Sunday, 14 May - WELCOMING ADDRESS TO THE
Eminence Cardinal Dario Castrillón Hoyos Prefect of the Congregation for the
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.
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.
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
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.
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).
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.
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).
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".
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.
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
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