Pontiff: Church Needs Holy Priests


  • Category:

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 19, 2009 ( The greatest suffering of the Church is the sin of its priests, Benedict XVI said as he inaugurated the Year for Priests.

The Pope presided today at a celebration of vespers on the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus at the Basilica of St. Peter's, during which he launched a yearlong celebration of the priesthood. The theme for the priestly year is "Faithfulness of Christ, Faithfulness of Priests."

The year, convoked by the Pontiff, coincides with the 150th anniversary of the death of St. John Mary Vianney, known as the Curé d'Ars. Bishop Guy Bagnard of Belley-Ars brought the relics of the French saint to Rome for the inauguration Mass.

The Year for Priests will conclude with an International Convention in Rome, to be held June 9-11, 2010.

The celebration began with the Holy Father venerating in silence the relics of St. John Mary Vianney.

"The Church needs holy priests," the Pope said in his homily. "[It needs] ministers to help the faithful experience the merciful love of the Lord and to be convinced witnesses."

For this, he invited the faithful to pray "that the Lord inflame the heart of each priest" with the love of Jesus.

"How can one forget that nothing makes the Church -- the Body of Christ -- suffer more than the sins of its pastors, above all those that are 'wolves in sheep's clothing,' whether because they lead [the faithful] away with their private doctrine, or because they bind [the faithful] down with the ties of sin and death," he asked.

"The call to conversion and to take recourse to Divine Mercy also applies to us, dear priests," Benedict XVI said to the numerous priests and bishops present. "We should also appeal, humbly and incessantly, to the heart of Jesus so that he preserves us from the terrible risk of damaging those whom we should save."

For this, the Pope affirmed, "Our mission is indispensible for the Church and for the world, which demands complete fidelity to Christ and an incessant union with him; that is to say, it demands that we constantly seek the holiness of St. John Mary Vianney."