.- Priests training to serve as diplomats for the Vatican around the world were received by Pope Benedict XVI in an audience on Saturday and encouraged to remain strongly anchored to Christ amidst the turmoil of the modern world.
The priests who were received by the Pope are studying at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, which is headed by Archbishop Beniamino Stella. The Pope told the priests that service in apostolic nunciatures, for which they are training, "may to some extent be considered as a specific priestly vocation, a pastoral ministry that involves a particular approach to the world and to its often highly complex social and political problems."
"The dialogue with the modern world that is asked of you, as well as your contact with people and the institutions they represent, require an inner strength and a spiritual firmness capable of safeguarding - indeed of giving ever more prominence to - your Christian and priestly identity."
This, he explained, is necessary in order to avoid "the negative effects of the worldly mentality and not allow yourselves to be attracted or contaminated by an overly earthly logic."
"In moments of darkness and inner difficulty," Benedict XVI told the priests, "turn your gaze to Christ. ... Always remember that it is vital and fundamental for the priestly ministry, however practiced, to maintain a personal bond with Christ, He wants us as His 'friends', friends who seek intimacy with Him, who follow His teaching and who undertake to make Him known and loved by everyone.
"The Lord," the Pope added, "wants us to be saints, in other words entirely 'His', not concerned with building a career that is interesting and comfortable in human terms, not seeking success and the praise of others, but entirely dedicated to the good of souls, ready to do our duty unto the end, aware of being 'useful servants' and happy to offer our poor contribution to the spreading of the Gospel."
The Holy Father called on the priests in training to be "men of intense prayer who cultivate a communion of love and life with the Lord. Without this solid spiritual base, how would it be possible to continue our ministry? Those who work in the Lord's vineyard in this way know that what is achieved with dedication, with sacrifice and for love, is never lost."
As he brought his address to an end, Pope Benedict pointed to the upcoming Year of Priests as a âvaluable occasion to renew and strengthen your generous response to the Lord's call, in order to intensify your relationship with Him."
"Use this opportunity to the utmost so as to be priests in accordance with the dictates of Christ's heart, like St. Jean Marie Vianney, 'Cure of Ars', the 150th anniversary of whose death we are preparing to celebrate," he counseled.