An estimated 15,000 priests attended a prayer vigil last night in St. Peter's Square. The priests, who hail from 97 different countries, gathered as part of the celebrations marking the close of the Year for Priests.
Rome has been inundated with priests from around the world for the past week due to the celebrations for the end of the Year for Priests. Thursday night's two-part prayer vigil was attended by not only priests, but by Pope Benedict and Cardinal Claudio Hummes O.F.M., prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy.
The first part of the vigil featured live television feeds and allowed the gathered priests to see and share the testimony of a variety of people who are living their vocation: a Germany family with six children, a cloistered nun, a deacon, an Argentinean priest who works with the poor and a pastor from Hollywood, Calif. all shared the story of their vocation.
Pope Benedict then arrived in the square by popemobile and was greeted by Cardinal Hummes. In his remarks, the cardinal noted that this Year for Priests has served to “promote commitment to interior renewal among all clergy, for an evangelical witness that is more powerful and incisive in the modern world.”
Speaking on behalf of the gathered priests, and that of priests around the world, Cardinal Hummes said:
"We would like the Year for Priests never to end; that is, we would like our striving towards sanctity, each in his own identity, never to end, and that on this journey (which must begin in the seminary and last all our earthly lives as a single formative process) we may always be comforted and supported, as we have been in this Year, by the ceaseless prayer of the Church, by the warmth and spiritual support of all the faithful."
Cardinal Hummes concluded by thanking the Pope for everything he has done, is doing, and will keep doing for all priests, “even those who have lost their way.” “We know that Your Holiness has already forgiven and will always forgive the suffering some of them have caused you,” the cardinal affirmed.
The cardinal's remarks were followed by a Gospel reading, and then a question and answer session between the Pope and five priests who represented five continents. Those gathered prayed the Lord’s Prayer together.
After the recitation of the Our Father, the Blessed Sacrament was carried out from the bronze door of St. Peter’s Basilica and placed on an altar. During the exposition, priests were given time for silent adoration before Pope Benedict read a prayer for the Year for Priests.
At 11:15 p.m., the vigil concluded with Eucharistic Benediction and the Salve Regina.