Capuchin Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa dedicated his final Lenten meditation to the necessity of “an internal purification of the Church, starting with its clergy." He emphasized the importance of love for Christ, fidelity and repentance in bringing about change.
The call to conversion for those who are already within the Church is a different one from that of non-believers and neophytes and one that "concerns us closely," explained Fr. Cantalamessa to Pope Benedict XVI and clergy present in the Vatican's Redemptoris Mater Chapel on Friday morning.
This call, the Capuchin friar said, "resounds in each of the seven letters to the Churches" in the Book of Revelation.
Drawing from the letter to the Ephesians, the Preacher to the Papal Household pointed out that the call to conversion incites a return to “the primitive fervor and love for Christ," a return to the enthusiasm and grace of the moment they realized they were called to God's service.
Another component exists in the letter to the Church of Smyrna, said the Capuchin Father, "Be faithful until death and I will give you the crown of life."
"Fidelity!" he exclaimed, recalling the Holy Father's theme for the Year for Priests: "Fidelity of Christ and Fidelity of the Priest."
He specified that to this fidelity is opposed “the betrayal of the trust of Christ and the Church, double life, failing in duties... most of all regarding celibacy and chastity" and added, "We know from painful experience how much damage can be done to the Church and souls by this type of infidelity."
This, said the priest, "possibly the hardest test" for the contemporary Church.
Referring to the letter to the people of Laodicea, he pointed out the call for a "lukewarm" Church to "be zealous and repent."
The preacher said he believes that this "'lukewarmness' of a part of the clergy, the lack of zeal and apostolic inertia" serves to "weaken the Church more even than the occasional scandals of some priests...
"Christ suffers more than us for humiliation of his priests and the affliction of his Church," but, he added, "if he permits it, it's because he knows the good that can spring from it, in view of a greater purity of his Church."
He reflected on the response to the current trials, "If there is humility, the Church will emerge more resplendent than ever from this war!"
Fr. Cantalamessa concluded his meditation by saying that Christ's invitation "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest," is today directed to his priests.
He added, "The most beautiful fruit of this Year for Priests will be a return to Christ, a renewal of our friendship with him. In his love, the priest will find all of which he is humanly deprived and 'one hundred times more,' according to his promise."