Bishops receive advice from Pope on caring for priests
Castel Gandolfo, Italy, Sep 21, 2009 / 10:43 am (CNA).- As he does every year, the Holy Father hosted a congress for all the bishops who were consecrated this past year. Noting that helping priests is an essential task for a bishop, Pope Benedict reminded the prelates to urge priests to seek "intimate and personal union with Christ."
Addressing the recently-consecrated bishops at Castel Gandolfo today, the Holy Father recalled the importance of "not forgetting that one of a bishop’s essential tasks is that of helping priests – by example and fraternal support – to follow their vocation faithfully and to work enthusiastically and lovingly in the Lord’s vineyard."
Priests, said the Pope, must "remain united to the Lord; this is the secret of the fruitfulness of their ministry." Increased workload, difficulties, and the new requirements of pastoral care "must never distract us from intimate and personal union with Christ. Our readiness and openness to people must never diminish or overshadow our readiness and openness towards the Lord."
"The time that priests and bishops consecrate to God in prayer is always time well spent," he emphasized. "This is because prayer is at the heart of pastoral work, it is the ‘lymph’ which gives it strength, it is a support in moments of uncertainty and discouragement, and an endless source of missionary fervor and of fraternal love towards everyone."
Focusing more closely on priestly life, Pope Benedict stated that, "At the heart of priestly life is the Eucharist." The Pontiff also pointed to a devout recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours as "one special way to prolong the mysterious sanctifying action of the Eucharist throughout the day." In addition, priests can participate in Eucharistic adoration, ‘lectio divina’ and the contemplative prayer of the Rosary, he said.
With the Church celebrating the Year for Priests, the Pope turned to its patron, St. Jean Vianney, who "showed us the importance of priests’ immersing themselves in the Eucharist and of educating the faithful in the Eucharistic presence and in communion."
As I read this, I had the sense that something was missing.
This CNA article seems to focus on bishops telling priests what they ought to be.
That just doesn’t ring right with what I know about Pope Benedict and what he has written about priesthood in the past. It seemed to me, as I read this CNA article, that the other half was missing. Yes, bishops should urge priests to be good priests, but the bishops themselves are personally responsible to see to their care.
So, I turned to the Italian text, here.
"The imitation of Jesus the Good Shepherd is, for every priest, the obligatory path of his own sanctification and the essential condition for exercising pastoral ministry responsibly. If this pertains to priests, it pertains that much more to us, dear brother bishops. And it is important not to forget that one of the essential duties of the bishop is precisely to help priests, by example and with fraternal support, to follow their vocation faithfully and with work with enthusiasm and love in the Lord’s vineyard.
On this point, in his Post-synodal Exhortation Pastores gregis, my venerated predecessor John Paul II observed that the gesture of the priest, when he puts he own hand in the hands of the bishop on the day of his priestly ordination, binds them both: the priest and the bishop. The new priest chooses to entrust himself to the bishop and, for his part, the bishop commits himself to take care of those hands."
There is more of note, but that bit struck me as being essential to the report on the event.