This afternoon at Saint John’s Cathedral in Warsaw, Pope Benedict met with close to 1,000 representatives of the Polish clergy and emphasized that the task of strengthening the faith of Polish Catholics rested largely on their shoulders.
He first greeted Cardinal Józef Glemp, Archbishop of Warsaw and Primate of Poland,
Then, remembering the troubled history of the country in the past century, the pope paid tribute to the often-heroic endurance of Polish priests and Poles in calling to mind "heroic witnesses to the faith, who gave their lives to God and to their fellow human beings, both canonized saints and ordinary people who persevered in rectitude, authenticity and goodness, never giving way to despair."
Now speaking directly to the priests he said they “ have been chosen from among the people, appointed to act in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. Believe in the power of your priesthood! Immerse yourselves in his love, and give him your love!”
“The faithful, he said, want and need priests who are experts in the spiritual life and witnesses to eternal truths. Addressing the challenges of today’s world, and "the temptations of relativism or the permissive society, there is absolutely no need for the priest to know all the latest, changing currents of thought," he said.
The pope also said the temptation to hide one's faith, which was understandable under communism, is not an acceptable attitude for priests in the new Poland. Instead, he said, they must cultivate a true spiritual brotherhood among priests, supporting one another and sharing each other's burdens.
"Christ needs priests who are mature, virile, capable of cultivating an authentic spiritual paternity," he said. "Gazing upon Christ," the pope told them, "live a modest life in solidarity with the faithful to whom you have been sent."
The Pope called for the unity in the country beyond the divisions created by communism.
Reflecting upon Pope John Paul II’s exhortation to do penance for infidelities of the past, “We must therefore learn to live Christian penance with sincerity. By practicing it, we confess individual sins in union with others, before them and before God."
"Yet we must guard against the arrogant claim of setting ourselves up to judge earlier generations, who lived in different times and different circumstances," the Pontiff warned.
Pope Benedict wished to praise the vitality of The Church in Poland, which "has already given many priests and religious sisters who serve not only the Polish diaspora but also, and sometimes in extremely difficult circumstances, the missions in Africa, Asia, Latin America and other regions. Do not forget these missionaries, my dear priests. The gift of many vocations, with which God has blessed your Church, must be received in a truly Catholic perspective."
“Stand firm in your faith! Gazing upon Christ, live a modest life, in solidarity with the faithful to whom you have been sent,” Pope Benedict concluded.