Benedict XVI exhorts priests to be faithful to Catholic Church

.- Drawing inspiration from the Year for Priests, the Pope emphasized the importance of new vocations and fidelity to one's vocation in his homily at the celebration of Vespers in Fatima. The Church, he said, has a mission to bring men and women to Christ and "we are responsible for proclaiming the faith, the whole faith, with all its demands."

The Holy Father presided over Vespers with priests, religious brothers and sisters, seminarians, deacons and representatives of lay ministries and ecclesial movements at the Church of the Most Holy Trinity in Fatima on Wednesday evening.

During the homily, Pope Benedict expressed recognition and appreciation for all people who have given their lives to Christ, in particular for their fidelity to the Gospel and the Church, as well as their witness, "often silent and certainly not easy."

The greatest concern of every Christian, he continued, "especially of every consecrated person or minister of the altar, must be fidelity, loyalty to one’s own vocation, as a disciple who wishes to follow the Lord.

"Faithfulness over time is the name of love, of a consistent, true and profound love for Christ the Priest."

Using the words of John Paul II, the Holy Father said that because we truly enter into the holiness of God through baptism and receive his spirit, "it would be a contradiction to settle for a life of mediocrity, marked by a minimalistic ethic and a shallow religiosity."

He then recalled the Year for Priests, which will conclude on June 11, asking that abundant grace be given to priests that they "may live joyfully (their) consecration and bear witness to (their) priestly fidelity grounded in the fidelity of Christ."

Benedict XVI added later that fidelity to one's vocation requires courage and trust and should be assisted by fraternal concern and support, through prayer and action.

The Pope also pointed to the exemplary lives and spirituality of consecrated men and women as a much needed witness in the world today, where many people live "as if there were nothing beyond this life, and without concern for their eternal salvation.

"Men and women are called to know and love God, and the Church has the mission to assist them in this calling. We know well that God is the master of his gifts and that conversion is a grace. But we are responsible for proclaiming the faith, the whole faith, with all its demands," he reminded.

Pope Benedict also encouraged new vocations to the priesthood and asked those who have already taken the first step to "be conscious of the great responsibility which you will have to assume," being sure to examine their intentions and motivations carefully and devote themselves completely and generously to their training.

The Eucharist should be their "first love," said the Pope, adding that adoration, piety and care would lead them "one day to celebrate the Sacrifice of the Altar in an edifying and devout manner."

Asking for Mary's guidance, he said, "with her and like her, we are free so as to be saints; free so as to be poor, chaste and obedient ... free from self so that others may grow in Christ, the true Holy One of the Father and the Shepherd to whom priests, as his presence, lend their voice and their gestures; free to bring to today’s world Jesus who died and rose again, Jesus who remains with us until the end of time and who gives himself to all in the Most Holy Eucharist."

He concluded with a prayer for Mary's intercession that pastors may faithfully carry out the Father's will and that the Church be renewed by its holy priests.

The Holy Father went to the Our Lady of Carmel House after the celebration for dinner.

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