.- “As ministers of Christ, priests bring us into life-giving contact with the mystery of God’s holiness,” the Pope said during the general audience on Wednesday. It is through their celebration of the sacraments, he taught, that they make Christ’s sanctifying work “present and effective” in the world.
Pope Benedict XVI appeared to be in good spirits as he addressed the approximately 15,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square on an overcast morning, punctuated periodically by drops of rain.
After speaking briefly of the Holy Shroud, which he said "can nourish and feed the faith and reinvigorate Christian piety," the Pope returned to the figure of the priest for the third time in his Easter season series of catecheses. This time, he spoke on the numerous tasks of the priest, especially his ministry of sanctification.
“Holiness, as we know, is proper to God, who is himself absolute truth, goodness, love and beauty,” he said, noting that it is priests, as ministers of Christ, who “bring us into life-giving contact with the mystery of God’s holiness.”
By proclaiming the Gospel and celebrating the sacraments, the priest provides us with the possibility to “approach God and to be transformed gradually in the divine image.” Particularly through the Eucharist and Confession, the Holy Father taught, priests make Christ’s sanctifying work “present and effective” in the world.
Moreover, it is through the sacraments that they “sanctify the faithful and are themselves sanctified and configured ever more closely to Christ,” he underlined.
Speaking directly to priests, Benedict XVI said that just as it is important to teach and help the faithful to understand the sacraments' value, it is also necessary that they be "willing, generous and attentive in giving the faithful the treasures of grace that God has placed in our hands, treasures of which we are not masters but custodians and administrators."
The Holy Father concluded his catechesis by asking for prayers for priests and their “ministry of sanctification,” that they be “true shepherds according to God’s heart.” He also exhorted the faithful to realize the great gift that they are for the Church and the world.
This year, by decree of the Pope, the Church celebrates the Year for Priests, inaugurated on the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus June 19, 2009 and to close on June 11, 2010. The stated purpose of the Year is to “deepen the commitment of all priests to interior renewal for the sake of a stronger and more incisive witness to the Gospel in today’s world.”