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Pope Benedict urges priests ‘not to give into fatigue,’ but to ‘be Christ’s witnesses’

.- Meeting this morning at St. John Lateran Basilica with members of the clergy of the Diocese of Rome, Pope Benedict XVI stressed a priestly formation, which is ‘rooted in Christ’, obedient to one’s Bishop, and which devotes consistent time to prayer.   After greeting staff and visiting the pontifical apartments this morning, Pope Benedict delivered his address to members of his diocese.

He said that "the extraordinary experience of faith that we experienced with the death of our much-loved Pope John Paul II, has shown us a Roman Church profoundly united, full of life and rich in enthusiasm; all this is the fruit of your prayers and your apostolate."

He also highlighted the need "to always go back to the roots of our priestly calling," in other words, "Jesus Christ, the Lord," and pointed out that as priests "we are charged not to say many words, but rather to echo and to be bearers of a single 'Word,' that is the Word of God, made flesh for our salvation.”

“We have to be His true friends,” the Pope said, “to share His feelings, to want what He wants and not want what He does not want."

He then invited the gathered priests to make the words of John Paul II their own: "Mass is, in an absolute way, the center of my life and of each of my days."

Speaking of obedience to Christ, he recalled that this "takes concrete form in ecclesial obedience, which for a priest is, in everyday practice, above all obedience to his bishop."

The Holy Father recalled the words of his own homily before the conclave which elected him Pope, in which he described "holy restlessness; a restlessness to bring everyone the gift of faith."

He said that Christ "calls us to be His witnesses," and mentioned the necessity of "being with God," of seeking "intimate communion with Christ," in order "not to give in to fatigue, but to resist and, even more so, to grow as people and as priests."

"Time to be in the presence of God”, he stressed, “is a true pastoral priority; in the final analysis, the most important priority. John Paul II demonstrated this to us in the most tangible and luminous of ways in all the circumstances of his life and his ministry."

The Pope added that, "our personal response to the call of sanctity is fundamental and decisive. This condition is essential, not only for our personal apostolate to be fruitful but also, and more broadly, for the Church's face to reflect the light of Christ."

"My ministry as bishop of Rome”, he said, “follows in the footsteps of my predecessors, in particular taking up the precious heritage left by John Paul II. Dear priests and deacons, let us walk together along this path with serenity and trust."

After his address, Pope Benedict listened to questions and reflections given by various priests and religious, thanking them for their thoughts, before returning to the Vatican.

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