eucharist.

The discussed "crisis" of the Sacrament of Penance, frequently calls into question priests first of all and their great responsibility to teach the People of God the radical requirements of the Gospel.
In particular, it asks them to dedicate themselves generously to hearing sacramental confessions; to guide the flock courageously so that it does not conform to the mindset of this world (cf. Rom
Rm 12,2) but may even be able to make decisions that run counter to the tide, avoiding adjustments and compromises.

For this reason it is important that priests have a constant aspiration to ascetism, nourished by communion with God, and that they tirelessly dedicate themselves to keeping up to date in the study of moral theology and the human sciences.

St John Mary Vianney knew how to establish a true and proper "dialogue of salvation" with his penitents, showing them the beauty and greatness of the Lord's kindness and awakening that desire for God and for Heaven of which the Saints are the first heralds.

He said: "The Good Lord knows everything; even before you make your confession he already knows that you will sin again and yet he forgives you. How great is the Love of our God, who goes so far as to voluntarily forget the future, in order to forgive us" (Monnin A., Il Curato d'Ars. Vita di Gian-Battista-Maria Vianney, Vol. I, Turin 1870, p. 130).

It is the priest's task to encourage that experience of a "dialogue of salvation", which, born from the certainty of being loved by God, helps the human being to recognize his sin and gradually to enter that stable dynamic of conversion of heart which leads to radical renouncement of evil and to a life in accordance with God (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, CEC 1431).

Dear priests, what an extraordinary ministry the Lord has entrusted to us! Just as in the celebration of the Eucharist he places himself in the hands of the priest to continue to be present among his People, similarly, in the Sacrament of Reconciliation he entrusts himself to the priest so that men and women may experience the embrace with which the father welcomed back the prodigal son, restoring his filial dignity and fully re-establishing him as his heir (cf. Lc 15,11-32).

May the Virgin Mary and the Holy Curé d'Ars help us to experience in our lives the length and breadth and height and depth of the Love of God (cf. Ep 3,18-19), in order to be faithful and generous stewards. I warmly thank you all and willingly impart my Blessing to you.



Your Eminences,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Distinguished Participants,

I am glad to meet you on this particular occasion and I greet you all with affection. I address a special thought to Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, and thank him for his words to me. My gratitude also goes to the entire Dicastery for the dedication with which it coordinates the many initiatives of the Year for Priests that include this Theological Convention on the theme: "Faithfulness of Christ, Faithfulness of the Priest".

I am delighted with this initiative that has gathered more than 50 Bishops and more than 500 priests, many of whom are national or diocesan directors of the clergy and of continuing formation.

Your attention to the themes that concern the ministerial priesthood is one of the fruits of this special Year, which I chose to inaugurate precisely in order "to deepen the commitment of all priests to interior renewal for the sake of a more forceful and incisive witness to the Gospel in today's world" (Letter for the Inauguration of the Year for Priests, 6 June 2009; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 24 June, p. 3).

The theme of priestly identity, the subject of your first study day, is crucial to the exercise of the priestly ministry, today and in the future. In an epoch like our own, so "polycentric" and inclined to blur every conception of identity, deemed by many contrary to freedom and democracy, it is important to keep clearly in mind the theological particularity of the Ordained Ministry to avoid succumbing to the temptation to reduce it to the prevalent cultural categories.

In a context of widespread secularization, which is gradually excluding God from the public sphere and tendentially also from the common social conscience, the priest often appears "foreign" to the common perception. This is precisely because of the most fundamental aspects of his ministry, such as, being a man of the sacred, removed from the world to intercede on behalf of the world and being appointed to this mission by God and not by men (cf. He 5,1).

For this reason it is important to overcome dangerous forms of reductionism. In recent decades these have used categories that are functionalist rather than ontological and have introduced the priest almost as a "social worker", at the risk of betraying Christ's Priesthood itself.

Just as the hermeneutics of continuity are proving ever more urgent for a satisfactory understanding of the Second Vatican Council's texts, likewise a hermeneutic we might describe as "of priestly continuity" appears necessary. This has come down to our day, starting from Jesus of Nazareth, Lord and Christ, and passing through the 2,000 years of the history of greatness and holiness, of culture and devotion which the Priesthood has written in the world.

Dear brother priests, in the time in which we live it is particularly important that the call to participate in the one Priesthood of Christ in the ordained Ministry flourishes in the "charism of prophecy": there is a great need for priests who speak of God to the world and who present God to the world; men who are not swayed by transient cultural trends but are capable of living authentically that freedom which alone the certainty of belonging to God can give.

As your Convention has clearly emphasized, the most necessary prophecy today is that of faithfulness, which, based on Christ's Faithfulness to humanity, leads through the Church and the ministerial Priesthood to living one's own priesthood in total adherence to Christ and to the Church. Indeed, the priest no longer belongs to himself but, because of the sacramental seal he has received (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, CEC 1563,46), is the "property" of God. The priest's "belonging to Another", must become recognizable to all, through a transparent witness.

In the way of thinking, speaking, and judging events of the world, of serving and loving, of relating to people, also in his habits, the priest must draw prophetic power from his sacramental belonging, from his profound being.

Consequently he must do all he can to separate himself from the predominant mindset that tends not to associate the minister's value with his being but with his function alone, thereby underestimating the work of God, which affects the profound identity of the priest as a person, configuring him to himself once and for all (cf. ibid., n. 1583).

The horizon of the ontological belonging to God also constitutes the proper framework for understanding and reaffirming, in our day too, the value of sacred celibacy which in the Latin Church is a charism required for Sacred Orders (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis PO 16) and is held in very great consideration in the Eastern Churches (cf. CCEO CIO 373).

It is an authentic prophecy of the Kingdom, a sign of consecration with undivided heart to the Lord and to "the affairs of the Lord" (1Co 7,32), the expression of their gift of self to God and to others (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, CEC 1579).

The priest's vocation is thus most exalted and remains a great mystery, even to us who have received it as a gift. Our limitations and weaknesses must prompt us to live out and preserve with deep faith this precious gift with which Christ has configured us to him, making us sharers in his saving Mission. Indeed, our comprehension of the ministerial priesthood is bound to faith and requires, ever more forcefully, a radical continuity between seminary formation and continuing formation. The prophetic life, without compromises, with which we serve God and the world, proclaiming the Gospel and celebrating the Sacraments, will encourage the advent of the Kingdom of God already present and the growth of the People of God in faith.

Dear priests, the men and women of our time ask us only to be truly priests and nothing more. The lay faithful will find in a great many other people what they humanly need, but in the priest alone will they be able to find the word of God that must always be on his lips (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis PO 4); the Mercy of the Father, abundantly and freely bestowed in the Sacrament of Reconciliation; the Bread of new Life, "true food given to men" (cf. Hymn of the Office of the Solemnity of Corpus Christi of the Roman Rite).

Let us ask God, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of St John Mary Vianney to obtain that we may thank him every day for the great gift of our vocation and that we may live our Priesthood with full and joyous faithfulness. Thanks to you all for this meeting! I very willingly impart the Apostolic Blessing to each one.

Speeches 2005-13 20020