Friendship With Christ Indispensable, Says Pontiff

Addresses Seminarians From Capranica College

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 21, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Priests must have a true friendship with Christ if they want to succeed in their mission, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope affirmed this Saturday when he received in audience professors and students of the Capranica College, the seminary of the Diocese of Rome, for the feast day of their patron, St. Agnes, which is today.

The Holy Father emphasized the figure of Cardinal Domenico Capranica, who founded the institution 550 years ago, saying that a century before the Council of Trent, the cardinal was able to see "that the desired reform would not only have to involve ecclesiastical structures but, principally, the lives and choices of those people within the Church who were called to be [...] guides and pastors of the People of God."

He noted that Cardinal Capranica drew up the constitutions of the college, which regulate the various aspects of the formation of the young students.

With those "Constitutiones," the Pontiff explained, the cardinal "demonstrated his concern for the primacy of the spiritual dimension, and his awareness that the depth of a solid priestly formation -- and its consequent durability -- depend to a decisive degree on the completeness and overall structure of the educational syllabus."

"These aspects have even greater importance today," Benedict XVI affirmed, "considering the multiple challenges priests and evangelizers must face on their mission. In this context I have, on a number of occasions, reminded seminarians and priests of the urgent need to cultivate a profound interior life, a personal and constant contact with Christ in prayer and contemplation, a sincere longing for sanctity.

"In fact, without a true friendship with Jesus, it is impossible for Christians, and especially for priests, to carry out the mission with which the Lord entrusts them. For priests, it is clear that this also entails serious cultural and theological preparation."

Roman experience

The Holy Father stressed "the decisive impulse" that time spent in Rome can give to priests' educational itinerary, because of "the presence of the Cathedra of Peter, the work of the people and the institutions that assist the Bishop of Rome," and "a more direct knowledge of certain particular Churches."

"Your pastors," he noted, "have sent you to the city of Peter's Successor in the hope that you return enriched by a markedly Catholic spirit, and a fuller and more universal awareness of ecclesial matters."

Life at the college enables students, who come from all over the world, "to gain an intimate knowledge of that mix of cultures and mentalities which is so typical of modern life," Benedict XVI concluded. "Furthermore, the presence of students from the Russian Orthodox Church represents a further encouragement to dialogue and fraternity, and gives nourishment to ecumenical hopes."