On Holy Thursday the head of the Catholic international pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need wrote to Pope Benedict XVI to offer his support for the Year for Priests. He recalled that thousands of priests are “sharing the poverty of the poor” and are also being persecuted, threatened and deprived of their freedom on account of their Faith.
Pope Benedict had proclaimed the Year for Priests to begin on June 19, 2009, the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Its theme is to be “Faithfulness of Christ, faithfulness of priests.”
Father Joaquín Alliende, president of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), wrote to Pope Benedict that ACN wishes to support him and all the priests through their prayers, life and work.
He expressed hopes that the Year for Priests may be a year of "great gratitude“ for priests and their vocation and also hoped that the observance may help priests "rediscover the beauty of their vocation.”
Saying that the priest is “never alone,” Fr. Alliende said the priest lives in a “vital bond” with Christ, who shares “everything” with him. “All his treasures, but also his loneliness and his sacrifice for the redemption of the world.“
The pastoral ministry is “impossible” without the priest, he added, saying that in this sense the priest is “the most important man on earth, since as an alter Christus, [another Christ] he holds the life of the Church in his hands.“
Referring to the charism of ACN founder Fr. Werenfried van Straaten, Fr. Alliende said the charity is "profoundly imbued with the priestly character of the Church.“
Its founder had understood that ACN, as a pastoral charity, "can only truly ease human suffering if we work together with, and for priests."
The charity has prioritized spiritual formation for priests and financial support for the priestly ministry in over 150 countries.
Christ had taken a "great risk“ in "entrusting such a sacred and sensitive mission into human hands,“ Fr. Alliende’s Holy Thursday letter to Pope Benedict concluded, adding that recent "painful events“ have made the Year for Priests a call to "rediscover a purified vision of the priesthood.“
Holy Thursday is traditionally regarded as the day Jesus Christ instituted the Catholic priesthood.