Sunday, February 17, 2008

Pontiff: Retreatants Learned Again What Priesthood Is

Pope Thanks Cardinal Vanhoye for Spiritual Exercises

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 17, 2008 ( It is necessary to rediscover the humility and the solidarity of the priesthood of Jesus so as to participate deeply in it, Benedict XVI says.

The Pope made these remarks at the end of the Lenten spiritual exercises in which he and the Roman Curia participated. The retreat was preached by Cardinal Albert Vanhoye, former secretary of the Pontifical Biblical Commission.

In his address Saturday, the Pope thanked the Jesuit cardinal, who had just offered the retreat's last meditation on the relationship between the ministerial priesthood and the priestly heart of Christ.

At the beginning of his remarks, the Bishop of Rome used the image of Christ's washing of the feet to condense in a visual way Cardinal Vanhoye's reflections on the new elements of Christ's priesthood.

"Through his meditations, this image spoke to me," the Pope said. "I saw that precisely here, in this conduct, in this act of extreme humility, the new priesthood of Jesus is realized.

"And it is realized precisely in the act of solidarity with us, with our weaknesses, our sufferings, our trials, even death.

"Thus I also saw with new eyes Jesus' red garments, which speak to us of his blood."

The Holy Father added: "You, Lord Cardinal, have taught us how the blood of Christ was, because of his prayer, 'oxygenated' by the Holy Spirit. And in this way it became the power of the resurrection and font of life for us."

Benedict XVI then praised the "theological competence" and the "spiritual profundity" that animated Cardinal Vanhoye's reflections, and which permitted "the voice of the Lord to be heard" and "in this way helped us to learn again what his and our priesthood is."

"You helped us to enter into participation in the priesthood of Christ," the Pope affirmed, "and thereby also to receive the new heart, the heart of Christ, as the center of the mystery of the New Covenant."

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