29 January 2007

Hummes to Priests

Claudio Cardinal Hummes, O.F.M., Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, issued a letter to the piests of the Roman Catholic Church on the Feast of Saint Francis de Sales, 24 January 2006.

Having only recently taken up the post, the Brazilian Cardinal admits, "I still feel like something of a novice."

Addressing the theology of the priesthood, the Prefect reminded priests that

We are bearers of a specific identity that constantly characterizes us in our existence and in our activity. We are consecrated and incorporated into the activity of Christ. The gestures and the words of Jesus become reactualized in time and in history to provoke in those who fulfil them “the same sentiments of Christ” and the same effects of salvation.
The Church, in conferring the sacrament of Orders, ontologically constitutes the Priest as an alter Christus, or as some say, an ipse Christus; and it establishes him as a minister of the Word and as a minister of the prophetic action and pastoral love of Christ. His function, therefore, is not to exhaust himself exclusively in the dimension of worship, but to complete himself in the prophetic dimension by proclaiming the Word and in the pastoral dimension by being a guide for the community.
Among the beautiful expressions of the Second Vatican Council is the following statement, which synthesizes the functions of the priest while delineating his identity: “Priests, while engaging in prayer and adoration, or preaching the word, or offering the Eucharistic Sacrifice and administering the other sacraments, or performing other works of the ministry for men, devote all this energy to the increase of the glory of God and to man's progress in the divine life.” (Presbyterorum Ordinis, 2).
He said to his brother priests: "we are proud and joyful of our sacerdotal identity. We are proud to be priests. " Offering further words of encouragement to those entrusted to his care, he admitted:

It is true: ours is not an easy mission. But united to Christ the Eternal High Priest, and with Mary, Mother of the first Priest and of all Priests, we will always be mindful of giving testimony to the hope that is within us to our numerous brothers and sisters who, even today, long for the Way, the Truth and the Life.

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