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5/3/2009 4:20 PM
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At 9:30 this morning, the fourth Sunday of Easter, the Holy Father presided at Mass in St. Peter's Basilica during which he ordained 19 new priests for the Diocese of Rome.

Concelebrating were Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the Pope's Vicar-General for the Diocese of Rome; Mons. Luigi Moretti, Vice-Regent, along with the auxiliary bishops, superiors of the seminaries attended by the new priests, and their parish priests.

Caterina's montage, as usual, gives a beautiful overview of the rites.
[Her full montages may be seen in the PHOTOGALLERY section of the main forum.]

Here is a full translation of the Pope's homily:


Dear brothers and sisters!

Following a beautiful custom, the Sunday of the Good Shepherd reunites the Bishop of Rome and his priests for the Ordination of new priests for the diocese. This is always a great gift of God - it is his grace!

Therefore let us reawaken in ourselves a profound sense of faith and acknowledgment in living this celebration today.

In this atmosphere I am pleased to greet the Cardinal Vicar Agostino Valli, the auxiliary bishops, our other brothers in the Episcopate and in the priesthood, and with special affection, you, dear deacons who are candidates for priesthood, together with your families and friends.

The Word of God which we just heard offers us many starting points for meditation: I will cite some of them because they cast an indelible light on the path of your life and on your ministry.

"He (Jesus) is...the cornerstone. There is no salvation through anyone else" (Acts 4,11-12). In the passage from the Acts of the Apostles - the first Reading today - a singular 'homonymy' between Peter and Jesus is striking and makes us reflect: Peter, who had received his new name from Jesus himself, says here that it is he, Jesus, who is 'the stone'.

Indeed, the one true rock is Jesus. The only name that saves is his. The Apostle, and therefore, the priest, receives his own 'name', namely, his self-identity, from Christ. His 'I' becomes totally relative to the 'I' of Jesus.

In the name of Christ, and certainly not in his own name, the apostle can performs acts of healing on his brothers, he can help the 'sick' to get up and walk again (cfr Acts 4,10).

In the case of Peter, the miracle he had just performed makes this particularly evident. Even the reference to the words of the Psalm is essential: 'The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone" (Ps 117[118],22).

Jesus had been 'rejected', but the Father chose him to be the foundation of the temple of the New Covenant. Thus, the Apostle, like the priest, must experience the cross in his turn, and only through the Cross does he become truly useful in the construction of the Church.

God constructs his Church with persons who, following Jesus, place all their confidence in God, as the same Psalm says: "Better to take refuge in the LORD than to put one's trust in mortals. Better to take refuge in the LORD than to put one's trust in princes" (vv 8-9).

The same destiny as the Master falls to the disciple, which ultimately is the destiny written in the will of God the Father himself! Jesus confessed it towards the end of his life in the great prayer called 'sacerdotal': "Righteous Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you" (Jn 17,25).

Even earlier, he had stated: "No one knows the Father except the Son" (Mt 11,27). Jesus experienced in himself the rejection of God by the world - the incomprehension, the indifference, the disfigurement of the face of God.

And Jesus passed on the 'testimony' to his disciples: "I", he confides in the prayer to the Father, "made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them" (Jn 17,26).

Therefore, the disciple - especially, the apostle - experiences the same joy as Jesus in knowing the name and the face of the Father, and also shares his pain in seeing that God is not known, that his love is not returned.

On the one hand, we exclaim, like John in his first Letter: "See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are" (1 Jn 3,1). And on the other, we note with disappointment: "The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him" (1 Jn 3,1).

It is true. We priests experience it. The 'world' - in the Johannine use of the word - does not understand the Christian, it does not understand the ministers of the Gospel. A bit because in fact, it does not know God, and a bit because it does not want to know him. The world does not wish to acknowledge God and listen to his ministers, because this would place it in crisis.

Here, we must pay attention to a factual reality: that this 'world', always in the evangelical sense, undermines the Church itself, infecting its members and even its ordained ministers.

The 'world' is a mentality, a way of thinking and living that can corrupt the Church itself, and indeed, corrupts it, and thus, it requires constant vigilance and purification.

But until God's will has been fully manifested, even his children are not yet 'like him' (1 Jn 3,2). We are 'in' the world and we risk being also 'of' the world. Indeed, at times we are.

That is why, in the end, Jesus did not pray for the world, but for his disciples, so that the Father would keep them from evil and they could be free and different from the world, even while living in the world (cfr Jn 17,9.15).

At that moment, at the end of the Last Supper, Jesus raised to the Father the prayer of consecration for the apostles and for priests of all time, when he said: "Consecrate them in truth" (Jn 17,17), adding, "And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth" (Jn 17,19).

I dwelt on these words of Jesus in the homily of the Chrismal Mass last Maundy Thursday. Today, I reconnect to that reflection, referring to the Gospel of the Good Shepherd, where Jesus says, "I will lay down my life for the sheep" (cfr Jn 10,15.17.18).

To become a priest, in the Church, means to enter into this self-giving by Christ, through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, and enter into it with all of oneself.

Jesus gave his life for everyone, but in a special way, he consecrated himself for those whom the Father had given him, so that they may be consecrated in truth, namely, in him, and thus be able to speak and actin his name, to represent him, to prolong his salvific actions: to break the Bread of life and remit sins.

Thus, the Good Shepherd offered his life for all sheep, but gave it in a special way to those who he himself, "with affection and predilection", called and calls to follow him on the path of pastoral service.

Then, in a singular manner, Jesus prayed for Simon Peter, having sacrificed himself for him so that he could say to him one day, on the shore of the lake at Tiberiade, "Feed my sheep" (Jn 21,16-17).

Analogously, every priest is the recipient of a personal prayer by Christ and of his sacrifice, and only as such is he made able to collaborate with him in pasturing the flock which belongs wholly and only to the Lord.

Here I wish to touch a point that particularly interests me: prayer and its link to service. We have seen that to be ordained a priest means entering in a sacramental and existential way into Christ's prayer for 'his own'.

It is from this that we priests derive a particular vocation to prayer in a strongly Christocentric sense: we are called, that is, to 'remain' in Christ - as the evangelist John loves to repeat (cfr Jn 1,35-39; 15,4-10) - and this is realized particularly in prayer.

Our ministry is totally linked to this 'remaining' which is equivalent to praying, from which it derives its efficacy. In this perspective, we should think of the different forms of prayer for a priest, first of all, the daily Holy Mass.

The Eucharistic celebration is the greatest and highest act of prayer, and constitutes the center and the origin from which even the other forms receive their 'lymph': the liturgy of the hours, Eucharistic adoration, lectio divina, the holy Rosary, meditation.

All these expressions of prayer, which have their center in the Eucharist, make real in the priest's day and in his whole life the words of Jesus, "I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep" (Jn 10, 14-15).

Indeed, this 'knowing' and 'being known' in Christ and, through him, in the Most Holy Trinity, is none other than the truest and most profound reality of prayer.

The priest who prays a lot, and who prays well, becomes progressively expropriated from himself and more united to Jesus the Good Shepherd and Servant of his brothers.

In conformity with him, even the priest 'gives his life' for the sheep who are entrusted to him. No one takes his life from him: he offers it himself, in union with Christ the Lord, who has the power to give his life and the power to take it back, not only where it concerns himself, but even for his friends, who are linked to him through the sacrament of Holy Orders.

Thus the life of Christ, Lamb and Shepherd, is communicated to all the flock, through his consecrated ministers.

Dear Deacons, may the Holy Spirit imprint these divine words that I have briefly commented upon, in your hearts, so that it may bear abundant and laSting fruits.

We ask this through the intercession of the holy apostles Peter and Paul and of St. Jean Marie Vianney, the Curate of Ars, under whose patronage I have proclaimed the coming Year of the Priest.

May it be obtained for you by the Mother of the Good Shepherd, the Most Blessed Mary. In every circumstance of your life, look to her, the star of your priesthood. As she did to the servants at the wedding in Cana, Mary repeats to you as well: "Do whatever he tells you" (Jn 2,5).

At the school of the Virgin, may you always be men of prayer and service in order to become, in the faithful exercise of your ministry, holy priests after God's own heart

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 5/3/2009 11:15 PM]
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