A rare event took place at St. Peter's Basilica on Saturday when Pope Benedict XVI consecrated five priests as bishops who had served in the Vatican's government.
Three of the newly consecrated bishops will be serving as diplomats for the Church, one will continue to work in the Roman Curia and one will take up service as a diocesan bishop. The prelates had worked in the Secretariat of State, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Governorate of Vatican City State.
The new papal nuncios are: Archbishops Gabriele Giordano Caccia, nuncio to Lebanon; Franco Coppola, nuncio to Burundi; and Pietro Parolin, nuncio to Venezuela. Bishop Raffaello Martinelli will be the shepherd of the suburbicarian see of Frascati and Bishop Giorgio Corbellini will head the Labor Office of the Apostolic See (ULSA).
In his homily Benedict XVI recalled how "service and the giving of self" represent "the most profound nucleus of the mission of Jesus Christ and, at the same time, the true essence of His priesthood."
"In Jerusalem during the last week of His life Jesus Himself ... revealed three characteristics of correct service, giving concrete form to the image of priestly ministry," he said.
"The first characteristic the Lord requires from His servant is faithfulness," the Pope began.
"The Church is not our Church but His Church, the Church of God. ... We do not seek power, prestige or esteem for ourselves. We lead men and women towards Christ and thus towards the living God. In this way we introduce them into truth, and into the freedom that derives from truth."
One fault touched on by Pope Benedict was that "affairs in civil society and, not infrequently, in the Church too, suffer from the fact that many of those charged with responsibility work for themselves and not for the community. ... The faithfulness of the servant of Jesus Christ consists precisely in the fact that he does not seek to adapt the faith to the fashions of the age."
"Faith," he explained, "needs to be transmitted. It was not given to us for ourselves alone, for the individual salvation of our souls, but for others, for this world and for our time."
The second characteristic of service is prudence, which is "something quite different from being astute," observed the Pope.
Prudence, according to Greek philosophical tradition the first of the cardinal virtues, "indicates the primacy of truth, which through 'prudence' becomes the criterion by which we act. Prudence requires humble, disciplined and vigilant reason which does not allow itself to be blinded by prejudice, which does not act in accordance with desires and passions, but seeks the truth, even an uncomfortable truth."
"Through Jesus Christ, God opened the window of truth for us. ... In Sacred Scripture and in faith in the Church, He shows us the essential truth about man, which imposes the right direction upon our actions. Thus, the primary cardinal virtue of the priest minister of Jesus Christ consists in allowing himself to be molded by the truth that Christ shows us. In this way we truly become men of reason, men who judge on the basis of the whole picture and not of random details," he taught.
The third characteristic is goodness. "Only God is good in the complete sense," the Holy Father explained. "He is goodness, goodness par excellence, goodness in person." Thus in man "being good is necessarily founded upon a profound inner orientation towards God. ... Goodness presupposes above all a living communion with God, a growing interior union with Him."
Turning to the practical application of these virtues, the Pontiff recalled how the Church today commemorates the Most Holy Name of Mary and how "in western tradition the name 'Mary' has been translated as 'Star of the Sea.'"
"How many times does the history through which we live seem like a dark sea whose waves strike threateningly against the ship of our lives?" he asked. "But then, close by, we see the light that shone forth when Mary said: 'Here am I, the servant of the Lord.' We see the clear light of goodness that emanates from her. In the goodness with which she welcomes and reaches out to the great and small aspirations of so many men and women, we recognize, in a very human way, the goodness of God Himself. With His goodness He ever and anew brings Jesus Christ (and thus the great Light of God) into the world."
"We pray," the Holy Father concluded, "that you may become faithful, prudent and good servants, and thus that one day you may hear from the Lord of History the words: Good and faithful servant, share in the joy of your lord."