.- Thousands of pilgrims and faithful gathered at noon Sunday in St. Peter’s Square to pray the Angelus with the Holy Father. Before the prayer, he said that the fruits of the recently ended Year for Priests could never be measured, but are already visible and will continue to be ever more so.
“The priest is a gift from the heart of Christ, a gift for the Church and for the world. From the heart of the Son of God, overflowing with love, all the goods of the Church spring forth,” proclaimed Pope Benedict XVI. “One of those goods is the vocations of those men who, conquered by the Lord Jesus, leave everything behind to dedicate themselves completely to the Christian community, following the example of the Good Shepherd.”
The Holy Father described the priest as having been formed by “the same charity of Christ, that love which compelled him to give his life for his friends and to forgive his enemies.”
“Therefore,” he continued, “priests are the primary builders of the civilization of love.”
Benedict XVI exhorted priests to always seek the intercession of St. John Marie Vianney, whose prayer, the “Act of Love,” was prayed frequently during the Year for Priests, and “continues to fuel our dialogue with God.”
The pontiff also spoke about the close of the Year for Priests, which took place this past week and culminated with the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He emphasized “the unforgettable days in the presence of more than 15,000 priests from around the world.”
The feast of the Sacred Heart is traditionally a “day of priestly holiness,” but this time it was especially so, Benedict XVI remarked.
Pope Benedict concluded his comments by noting that, in contemplating history, “one observes so many pages of authentic social and spiritual renewal which have been written by the decisive contribution of Catholic priests.” These were inspired “only by their passion for the Gospel and for mankind, for his true civil and religious freedom.”
“So many initiatives that promote the entire human being have begun with the intuition of a priestly heart,” he exclaimed.
The Pope then prayed the Angelus, greeted those present in various languages, and imparted his apostolic blessing.