.- Pope Benedict said he shared the Italian Bishops concern over the current shortage of priests in a message he sent as they gathered these days in Assisi for their General Assembly.
Among the other challenges the Church is facing today he outlined the formation of priests and the presence of the Church in the field of health. Pope Benedict reminded the bishops that "the Church needs priests today that are fully conscious of the gift of grace that is given through ordination and of the mission that is entrusted to them. It is vital that priests work in the name of Christ and live in intimate communion with Him."
The Holy Father shared in his message the concern that Italian Bishops have regarding the diminishing number of priests and the progressive rising of the average age of priests. It is urgent and necessary to increase pastoral vocations and to define the formation proposal that guarantees a human, intellectual and spiritual preparation."
Regarding the theme of health, Benedict XVI said that illness represents an essential dimension of the human experience that questions the mission of the Church and the consciences of the believers. Our Lord Jesus Christ wished to accompany the proclamation of salvation with many healings of people that have suffered."
"The way in which we confront illness and suffering manifests the dignity and the sense of human existence as well," the Pope said, recalling the exemplary testimony of Pope John Paul II. The Church is called to be united with the sick, primarily helping to see sickness and death not as a negation of humanity but as pathway that leads us through the death and resurrection of Jesus, to true and eternal life.