Church Needs Holy Priests, Says John Paul II

Receives Clergy of Diocese of Rome

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 6, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II invited priests to proceed wholeheartedly on the path of sanctification so as not to betray their vocation.



The Pope addressed this message today to the parish priests and clergy of Rome, during his traditional audience at the start of Lent, which this year coincides with his 25th anniversary as Bishop of this diocese.

"In the exercise of our ministry and throughout our life, we are truly men of God," the Holy Father explained. "Not only the faithful who are closest to us, but also those persons who are weak and unsure of their faith and distant from practicing a Christian life are sensitive to the presence and witness of a priest who is truly a man of God."

He added that the "main path" to achieve this holiness is prayer, and at the heart of prayer, especially for priests, is the Eucharist.

"In reality, we have no alternative," the Pope cautioned. "If we do not seek, humbly and with trust, to proceed on the path of our sanctification, we end up being satisfied with little compromises, which slowly become greater ones and can even end up in the betrayal, open or masked, of that special love with which God loved us, calling us to the priesthood."

John Paul II emphasized that being priests "means loving the Church as Christ did, giving ourselves for her. We must not be afraid to identify ourselves with the Church and consume ourselves for her."

Above all, he said, a priest must always be the Good Shepherd, loving and serving his people. He must always be a man of communion.

"When difficulties and temptations weigh on our heart, let us remember the greatness of the gift we have received, and thus be able in turn to give with joy," the Pope said.

"We are in fact -- above all in the confessional but also in all aspects of our ministry -- witnesses and instruments of divine mercy," he concluded. "We are and must be men who know how to infuse hope and perform works of peace and reconciliation."