International Theological Symposium on the Priesthood
This morning, February 17, commenced a three day conference in Rome organized by the Conference for Bishops on the fundamental theology of priesthood.
His Eminence Marc Cardinal Ouellet, P.S.S., prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, introduced it as, “an intense three-day session, open to all, but intended especially for bishops, and for all those, men and women, who are interested in theology, in order to deepen our understanding of vocations and the importance of communion between the different vocations in the Church…A theological symposium does not claim to offer practical solutions to all the pastoral and missionary problems of the Church, but it can help us deepen the foundation of the Church’s mission.”
Pope Francis spoke at the symposium this morning on the closeness a priest must practice in his ministry: closeness to God, to his bishop, among his brother priests, and to the People of God.
The life of a priest is first and foremost the salvation story of a baptized person. We must never forget that every specific vocation, including that of Holy Orders, is the fulfillment of Baptism. It is always a great temptation to live a priesthood without Baptism, that is, without remembering that our first call is to holiness. To be holy means to conform to Jesus and to let our life beat with its same feelings (cf. Phil 2:15). Only when we seek to love as Jesus loved do we also make God visible and thus realize our vocation to holiness. How rightly St. John Paul II reminded us that “the priest, like the Church, must grow in the awareness of his permanent need to be evangelized” (Exort. ap. post synodal, Pastores dabo vobis, 25 March 1992, 26).
Every specific vocation must undergo this kind of discernment. Our vocation is first of all a response to the One who first loved us (cf. 1 Jn 4:19). And this is the source of hope because, even in the midst of the crisis, the Lord does not cease to love and, therefore, to call. And of this each one of us is a witness: one day the Lord found us where we were and how we were, in contradictory environments or with complex family situations; but that did not stop him from wanting to write, through each one of us, the history of salvation. From the beginning it was so think of Peter and Paul, Matthew, to name a few. Their choice is not born of an ideal option but of a concrete commitment to each of them. Each one, looking at his own humanity, his own history, his own character, should not ask himself if a vocational option is convenient or not, but if in conscience that vocation opens in him that potential of love that we have received on the day of our Baptism. (Full text available here.)
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