The Holy See
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His Eminence Cardinal Dario Castrillón Hoyos Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy


  1. On behalf of the Holy Father I express my most cordial and affectionate welcome to my brother priests, who have come from throughout the world, in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. In you I greet my brother priests of the five continents and the many countries you represent, together with the religious and the faithful of your respective parishes and communities. I greet with special veneration the elderly priests who offer us the testimony of faith throughout a long life in the priesthood. I know that some of you are over 90 years old and are still providentially active in the ministry. All out esteem goes to the young priests, who despite the difficulties and temptations of the world, have devoted themselves to the Lord! They have the exciting responsibility of the continuity of the Gospel in the third millennium. And then I must express my esteem to those who, in youthful plenitude and priestly maturity, have been bearing the sweet burden of the Church for years. Welcome to all of you!

The Jubilee, which we are celebrating, in a profound spirit of gratitude, conversion and reconciliation, the great mystery of the Incarnation of the Word, 2000 years after the Nativity, has a very special meaning for us priests. As guides of the holy people and at one in the fragility of personal sin, we must go forth to our brethren, closely united with the Pope and the bishops, to cross with faith and hope the Holy Door which opens to us the love of God and invites us to live a life of charity with Him and with our brethren.

Our personal interest and conviction of faith largely determine the fact that this Jubilee year is "truly a year of grace, a year of the forgiveness of sins and of the penalties for sins, a year of reconciliation of enemies, a year of many conversions and sacramental and non-sacramental penitence" (Tertio Millennium Adveniente, n. 14).

As evangelisers, with the supreme Pontiff, "crossing the threshold of the Holy Door, we will show to the Church and to the world the Holy Gospel, source of life and of hope per the third millennium" (Ibid.). "Through the Holy Door (n. 13), Christ will introduce us more profoundly into the Church, His Body and His Bride." Thus we understand the wealth of meaning in the call of the apostle Peter when he writes that, united with Christ, we, too, as living stones, enter into the building of a spiritual edifice, for a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices pleasing to God (cf. 1Pt 2,5).

It is an occasion for joy to begin our Jubilee itinerary in this venerable Basilica of St. Mary Major, the house of the Blessed Virgin. Full of grace, full of the Holy Spirit, she has opened up her house, or better yet, opened up herself as "Ianua coeli", opened up her immaculate heart, to receive her beloved children in her Son, Eternal High Priest. In her womb the Word became flesh! The affirmation of the centrality of Christ is in harmony with the acknowledgement of the role of His Most Holy Mother. Devotion to her, while precious, must in no way diminish the dignity and the efficacy of Christ, the sole Mediator" (ibid. n. 28). Mary, constantly dedicated to her Divine Son, is a model of faith for all Christians. The Church, meditating on her with love and contemplating her in the light of the Word, has gradually penetrated more deeply into the mystery of the Incarnation and is increasingly identified with her Spouse (cf. T.M.A. n. 43).


All values are to be found in the house of the Mother, especially fraternity, the union of hearts, of holy interests and intentions, of mission. We shall seek all of this for the new evangelisation mobilising all of us, the basic workers, in gathering the fruit of the Great Jubilee. As the Holy Father said, "the hierarchical ministry, the sacramental sign of Christ, Shepherd and Head of the Church, is the body mainly responsible for the edification of the Church in the communion and dynamic character of her evangelising action" (Puebla 659).

In the last decades of the century we said much about the episcopate, very much about the laity and very little about the priesthood. However, we cannot forget that in order to have good bishops and good lay faithful it is fundamental to have holy priests. Some have theorised that the low number of priests in some areas has been providential for the formation of the laity or that we should respond to this shortage with greater emphasis on the laity. We failed to realise that these analyses, with the consequent action, just made the symptoms of the phenomenon worse.


  1. Today, the Sunday of the Good Shepherd, in the House of the Mother, among brethren, we must acknowledge that the new evangelisation, which we cannot do without, would not even have started up and would remain a sterile slogan if the vocational mission were not supported in a motivated, universal and decisive manner. We are first of all responsible, proportionally to our convinced inner and outer adhesion to our identity and our consequent spiritual and apostolic characteristics. The priests are those who encourage all the vocations: to the ordained ministry, to the consecrated life in its various forms, to marriage etc. We need only be realistic and this becomes obvious. In any case, priests are absolutely irreplaceable. Perhaps in some cases there may be forms of respectful "substitution", as outlined in the recent inter-Dicastery Instruction "de Ecclesia Mysterio" which you certainly know well, but substitution is not an ideal and we must aim over time to create a situation in which "substitution" is no longer required. Laypeople must be able to remain fully lay in accordance with the doctrinal and disciplinary model of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Christifideles laici" and the clergy must be able to remain fully clergy in accordance with the Directories for the ministry and life of the priests and for the ministry and life of permanent deacons, as well as with the aforesaid Instruction.

We are here so that the Blessed Virgin may help us in this task which starts from personal sanctification to spread out to all the rest.


  1. Dearest brethren, let us walk the paths of Holy Mary and we shall be on the right path for conversion, in a way suited to the Jubilee of the Clergy.

We priests have concentrated all on the greatest love, thus renouncing the earthly love for a woman, as the Virgin always did before the earthly love for a man. Our "not knowing woman" is equivalent to Mary's "not knowing man" (cf. Lk 1:34).


  1. The Priest cannot live without love: if he must be a "father" who generates others in Christ, there must be love... the same love as the Holy Virgin. As in Mary, who harmoniously united virginity and maternity, the priest must find in himself the union of virginity and paternity. Mary's spiritual maternity was not a privilege detached from humanity, nor is the priest's spiritual paternity. When we are blessed by divine grace, nothing encourages us to serve others more than the sense of our own smallness. Mary's hurrying to the Visitation reveals how she, the handmaiden of the Lord, became the handmaiden of Elizabeth. For the priest, Mary is a truly splendid example, that of heeding the voice of Christ within him who suggests that he devote himself completely to those "who love us in the faith" (Tit 3:15) and to all of humanity.


  1. At the wedding of Canaan, Mary teaches us how much, as priests, we belong to the Church and how little to ourselves. Up to that time, and also during the banquet, she was called "the mother of Jesus" (Jn 2:1-3). From that time on, however, she became the "woman" (Jn 2:5).

At Canaan, the "mother of Jesus" asked Him to manifest His messianic role and divinity. Our Lord answered that when we would work a miracle and begin a public life, his "hour", the Cross would also have come. As soon as the water "became wine" when He looked at it, the Blessed Virgin disappeared as the mother of Jesus to become the Mother of all those who would be redeemed by Him. In Holy Scripture none of her words are recorded. She had pronounced the last words in a marvellous farewell that would echo in the hearts of all till the end of time: "Do everything he tells you" (Jn 2:5).


  1. Now she is the "Universal Mother", with more children than the grains of sand in the sea.

Through the example and the beneficial influence of Mary, we gradually see, with regard to interior opening and lifestyle, that we are acting in a particular community, that we are included in a Diocese or in Institution of consecrated life, or in a Prelature, that we are in a country or city, but that we belong to the world, to the mission, our horizon extends beyond any bell-tower and that around that bell-tower, or that particular sector, we act in a Catholic, universal manner. The more we live the mission of Christ, the more we love all and everyone. Like the Virgin, who at the foot of the Cross became the "mother" of all men, the priest becomes their "father".


  1. Love for Mary and union with her preserve us from the serious errors of functionalism (cf. Directory for the ministry and the life of priests, n. 44) and of abuse of democracy (cf. Ibid, n. 17). For us there cannot be any "non-working hours". We always and everywhere give service in charity, for anyone: at the altar, in the confessional, on the pulpit but also in hospital, in prison, on an aeroplane, in a station, in a restaurant, in a playing field, on the street. Nothing human is strange to us. Every soul is potentially a converted or holy one.

Mary, in the Passion, teaches us compassion. The saints who are the least indulgent with themselves are the most indulgent with others. If we led a secularised or just a "diluted" type of life we could not be true Pastors; we would become incapable of illuminating and of consoling. The priest who takes example from the heart of the Good Shepherd, sees Mary in the ashes of human life. He sees her living amidst terror, among the estranged, the disinherited, all types of marginalised people, all types of sinners. The Immaculate One is with the sinners, the Innocent One is with them. She nourishes no resentment, no bitterness, but only mercy, mercy, mercy because they do not understand or know that loving is to feel that Love which they condemn to death.

In her purity, Mary is on the mountain peak; in compassion, she is in the midst of cursing, in the cell of those condemned to death, in the beds of main, in any misery. A human being may become obsessed up to the point of refusing to ask forgiveness of God, but he cannot renounce invoking the intercession of the Mother of God!

As Priests, every suffering, every sore of the world is our suffering and our sore. As long as there is an innocent priest in a prison where there are ministers of God, faithful to the Vicar of Christ, it is a crime, and I, too shall be in prison. As long as there is a missionary without a roof over his head, I, too will be without a home. If there is no participation there can be no compassion!

The priest will never sit and watch the hostility of the world towards God, knowing full well that the collaboration of Mary was so real and active that it led to the foot of the cross. In all the images of the Crucifixion, Mary Magdalene is prostrate, while Mary stands erect. This is a message for us.

  1. Finally, we come to the time of our death. Millions of time we must have asked Mary to pray for us "at the hour of our death". We have daily announced the death of the Lord in the Eucharist, proclaiming His Resurrection while awaiting His coming (cf. 1 Cor 11:26). We will come to the end, but not to the end of our Priesthood, because this will never end: "You shall be a priest forever, according to the order of Melchisedek" (Ps 110:4; Heb 5:6). It will be the end of the trial. It will be the moment when we shall look more intensely to our Queen to obtain her intercession. We shall see with the eyes of faith the Crucifix before us and once again we shall be able to hear those splendid words: "Behold your mother" (Jn 19:27).

The priest repeatedly pronounced two words: "Jesus" and "Mary". He has always been a priest. Now, in the hour of his death, he is also a victim. The High Priest was twice a victim: coming into the world and leaving it. Mary was present at both altars, at Bethlehem and on Calvary. She was also at the altar of us priests on the day of our ordination, and will be present again beside us at the hour of our death.


  1. Mary, Mother of the priests! There were always two loves in her life: the love for her Son's life and the love her Son's death. She nourishes the same two loves for every priest, for each one of us. In the Incarnation she was the link between Israel and Christ. At the Cross and at Pentecost, she was the link between Christ and His Church. Now she is the link between priest-victim and He who "always intercedes for us in Heaven."

On the verge of death certainly each of us would like to be laid in the arms of our Holy Mother, just like Christ whom we emulate and whose redeeming action we continue in time.

We fully realise, brethren, that the words forming the priesthood – "do this in memory of me" – are inseparably connected with the burden of the Cross - "behold your mother" - and are directed in a special way to the beloved disciple, above all as representative of the Apostles.


In order to return to our roots, to rediscover our identity, to be converted and to perform our Jubilee, to move with enthusiasm, with missionary intent in the work of new evangelisation, we must therefore welcome Mary into our home. And then we must begin again to be faithful to Christ.

From this altar, under the eyes of our Mother, in the sequel of thousands upon thousands of holy brethren who have preceded us and following the luminous example of the Holy Father, I wish to gather up the good will of every ordained brother and shout with all my soul, in the name of all, the very rich expression of Montfort:

"Totus tuus ego sum et omnia mea sunt. Prahebe mihi cor tuum, Maria."

In wholly entrusting ourselves to the Virgin, I believe, dear brethren, that we can rediscover the attitude that is most faithful to the task of the divine Crucified One in the supreme moment of the Holy Sacrifice. And here we are at the source of our identity as "Sacerdos et Hostia". Yes, let us welcome Mary into our home to be faithful to our essence.