Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect emeritus of the Dicastery for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, stressed that “the priesthood is unique” and warned that “no council, no synod” can “invent a female priesthood.”

In his conference on the priesthood, titled Joyful Servants of the Gospel and given July 3 at the Conciliar Seminary in Mexico City, the cardinal assured that no one “has the power to transform this divine gift to adapt it and reduce its transcendent value to the cultural and environmental field.”

“No council, no synod, no ecclesiastical authority has the power to invent a female priesthood ... without seriously damaging the perennial physiognomy of the priest, his sacramental identity, within the renewed ecclesiological vision of the Church, mystery, communion, and mission,” he emphasized.

Sarah stressed that “the Catholic faith professes that the sacrament of Holy Orders, instituted by Christ the Lord, is one, it is identical for the universal Church. For Jesus, there is no African, German, Amazonia, or European priesthood. The priesthood is unique, it is identical for the universal Church.”

Priesthood ‘a gift’

In his conference, the prefect emeritus also reflected on “being a priest” and stressed that “the priesthood is a great, great mystery, so great a gift that it would be a sin to waste it.” 

“It’s a divine gift that must be received, understood, and lived, and the Church has always sought to understand and enter deeper into the real and proper being of the priest, as a baptized man, called to be an alter Christus, another Christ, even more so an ipse Christus, Christ himself, to represent him, to conform to him, to be configured and mediated in Christ with priestly ordination,” he explained.

For the Guinean prelate, “the priest is a man of God who is day and night in the presence of God to glorify him, to adore him. The priest is a man immolated in sacrifice to prolong the sacrifice of Christ for the salvation of the world.”

The cardinal said that the “first task” of priests “is to pray, because the priest is a man of prayer: He begins his day with the Office of Readings and ends his day with the Office.”

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“A priest who does not pray is about to die. A Church that does not pray is a dead Church,” he warned.

Regarding the lack of priestly vocations, he encouraged the faithful to pray because “it’s not that we are few.”

“Christ ordained 12 for the whole world. How many of us are priests today? There are close to 400,000 of us priests in the world. There are too many of us,” he said, citing the same observation made by Pope Gregory the Great in the seventh century.

“Many have accepted the priesthood, but they’re not doing the work of the priest,” Sarah explained.

“So in response, we must pray. Ask him to send workers to his harvest, pray. And show that we priests are happy, because if young men see that we are sad, we won’t attract anyone.” he urged. “We have to be happy, even if we’re suffering.”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.