A Priest Must Guard His Identity, Says Cardinal Martino

Urges the Preaching of the Social Gospel

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ROME, JAN. 22, 2004 (Zenit.org).- A priest serves the world not when he forsakes his identity and loses himself in social and economic activities but when "he preaches the social Gospel from the altar," says a Vatican official.



Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, offered that assessment when he presided at a Mass on Wednesday at Capranica College, on the feast of its patroness, St. Agnes.

The college, a house of formation for seminarians and young priests, was founded by Cardinal Domenico Capranica in 1457.

Several Popes have been alumni of the college, including Eugenio Pacelli -- Pius XII. The college is under the Congregation for Catholic Education.

During the Mass, Cardinal Martino reminded the students that a priest must not disregard his "own nature" and be dispersed in "social activities."

A priest serves the world by "preaching the social Gospel from the altar; proclaiming in his preaching the liberation brought by Christ, and deploring the denial of human rights and contempt for a person's dignity; showing the striking force of love and justice that the Gospel emanates."

Cardinal Martino, who attended Capranica College in the 1950s, emphasized that concern for human promotion, for proclaiming the rules of a new coexistence in peace and justice, and for working together with all people of good will to establish more human relations and institutions all form part of the preaching of the Gospel.

"In this surrender to God and to man lies the essential element of the call to the priesthood and the martyrdom of being priests in today's world, which in many ways is no less hostile than the one in which the martyr St. Agnes lived," the cardinal said.

"But," he added, "we will continue to console with the word of hope of the Gospel and, serving with the love of God, to reintegrate man in the good and in life."