Archbishop Gerhard Mueller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, told CNA in a recent interview that the teachings of Benedict XVI and Pope Francis on priesthood are “linked.”
The archbishop, who is curator of Benedict's collected works, was presenting “Herald of the Word and servants of your joy,” a collection of the emeritus Pope's reflections on the priesthood written over the course of 50 years. The book was recently re-published by the Vatican's publishing house in Italian as the 12th book in his collected works.
Presenting the book in Gela, on the island of Sicily, Archbishop Mueller argued that “the deep sense of Ratzinger’s writings on priesthood, is to live the vocation with joy and charity,” and that this idea is made concrete in Pope Francis’ appeal to priests to be “shepherds and not officials, mediators and not intermediaries.”
In his apostolic exhortation on the new evangelization “Evangelii Gaudium,” Pope Francis similarly wrote that the “dearth of vocations to the priesthood and to consecrated life” is “often due to a lack of contagious apostolic fervour in communities, which results in a cooling of enthusiasm and attractiveness.”
Archbishop Mueller reflected that Benedict had attributed the decline in priestly vocations to “a lack of theological and sociological motivations” for answering God's call.
Following Benedict's writings, Archbishop Mueller affirmed that “the only way out of the crisis is to keep one's gaze fixed on the resurrection of Jesus,” since “the resurrection is the foundation which overcomes every crisis.”
He then maintained that “through his resurrection Christ overcame the biggest crisis of faith ever,” that experienced by the apostles after his death.
Archbishop Mueller is convinced that this collection of Benedict's writing on the priesthood may be a great help in overcoming the crisis, and this is the reason why he hopes to disseminate the book as widely as possible.
Speaking with Pope Francis, with whom he lunched Nov. 18, he said he “would like to present the book before the seminarians and priest of the Diocese of Rome.” This presentation is expected to take place Dec. 7 at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the diocesan cathedral.
The archbishop noted that “Joseph Ratzinger began writing papers and reflections on the priesthood shortly before the Second Vatican Council, which already reflected on the crisis of the priesthood that was to break out after the Second Vatican Council.”
Because of their “peculiar bond” with the apostles through ordination, Archbishop Mueller said reflecting on Benedict's book, deacons, priests and bishops are “the shepherds who represent Jesus, and through them, Jesus himself is present.”
Archbishop Mueller also stressed that “Jesus, now and ever, invites us to pasture his flock,” and Christ's gaze “urges us with hope and trust” through our crises.
At a presentation of a work by Benedict XVI on the priesthood, the head of the Vatican's doctrine office said that both Benedict and Pope Francis share a view on priestly vocation and the crisis it faces.
Priesthood, Benedict XVI, Pope Francis