ADDRESS TO THE PRIESTS by His Em. Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos,

Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy

Dear Priests:

We are getting ready to conclude, tomorrow with the Holy Father, the Jubilee pilgrimage of the priests of the world, which we have prepared for in four yearly encounters: one in Fatima, one in the Ivory Coast, one in Guadalupe and one in the Holy Land. These were four years of prayer, of reflection and of deepening our knowledge of our condition as priests, called by God to be "other Christs" in the world.

Today, having come to Rome from all the continents, to the heart of the Church, next to the Vicar of Christ, in the same historical place that witnessed the martyrdom of the Prince of the Apostles, we renew our faith in the Lord of history, in the God of love. With Christ, God made the Man who called upon us to participate in His work of salvation.

We renew our faith in the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, the new People of God born from the Covenant of death and resurrection of Jesus and from the spirit of the beatitudes. We renew our faith in the ministry of Peter and we renew our faith in the priestly vocation, a special gift we receive from the Lord in clay vases; and in our priestly identity, rediscovering the divine goodness and mercy that chose us among men and constituted us for men with regards to what concerns God to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins of clay (cf. Heb 5:1).

On this occasion, we also renew our love. Love for Christ, love for Peter, love for the Church. From our weakness that makes us feel compassion for those who still live in ignorance and in error and to offer gifts and sacrifices for our own sins as well as for those of the people (cf. Heb 5:2-3), from this weakness, we renew the commitment of ourselves. We do not become discouraged when faced with the constant acknowledgement of our weaknesses, of our defects and of our sins; rather, we acquire a clearer consciousness of our need for God and of our desire to live united to Him through prayer and through the life of the spirit.

We renew our love in the Eucharist, the center of our vocation, the sacrament of our faith and of our salvation, achieved by Christ on the Cross, the sacrifice of praise and thanks for Creation, the real presence of Christ among us, nourishment on the way and sign of future life. The meaning of our vocation as priests lies in the Eucharist: we are the men of the Eucharist. The priest is the Eucharist. Like Christ, he is at the same time a minister, an offering and a victim. Sacerdos et Hostia.

In this square, Saint Peterís Square, confluence of pilgrims who are looking for conversion, we also renew our love for men, our brothers. Love for all human beings and, above all, love for those men and women, with first and last names, that God entrusted to us. That portion of Christís flock entrusted to us, which makes up the reason for being of our life, of our insomnia, of our continuous work. Today, here, in front of the Sepulchre of Peter, we renew our commitment to the mission as intermediaries between God and men. We are Godís arms in the world, His hands, His feet, His heart that continues to beat with love for all human beings, without distinguishing between race and social conditions.

Today, we also renew our love for Mary, Mother of the Church and Queen of the Apostles. Being close to us, She is our confidante, our support in the hours of solitude and desolation. We renew our love for our Mother of the Heavens, the true gift of Christ at the sublime moment when He gave His life to God, for the love for men. Let us once again come close to Her, in the simple and tender attitude as children that look at their Mother with love.

In this square and on this evening, we renew our love for Peter. Prince of the Apostles, Vicar of Christ, the secure rock of salvation. In him we find the star that guides our ministry, the teacher who teaches us, the voice that calls us to new evangelization, the father that welcomes and strengthens us.

On this occasion, we also renew our hope, faith that takes us closer to the mercy of God and which gives us security on our daily path. Hope that allows us to see the calm in the middle of the storm. Hope, which is at the basis of our continuous conversion to love for God in the knowledge that our sins will be forgiven. Conversion in hope: these could be the theme for our encounter on this Roman afternoon. Conversion in faith, in hope and in love. To convert our heart towards the first love that fills with hope and emotion our commitment to youth and supports us every day until the end of our lives. Conversion of our mind to the faith of our parents and the faith of those apostles who preached the message received from the Teacher of Nazareth and generously gave their life to transmit the Christian revelation. Intimate conversion to generous and faithful love.

Now, our thoughts turn to those of our brothers in the priesthood who have died during these past years. Those who have followed us on the way, supporting our efforts many times, now interceding in our favor in the house of the Father. To them go our grateful memory and our trusting prayer.

The context could not be any more significant: Peter, the Church, the Jubilee of the Year 2000, the anniversary of the birth of Christ, all bear witness to this priestly itinerary, the end and the beginning. The end of a pilgrimage towards Christ, with Peter, and the beginning of an internal renewal towards the integrity of our mission lived with conviction and depth. May Christ, the Alpha and the Omega, the Only Priest, the Beginning and the End, be a model for us to follow and the center of our life, on this itinerary we are beginning now.

Dear priests, I can only hope that your stay in Rome will bear the fruits of personal and pastoral renewal. May the spiritual presence of Peter and Paul, in the places of their martyrdom and of their venerable sepulchre, renew out faith, our love and our hope.

Now, we can joyfully await the words and the blessing of the Pope.