What problems do priests encounter most?



The Church's rich experience of the ministry and life of priests, contained in various documents of the Magisterium (1), has today thanks to the teachings of the post-synodal apostolic exhortation Pastores dabo vobis (2) get a new impulse.

The publication of this document - in which the Pope wished to unite his voice as Bishop of Rome and successor to the Apostle Peter with that of the Synod Fathers - marked the beginning of a faithful and fruitful path of deepening and application for the priests and for the whole Church Content means.

“In particular, the primary pastoral task of the new evangelization, which concerns the whole people of God and calls for a new zeal, new methods and a new power of expression for the proclamation and witness of the Gospel, today demands priests who are radically and completely immersed in the mystery of Christ embedded and capable of realizing a new style of pastoral life marked by deep ties with the Pope, the bishops and one another and by fruitful collaboration with the lay faithful «.(3)

The first responsible for this "new evangelization" of the third millennium are the priests, who, however, in order to be able to carry out their mission, have to cultivate a life in themselves that has to be pure transparency of their own identity. You must live a communion of love with Christ, the eternal high priest, the head and teacher, the bridegroom and shepherd, as well as consolidating your own spirituality and your own office through continuous and complete formation.

This Directory, requested by many bishops both during the Synod of 1990 and during the consultation of the entire episcopate organized by our Congregation, aims to respond to the concerns mentioned.

The preliminary work included the suggestions of the entire world episcopate surveyed, the results of the plenary congregation that took place in October 1993 in the Vatican and finally the reflection of theologians, canonists and experts of various origins who are familiar with today's pastoral conditions.

An attempt was made to offer practical elements that could be a breeding ground for initiatives and should be carried as far as possible on a community basis. Avoid going too deeply into those details which only legitimate local practice, as well as the true conditions of each diocese and episcopal conference, the wisdom and zeal of the pastors can favorably suggest. Taking into account the nature of this document as a Directory In the present circumstances, it seemed appropriate to recall only those doctrinal elements that are the foundation of the identity, spirituality and ongoing formation of priests.

The document, therefore, does not intend to offer a comprehensive exposition on the priesthood, nor a mere and simple repetition of what has already been authentically expressed by the Magisterium of the Church. Rather, it seeks to answer the most important doctrinal, disciplinary and pastoral questions that priests face in their work for the new evangelization.

One wanted to clarify, for example, that true priestly identity, as the divine Master wanted and the Church always lived, is not compatible with those democratic tendencies which want to undermine and annul the reality of the official priesthood. Particular attention was paid to the specific issue of the community, which is felt to be particularly urgent today because of its impact on the life of the priest. The same is true of priestly spirituality, which in our time has suffered quite a few setbacks, mainly due to secularism and erroneous anthropologism. Finally, it seemed necessary to offer some advice on an appropriate formatio permanens to help priests live their vocation with joy and responsibility.

The text is of course addressed to all priests of the Latin Church through the mediation of the bishops. The directives contained therein concern first and foremost the diocesan secular priests, even if many of these directives must also be observed by the priestly members of the religious institutes and the communities of apostolic life - appropriately adapted.

It remains to be hoped that this Directory can be of help to every priest: to deepen one's own identity and to increase one's own spirituality, an encouragement in the service and in the realization of one's own formation, for which everyone is primarily responsible, as well as a point of reference for a rich and authentic apostolate for the benefit of the Church and the whole world.

On the part of the Congregation for the Clergy, Maundy Thursday 1994.




Tit.-Archbishop of Grado


1. The priesthood as a gift

The entire Church was given a share in the priestly anointing of Christ in the Holy Spirit. In the Church "all believers form a holy and royal priesthood, make spiritual sacrifices through Jesus Christ to God and proclaim the mighty deeds of him who called them out of darkness into his wonderful light" (Petr. 2, 5 and 9). (4) In Christ, with a view to the salvation of all human beings, his whole mystical body is united through the Holy Spirit with the Father.

The Church cannot, however, carry on such a mission on its own: all of its activities need inwardly unity with Christ as the head of his body. She is indissolubly united with the Lord; from Himself she constantly receives grace and truth, as well as guidance and support, so that they may be to everyone and everyone "a sign and instrument for the most intimate union with God and for the unity of all humanity" (5) can.

The ministerial priesthood finds its raison d'etre in this perspective of vital and effective unity with Christ. For through this service the Lord continues to perform in the midst of his people that work which belongs to Him alone as the head of his body. Hence the ministerial priesthood makes the own actions of Christ, the Head, tangible and thus testifies that Christ has not left his church, but rather continues to enliven it with his ongoing priesthood. Therefore, the Church regards the ministerial priesthood as a gift imparted to her through the service of some of her believers.

This gift was used by Christ to carry on his salvation mission. Initially bestowed on the apostles, it continues to exist in the Church through their successors, the bishops.

2. Sacramental origin

Through sacramental consecration, which takes place through the laying on of hands and consecration prayer by the bishop, a "special ontological bond" is created in the priest, "which unites the priest with Christ, the High Priest and Good Shepherd". (6)

Hence the identity of the priest is derived from specific participation in the priesthood of Christ. In and for the Church the consecrated person becomes a real, living and transparent image of the priest Christ, "a sacramental representation of Christ the Head and the Shepherd". (7) Through consecration the priest receives "as a gift a spiritual authority, participation is in that authority with which Jesus Christ leads the Church through the Holy Spirit ". (8)

This sacramental identification with the eternal high priest inserts the priest in a special way into the Trinitarian mystery and, through the mystery of Christ, into the communion of the office of the Church in order to serve the people of God. (9)

Trinitarian dimension

3. In communion with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit

As much as it is true that every Christian is connected to the one triune God through baptism, it is also true that the sacrament of Orders places the priest in a special and specific relationship with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is true: “Our identity has its deepest source in the love of the Father. We are sacramentally united through the Holy Spirit in the ministerial priesthood with the Son sent by him, the High Priest and Good Shepherd. The life and ministry of the priest are the continuation of the life and work of Christ himself. This is our identity, our true dignity, the source of our joy and the certainty of our life ". (10)

The identity, office and existence of the priest are therefore essentially related to the three divine persons, and this with regard to the priestly service in the Church.

4. In the trinitarian salvation dynamic

The priest is "as a visible continuation and sacramental sign of Christ, who himself faces both the Church and the world as a permanent and ever new origin of salvation" (11) with a special responsibility inserted into the Trinitarian salvation dynamic. Its identity is derived from the "ministerium verbi et sacramentorum", which is essentially related: to the service of the saving love of the father (cf. Joh. 17, 6-9; 1 Cor. 1, 1; 2 Cor. 1, 1), to the priestly being of Christ, who personally calls his servant and chooses to be with him (cf. Mk. 3, 15), as well as the gift of the Spirit (cf. Joh. 20, 21), which gives the priest the necessary strength to give life to the many children of God who are called as a single people on their way to the kingdom of the Father.

5. Intimate relationship with the Trinity

Hence one understands the essentially "relational" (cf. Joh. 17, 11. 21) (12) Characteristics of the identity of the priest.

The grace and indelible character imparted with the sacramental anointing of the Holy Spirit (13) place the priest in a personal relationship with the Trinity, which is the source of priestly being and doing. This relationship must clearly be lived by the priest in an intimate and personal way: in adoring and loving dialogue with the three divine Persons and in the knowledge that the gift received has been given to him for the service of all.

Christological dimension

6. Specific identity

Like the Trinitarian dimension, the Christological dimension is derived directly from the sacrament, which is ontologically configured with Christ, the priest, teacher and shepherd of his people. (14)

The faithful, who are elected and appointed to the official priesthood, although they remain attached to the common priesthood, are given an indelible participation in the same and only priesthood of Christ in the dimension of Mediator and Lord, and this with a view to sanctification, doctrine and direction of the whole People of God. If, on the one hand, the common priesthood of the faithful and the hierarchical or official priesthood are aligned with one another, because both participate in the single priesthood of Christ in their own way, then on the other hand they are essentially different from each other. (15)

In this sense, the identity of the priest is new in comparison with that of all Christians who, through baptism, partake in their entirety in the only priesthood of Christ and are called to testify to it in the whole earth. (16) This is what makes the ministerial priesthood special to see that all believers need the mediation and glory of Christ made visible through the exercise of the ministerial priesthood.

In his clearly Christological identity, the priest must be aware that his life as a mystery is completely immersed in a new and specific way in the mystery of Christ and the Church and that this challenges and rewards him in pastoral service. (17)

7. In the bosom of God's people

Christ gives the apostles a share in his mission. "As the Father sent me, so I send you" (Joh. 20, 21). In holy consecration itself the missionary dimension is ontologically present. The priest is chosen, consecrated and sent to effectively update this eternal mission of Christ, of which he is the authentic representative and messenger: “Whoever listens to you hears me; whoever despises you despises me and whoever despises me despises him who sent me " (Lk. 10, 16).

It can therefore be said that the configuration with Christ establishes the priest through sacramental consecration in the womb of the people of God and allows him to participate in his own way, the sanctifying, teaching and pastoral authority of Jesus Christ himself, the head and pastor of the Church )

By acting "in persona Christi Capitis", the priest becomes a servant of the essential acts of salvation, communicates the truth necessary for salvation and guides the people of God and leads them to holiness. (19)

Pneumatological dimension

8. Sacramental character

In ordination to the priesthood, the priest received the seal of the Holy Spirit, which made him into a person who is marked with a sacramental character in order to be servants of Christ and the Church forever. With the promised assurance that the Comforter will "be with him forever" (Joh. 14, 16-17), the priest knows that he will never lose the presence and effective authority of the Holy Spirit in order to exercise his ministry and to be able to live pastoral love as a total gift for the salvation of his own brothers and sisters.

9. Personal communion with the Holy Spirit

Again it is the Holy Spirit who in ordination gives the priest the prophetic task of proclaiming the word of God and explaining it with authority. With the entire priesthood integrated into the communion of the Church, the priest is guided by the Spirit of truth, which the Father sent through Christ and which teaches him everything and reminds him of everything that Jesus said to the apostles. Hence, with the help of the Holy Spirit and by studying the Word of God in the Scriptures, in the light of tradition and the Magisterium, the priest discovers (20) the richness of the word entrusted to him to proclaim it to the ecclesiastical community.

10. Invocation of the Holy Spirit

Because of the sacramental character and identification with the Church, the priest is always in communion with the Holy Spirit in the celebration of the liturgy, especially in the celebration of the Eucharist and the other sacraments.

In every sacrament it is Christ himself who acts for the good of the Church, namely through the Holy Spirit, who is called upon in his effective authority by the celebrating priest "in persona Christi". (21)

The sacramental celebration is made effective by the word of Christ who instituted it and by the power of the Spirit to which the Church often invokes in the epiclesis.

This is particularly evident in the Eucharistic Prayer: The priest calls on the power of the Holy Spirit through bread and wine, speaks the words of Jesus and carries out the mystery of the body and blood of the real present Christ, the transubstantiation.

11. Power to lead the church

Finally, in the communion of the Holy Spirit, the priest finds the strength to lead the community entrusted to him and to keep it in the unity desired by the Lord. (22) The priest's prayer in the Holy Spirit can be modeled on the priestly prayer of Jesus Christ (cf. Joh. 17). He must therefore pray for the unity of the believers so that they may be one and that the world may believe that the Father has sent the Son for the salvation of all.

Ecclesiological dimension

12. "In" and "opposite" the church

Christ, the permanent and ever new source of salvation, is the original mystery from which the mystery of the Church emerges. She is his body and his bride, whom he has called as bridegroom to be the sign and instrument of redemption. Through the work entrusted to the apostles and their followers, Christ continues to give life to his Church.

Through the mystery of Christ, the priest, in the exercise of his manifold ministry, is also inserted into the mystery of the Church, which "in faith becomes conscious of being not of herself, but of the grace of Christ in the Holy Spirit". (23) the priest finds himself both in the church and across from it. (24)

13. In a way, partakers of Christ the Bridegroom

Indeed, the sacrament of consecration makes the priest a participant not only in the mystery of Christ, the priest, teacher, head and shepherd, but also in a certain way in the mystery of Christ, "the servant and bridegroom of the Church". (25) She is his "body." whom he has loved and whom he loves to the point of giving himself up for them (cf. Eph 5, 25); he constantly renews and purifies them through the word of God and the sacraments (cf. Ibid. 5, 26); he makes her more and more beautiful (cf. Ibtd. 5, 27) and finally he nourishes and cares for them (cf. Ibid. 5, 29).

As collaborators with the bishops, the priests form a single presbytery (26) with their bishop and participate at a lower level in the single priesthood of Christ. Like the bishop, they even participate in that spousal dimension with regard to the church, which is well expressed in the rite of episcopal ordination through the awarding of the ring. (27)

The priests, who "in the individual local congregations of the faithful, so to speak present the bishop with whom they are trustingly and magnanimously united", should be faithful to the bride and, as it were, as living icons of Christ, the bridegroom, the manifold devotion of Christ to his Develop the Church effectively. Because of this communion with Christ, the Bridegroom, the ministerial priesthood - like Christ, with Christ and in Christ - is based on that mystery of redeeming love in which marriage among Christians participates.

Called out of supernatural love, absolutely without consideration, the priest must love the Church as Christ loved her, devoting all his energies to her and giving himself to her with pastoral love up to the daily devotion of his own life.

14. Universality of the priesthood

The Lord's instruction to go to all peoples (Mt. 28, 18-20), determines a further modality of the priest's attitude "towards" the Church. (29) Sent - "missus" - by the Father through Christ, the priest belongs "in an immediate way" (30) to the whole Church who has the "mission", the good news "to the ends of the earth" (Acts. 1, 8) to proclaim. (31)

"The spiritual gift that the priests received in ordination prepares them for a very broad and universal salvific mission." (32) Through ordination and the office assigned, all priests are connected to the bishops and - in hierarchical communion with them - According to their vocation and grace, they serve the good of the whole Church. (33) Therefore, the membership of a particular Church given by incardination (34) must not include the priest in a narrow and particularistic mentality. Rather, he must also be open to serve other churches, because every church is the realization of a part of the only church of Jesus Christ. For the universal church lives and carries out its mission in and out of the particular churches, in effective communion with one another. Therefore, all priests must "have a missionary heart and mentality, and be open to the needs of the Church and the world". (35)

15. Missionary Priesthood

It is important that the priest be fully aware of this missionary reality of his priesthood and really live it, in full agreement with the Church, which, today, as yesterday, deems it necessary to send her servants to where they are most urgently needed and who strives to achieve a fairer distribution of the clergy. (36)

This vital need of the church in today's world must be felt and seen by every priest, above all and actually as a life's work in the midst of the institution and for its service.

For this reason, all those opinions are not admissible which, in the name of a misunderstood respect for certain cultures, tend to falsify the missionary activity of the Church, which is called to the universal implementation of that mystery of salvation which transcends and must animate all cultures. (37)

It must also be said that the universal dissemination of the priesthood finds a correspondence in the socio-cultural characteristics of today's world, where one feels the need to eliminate barriers that divide peoples and nations, and above all to fraternize different people through cultural exchange, regardless of the geographical distance from each other.

More than ever before, the clergy must therefore find themselves apostolically engaged today in order to unite all people in Christ and his Church.

16. Authority as "amoris officium"

Furthermore, the priest clearly "faces" the Church as a leader who leads those believers to sanctification who are entrusted to his essential pastoral service.

This reality, to be lived with humility and coherence, can face two opposing temptations.

The first is to exercise one's own office imperiously towards the flock (cf. Lk. 22, 24-27; 1 petr. 5, 1-4), while the second is to diminish one's own configuration with Christ, the Head and Shepherd, in an incorrect idea of ​​"fellowship".

The first temptation was also very strong for the disciples and was clearly and repeatedly rebuked by Jesus: every authority is to be exercised in the spirit of service, namely as an "amoris officium" (38) and as an unconditional devotion for the good of the flock (cf. Joh. 13, 14; 10, 11).

The priest must always remember that the Lord "did not come to be served, but to serve" (Mk. 10, 45) that he knelt down to wash the feet of his disciples (cf. Joh. 13, 5) before he died on the cross and before he sent them all over the world (cf. Joh.20, 21).

The priests then give authentic testimony to the risen Lord, "to whom all power in heaven and on earth" (cf. Mt. 28, 18) when they exercise their own "power" in both humble and respectable service to their own flock (39) and respect the duties that Christ and the Church both lay faithful (40) and in the spirit of the entrust evangelical counsels to consecrated believers (41).

17. Democratic temptation

It often happens that in order to avoid the first wrong attitude one falls into the second and tends to eliminate any difference in duties between the members of the mystical body of Christ, which is the Church, and thus in fact the true teaching of the Church on the Church Discriminate between common priesthood and ministerial priesthood, rejects. (42)

One of the various distorted images that can be recorded today is what is known as "democracy". In this context it is appropriate to remember that the Church recognizes all the merits and values ​​that democratic culture has brought to civil society. In addition, the Church has always used all means at its disposal for the recognition of the equal dignity of all people. In the spirit of this ecclesiastical tradition, the Second Vatican Council openly professed the common dignity of all baptized. (43)

However, it must also be stated that the mentality and practice in some currents of the socio-political culture of our time are not automatically transferable to the church. For the church owes its existence and structure to God's plan of salvation. She regards herself as a gift from a benevolent father who set her free by humiliating his son on the cross. The Church therefore wants - in the Holy Spirit - to be fully conform and faithful to the free and liberating will of her Lord Jesus Christ. This mystery of salvation has the effect that the reality of the Church differs from simple human societies because of its inherent nature.

So-called "democratism" is a very grave temptation because it leads to denial of the authority and grace that comes to Christ as Head and to denature the Church as if it were nothing more than a human society. Such a conception weakens the hierarchical constitution of the church itself, as it was willed by its divine founder, as it has always clearly taught the Magisterium and as it has lived the church uninterruptedly.

Co-determination in the church is based on the mystery of the religious community, which by its very nature contains and considers the presence and active function of the church hierarchy in itself.

Accordingly, a certain mentality is not permissible in the church, which is sometimes particularly evident in some organizations of church participation and which either tends to confuse the tasks of priests and those of the faithful, or the authority proper to the bishop from that of the priests as Not to distinguish employees of the bishops or to deny the peculiarity of the Petrine office in the college of bishops.

In this connection it should be remembered that the presbytery and the council of priests are not an expression of the clergy's right of association, and even less can they be viewed from a trade union perspective, which gives rise to demands and partial interests alien to the ecclesiastical community. 44)

18. Difference between the common priesthood and the ministerial priesthood

The difference between the common priesthood and the ministerial priesthood, far from bringing separation or division between the members of the Christian community, harmonizes and unites the life of the church. As the body of Christ, it is an organic community of all members, where each contributes to the common life if it lives its own diverse role and its own specific vocation in the full sense (1 Cor. 12, 12ff). (45)

It is therefore not for anyone to change what Christ willed for his Church. It is indissolubly bound to its founder and its head, who is the only one who gives it ministers to serve the believers through the power of the Holy Spirit. In the place of Christ, who calls, consecrates and sends through legitimate shepherds, no congregation can take the place of one which - possibly in need - wishes to give its own priest in a way other than that foreseen by the church for solving emergencies is the prayer of Jesus: "Ask the Lord of the harvest to send workers to the harvest" (Mt. 9, 38). If this prayer based on faith is followed by the intense life of charitable fellowship, then we can be sure that the Lord will not fail to give shepherds according to his heart (cf. Jer. 3, 15).(47)

19. Only priests are "pastores"

One way of avoiding the "democratic" temptation is to avoid the so-called "clericalization" of the laity, (48) which tends to suppress the official priesthood of the presbyter, based solely on the ordination received from the bishop and unambiguous meaning that the term "pastor" can have. In fact, the term "pastoral" refers to the "potestas docendi et sanctificandi" as well as to the "potestas regendi". (49)

It should also be remembered that such tendencies do not favor the true promotion of the laity, since they often lead to the authentic vocation and ecclesial mission of the laity in the world being forgotten.

Priestly community

20. "Communion" with the Trinity and with Christ

In the light of all that has already been said about the identity of the priest, the communion of the priest is realized first and foremost with the Father, the deepest source of all his powers, with the Son, in whose redeeming mission he participates, and with the Holy Spirit, who is to him gives the strength to live and to realize that pastoral love which qualifies him as priestly.

In fact, “the nature and mission of the priesthood of service can only be determined in this diverse and rich interplay of relationships that come from the divine Trinity and become part of the communion of the Church, as a sign and tool in Christ for the most intimate union with God as for the unity of all humanity, continue into it ". (50)

21. "Communio" with the Church

From this fundamental unio-communio with Christ and with the Trinity, the priest derives his comunio-relationship with the church with regard to its mystery and ecclesial community. (51) There, in the innermost mystery of the church, as a mystery more Trinitarian Community in missionary tension is where every Christian identity is revealed and therefore also the specific and personal identity of the priest and his office.

In concrete terms, the communion of the priest with the Church is realized in different ways. With the ordination he enters into a special bond with the Pope, with his own bishop, with other priests and with the lay faithful.

22. Hierarchical »communio«

Communion as a characteristic of the priesthood is based on the uniqueness of the head, Shepherd and Bridegroom of the Church, on Christ. (52)

In such a communion of office certain bonds take shape: first of all with the Pope, the college of bishops and one's own bishop. “The priestly service exists only in communion with the Pope and with the college of bishops, especially with one's own diocesan bishop; The priest must show them "the filial respect and obedience" which he vowed in the rite of ordination. " H. a communion in that hierarchy as it is structured inside.

Such communion implies, due to the participation in an official priesthood at the level subordinate to the bishops, a spiritual and organic-structural bond of the priests to the entire class of bishops as well as to their own bishop, (54) also to the pope, since he is the shepherd of the whole Church (55) and every particular Church is. This is reinforced by the fact that the whole class of bishops as a whole and each individual bishop must be in hierarchical communion with the head of the college. (56) This college is composed only of consecrated bishops who are in hierarchical communion with stand up to the head and its members.

23. "Communion" in the celebration of the Eucharist

The hierarchical communion is found meaningfully expressed in the Eucharistic Prayer, where the priest prays for the Pope, for the communion of bishops and for his own bishop, and thus not only expresses a feeling of veneration, but testifies to the authenticity of his celebration. ( 57)

Even the concelebration under the foreseen circumstances and conditions, (58) especially under the presidency of the bishop and with the participation of the faithful, manifests well the unity of the priesthood of Christ in the multiplicity of his offices, as well as the unity of the sacrifice and the people of God ) It also helps to strengthen the brotherhood of ministry among priests. (60)

24. "Communio" in the exercise of the ministry

Every priest should be connected to the person of the Holy Father with deep, humble and filial love and should exemplify his Petrine office as teacher, priest and shepherd. (61)

In faithfulness to and in respect of the authority of his own bishop, he will establish the communion necessary for the exercise of his priesthood. Experienced pastors easily find the need to avoid any kind of subjectivism in the exercise of office and to stick to the pastoral plans in a jointly responsible manner. Such cohesion is an expression of maturity and helps to build that communal unity which is indispensable for the work of evangelization. (62)

By fully respecting hierarchical subordination, the priest becomes the protagonist of a sincere relationship with his own bishop, which is characterized by honest trust, warm friendship, the search for understanding and convergence in ideas and plans. Thoughtful personal initiative and pastoral enterprise do not suffer. (63)

25. "Communio" in the presbytery

On the basis of the Sacrament of Orders "every priest is united with the other members of the presbytery by special bonds of apostolic love, ministry and fraternity". (64) It is inserted into the "Ordo Presbyterorum", which forms that unity which is understand a true family in which bonds are not of flesh and blood but of consecrated grace. (65)

Membership in a specific presbytery (66) always takes place in the area of ​​a particular church, an ordinariate or a personal prelature. In contrast to the college of bishops, there seems to be no theological basis for confirming the existence of a "universal presbytery".

Priestly brotherhood and belonging to the presbytery are therefore elements that characterize the priest. Particularly significant in this regard is the rite of the laying on of hands by the bishop in the ordination of priests, in which all the priests present take part in order to indicate that they are at the same level of office and that the priest cannot act alone, but always only within the presbytery by he becomes a brother of all those who make it up. (67)

26. Incardination ina particular church

Incardination in a particular particular church (68) forms a real legal bond (69) which also has spiritual value, since it is derived from “the relationship with the bishop in the one presbytery, the participation in his endeavors for the church, and the devotion derive from the gospel-oriented concern for the people of God under the concrete conditions of history and the environment ”(70). From this perspective, the bond with the particular Church is also very significant for pastoral work.

In this context it should not be forgotten that secular priests who are not incardinated in the diocese and those priests who are resident in the diocese as members of a religious order and who exercise any office for their benefit are very much under their legitimate full professor, however fully or under another title belong to the presbytery of the diocese concerned (71), where "they have active and passive voting rights in the formation of the priestly council". (72) The priests of religious orders in particular join forces to contribute to pastoral zeal by offering the contribution of specific charisms and "To spur the particular Church through their presence to live their openness to all sides more intensely". (73)

Finally, priests incardinated in a diocese but serving an ecclesiastical movement recognized by the competent ecclesiastical authority (74) should be aware that they are members of the presbytery of the diocese where they serve and that they cooperate honestly with it should. For his part, the bishop of incardination should respect the lifestyle required by membership of the Movement and be prepared, in accordance with the law, to allow the priest to exercise his office in other particular Churches if this is part of the charism of the Movement. (75)

27. presbyteryas a place of sanctification

The presbytery is the privileged place where the priest has the appropriate means of healingGshould be able to find and evangelism and where he should find help to overcome human limits and weaknesses felt especially today.

He should therefore endeavor in every way not to live his own priesthood in an isolated and subjectivist way. He will seek to promote fraternal communion through giving and taking - from priest to priest - warm friendship, emotional sympathy, hospitality, correctio fraterna, knowing that the grace of consecration “elevates human, psychological, emotional, friendly and spiritual relationships ... and is made clear and concretized in the various forms of mutual assistance, not only of a spiritual but also of a material nature «. (76)

All this is expressed in the liturgy of the Mass In Coena Domini on Maundy Thursday, which shows how the priests of the Eucharistic Community, appointed at the Last Supper, receive the ability to love one another as the Master loves )

28. Priestly friendship

The profound and ecclesiastical meaning of the presbytery in no way hinders, but rather facilitates the perception of the personal responsibility of every priest in the office entrusted to him by the bishop. (78) The ability to cultivate and live mature and deep friendships makes in the exercise the office's serenity and joy are visible. It is crucial support in difficulties and valuable help in the growth of pastoral love, which the priest must give especially to those confreres who are in difficulty and need understanding, help and support. (79)

29. "Vita communis"

A sign of such a community is also the "vita communis" (80), which is always promoted by the Church, which has only recently been recommended again by the documents of the Second Vatican Council (81) and by the Magisterium (82) and which has been positively practiced in not a few dioceses .

Among its various forms (common house, table community, etc.), common participation in liturgical prayer (83) must be valued most highly. The various modalities must be promoted according to the possibilities and practical advantages, without therefore copying praiseworthy models of religious life. Special praise should be given to those associations which promote priestly brotherhood, holiness in the exercise of ministry and communion with the Bishop and with the whole Church. (84)

It is to be hoped that pastors will be ready to promote the "vita communis" in the rectory with their parish vicars (85) by effectively respecting them as cooperators and participants in pastoral care; For their part, the parish vicars must contribute to the success of the priestly community by recognizing and respecting the authority of the pastor. (86)

30. "Communion" with the lay faithful

As a person of community, the priest will not be able to express his love for the Lord and for the Church without translating it into an active and unconditional love for the Christian people, the object of his pastoral care. (87)

Like Christ, he must allow this "in the flock entrusted to him, as it were, to become transparent to himself" (88) by cultivating a positive and beneficial relationship with the lay faithful. Recognizing their dignity as children of God, he promotes their own role in the Church and serves them with all his priestly service and with his pastoral love. (89) Aware of the profound communion that unites him with lay faithful and religious the priests make every effort to "stimulate and develop shared responsibility for the one common salvation mission, with lively and heartfelt appreciation of all the charisms and tasks that the Spirit gives the believers for the building up of the Church". (90)

Specifically, the pastor, always concerned with the common good of the Church, will encourage the associations and movements of the faithful with religious objectives (91) to welcome them all and help them to achieve unity among themselves in purposes, prayer and apostolate Find.

In so far as he unites the family of God and realizes the church as a comunio, the priest becomes the "pontiff" who connects man with God and makes himself brother of man precisely because he wants to be a shepherd, father and teacher to them. (92) For today's people who are looking for the meaning of their existence, they are the companions to the encounter with Christ. This encounter takes place as a promise and as a reality that is not yet final, but is already present in the Church. In this way, the priest appointed to serve the people of God will prove himself to be an expert on humanity, a man of truth and community, and a witness of the care of the only Shepherd for each and every one of his sheep. The church will certainly be able to count on his commitment, on his availability, on his tireless evangelization work and, above all, on his faithful and unconditional love.

Furthermore, he will carry out his spiritual work with kindness and firmness, with humility and a sense of service, (93) by participating out of compassion in the sufferings that arise for people due to various forms of poverty, spiritual and material, old and new. He will also know how to accompany with mercy the difficult and uncertain path of conversion of sinners, to whom he offers the gift of truth and the patient and encouraging benevolence of the Good Shepherd, who does not punish the stray sheep but with joy at his return to the herd on his shoulders (cf. Lk. 15, 4-7).(94)

31. "Communion" with religious

Particular attention is paid to the brothers and sisters who are engaged in the most varied forms of consecrated life, respecting and promoting their specific charisms with sincere respect and in a spirit of apostolic cooperation. He will also help make consecrated life more luminous for the benefit of the whole Church, and more and more convincing and attractive to new generations.

In the sense of such high esteem for consecrated life, the priest will particularly care for those communities which for various reasons have greater need for good doctrine of the faith, for assistance and for encouragement to be faithful.

32. Promotion of vocations

Each priest will devote himself particularly to promoting vocations, without neglecting to encourage vocational prayer, and in catechesis, in the formation of acolytes and in other appropriate initiatives, through personal contact, to ensure that talents are discovered and that the God's will for a courageous choice to follow Christ is recognized. (95)

Certainly, the clear awareness of one's own identity, the coherence of life, obvious joy and missionary zeal are indispensable elements of a pastoral care of vocations, which must be integrated into an organic and generally accepted pastoral care.

With the seminary as the cradle of one's own vocation and as a place of learning for the first experiences of communal life, the priest will always cultivate relationships of cordial cooperation and honest care.

"It is an indissoluble requirement of pastoral love" (96) that every priest - supporting the grace of the Holy Spirit - "should endeavor with diligent zeal" to find at least one "successor in the priestly ministry".

33. Political and social commitment

As a servant of the Church, which because of its universality and catholicity cannot be bound to any historical contingency, the priest will stand above any political party. He cannot take an active part in political parties or in the leadership of trade union associations unless, in the opinion of the competent ecclesiastical authority, it is necessary to defend the rights of the church or to promote the common good. (97) For although these things are good in themselves, so they are not appropriate to the class of the clergy in so far as they can pose a grave danger of dividing the ecclesiastical community. (98)

Like Jesus (cf. Joh. 6, 15 ff) the priest must "refrain from engaging in active politics, especially if this almost inevitably happens on only one side, so that as a person he can all retain his key position with regard to spiritual brotherhood". (99) Everyone Believers must therefore be able to go to the priest at any time without ever feeling excluded for any reason.

The priest will remember that “it is not for the Pastors of the Church to intervene directly in the political structures and in the organization of social life. This task is part of the mission of the lay faithful, who work on their own initiative with their fellow citizens. ”(100) However, he will not fail to work“ for the right formation of their conscience ”. (101)

The reduction of his mission to temporal tasks, merely social, political or at least alien to his identity, is not an achievement, but rather a grave loss for the evangelical fruitfulness of the whole church.

The historical context of the present

34. Understand the signs of the times

The life and ministry of priests always develop in a historical context, sometimes full of new problems and unexpected circumstances in which the pilgrim church has to live.

The priesthood does not grow out of history but out of the unchanging will of the Lord. However, it is confronted with the historical circumstances and - although it always remains true to itself - it is shaped by the concrete form of the decisions but also by a critical reference and a search for an answer to the »signs of the times that corresponds to the gospel «. It is for this reason that priests have a duty to interpret such "signs" in the light of faith and to discern them wisely. In any case, they cannot ignore them, especially not if one wants to orient one's own life in an effective and proper way in such a way that service and witness become more and more fruitful for the kingdom of God.

In the present phase of the life of the Church and society, priests are called to live their ministry to the fullest in the face of ever deeper, more numerous and more difficult not only pastoral but also social and cultural needs that must be addressed. (102)

You are therefore engaged today in various levels of the apostolate, where generosity and total dedication, intellectual preparation and, above all, a mature and deep spiritual life rooted in pastoral love are required. This is their specific path to holiness and this represents an authentic service to the faithful in the context of pastoral activity.

35. The urgency of the new evangelization

It follows from this that the priest is involved in a very special way in the commitment of the entire Church to the new evangelization. On the basis of faith in Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of man, he has the guarantee that in Him an "inexhaustible riches" (Eph. 3, 8) is there, which no culture and no epoch can ever use up, and from which people always find their enrichment. (103)

Therefore this is the hour of renewal of our faith in Jesus Christ, who "yesterday, today and always" (Heb. 13, 8) is the same. Therefore "the call to the new evangelization is first of all a call to conversion". (104) At the same time it is a call to hope, "which is based on the promises of God, on faithfulness to his word, and which is the irrefutable certainty of the resurrection Christ has - his final victory over sin and death, the first message and foundation of every evangelization, the foundation of every human progress, the principle of every authentic Christian culture ". (105)

In this context, the priest must first give life to his faith, his hope and his sincere love for the Lord, so that he can illustrate to the believer and to all people how He really is: a living person, fascinating, loving us more than anyone else because he is gave his life for us; "No one has a greater love than he who gives his life for his friends" (Joh. 15, 13).

At the same time, in response to all fears, the priest will proclaim Jesus Christ, knowing that each person searches in different ways for a love that will allow him to overcome the narrow limits of his weaknesses, his egoism and ultimately his death.

The priest is called to be a messenger of hope in the new evangelization (106).

36. Challenge from sects and new cults

A particular challenge for pastoral service arises from the spread of sects and new cults, which are also spreading among devout Catholics.

This phenomenon has complex causes. In any case, the ministry of the priests is required to respond appropriately and specifically to the search for the sacred and for authentic spirituality, which is particularly prevalent today.

In fact, in recent years it has become evident that pastoral motives in particular make it necessary for the priest to be a man of God and a master of prayer.

At the same time it seems necessary that the community entrusted to his pastoral care should offer an atmosphere in which no one who belongs to it should experience anonymity or indifference.

It is a responsibility that certainly concerns all believers, but in a special way concerns the priest as a man of community.

If the priest knows how to accept someone who comes with kindness and respect and to take them seriously as a personality, then a style of authentic love emerges that will gradually become noticeable throughout the entire community.

In order to meet the challenge of sects and new cults, there is a particular need for a tried and tested and comprehensive catechesis, which today requires a special effort on the part of the priest so that all his faithful really know the meaning of the Christian vocation and the Catholic faith. In particular, the faithful must be instructed as to the relationship between their specific calling in Christ and their belonging to the Church which they are to be devoted and steadfast in love.

All of this can be achieved if the priest avoids anything in his life and ministry that might provoke lukewarmness, coldness, or merely selective identification with the Church.

37. Light and dark sides of the exercise of duty

It is very comforting to note that today the overwhelming majority of priests of all ages carry out their service with joyful commitment, which is often the fruit of quiet heroism, and work to the limits of their own capabilities, sometimes without seeing the fruits of their labor.

Through this commitment they represent today a living proclamation of that divine grace which, given at the moment of ordination, constantly gives new strength for sacred service.

This light, of course, which illuminates the life of the priest, is not lacking in the shadows which tend to diminish the beauty of the testimony to the world and make the service less effective.

Pastoral service is a fascinating but difficult undertaking, often exposed to incomprehension and repression, and today above all to tiredness, isolation and sometimes loneliness.

In order to face the challenges that the secular mentality constantly presents to the priest, he will give absolute priority to the spiritual life, to being with Christ and to the life of generous pastoral love, as well as communion with everyone and first of all with them intensify with other priests.

Remain in prayer with Christ

38. Primacy of spiritual life

The priest was, so to speak, "conceived" in that long prayer when Jesus spoke to the Father about his apostles and certainly all who would participate in his own mission over the centuries (cf. Lk. 6, 12; Joh. 17, 15-20). The prayer of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, which is entirely oriented towards the priestly Golgotha ​​sacrifice (cf. Mt. 26, 36-44 par.), Shows in a paradigmatic way "how our priesthood must be deeply bound to prayer: rooted in prayer". (107)

Born of these prayers and called to the renewal of the sacrifice that is inseparable from them, the priests will keep their ministry alive through a spiritual life to which they give absolute priority, avoiding neglect for various activities. In order to be able to make the pastoral service fruitful, the priest needs the special and deep harmony with Christ, the Good Shepherd, who alone remains the real protagonist of every pastoral activity.

39. Means for the spiritual life

Such a spiritual life must be incarnated in the existence of every priest, both through liturgy and personal prayer, and through appropriate lifestyle and practice of Christian virtues that contribute to the success of ministry. To become conformed to Christ demands, so to speak, climatic conditions of friendship and personal encounter with Jesus the Lord and also of service to the Church, which is his body and which the priest obviously loves, faithfully and tirelessly in his pastoral duties fulfilled. (108)

It is therefore necessary for the priest to organize his prayer life in such a way that it includes: the daily celebration of the Eucharist (109) with appropriate preparation and thanksgiving; frequent confession (110) and the spiritual guidance already practiced in the seminary; (111) the complete and zealous celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours, (112) what it is required to do every day; (113) the examination of conscience; (114) the silent prayer in an appropriate manner; (115) lectio divina; (116) the extended periods of silence and conversation, especially in the retreats and periodic retreats; (117) the precious expressions of Marian piety, such as the rosary; (118) the "Via Crucis" and the other piety exercises; (119) the rewarding hagiographical reading. (120)

Every year during St. Mass on Maundy Thursday, the priests are supposed to renew the promises made in the ordination of priests before their bishop and together with him as a sign of constant efforts of fidelity. (121)

Care for the spiritual life must be perceived by the priest himself as a joyful duty, but also as a right of the faithful who, consciously or unconsciously, seek in him the man of God, the adviser, the peacemaker, the faithful and wise friend, the sure companion to whom one can confide in the toughest moments of life in order to find comfort and security. (122)

40. The example of the praying Christ

Owing to the many obligations that are to a large extent connected with pastoral activity, the life of priests today is more than ever exposed to a series of demands which could direct it towards growing external activism and sometimes subject it to a frenetic and overwhelming rhythm .

In the face of such "temptation" one must not forget that Jesus' first intention was to gather apostles around him so that above all they could "be with him" (Mk. 3, 14).

The Son of God himself wanted to leave us the testimony of his prayer as well.

In fact, the Gospels present Christ to us with great frequency in prayer: at the revelation of his mission through the Father (cf. Lk. 3, 21-22), before the calling of the apostles (cf Lk. 6, 12), in thanksgiving to God during the multiplication of the bread (cf. Mt. 14, 19; 15, 36; Mk. 6, 41; 8, 7; Lk. 9, 16; Joh. 6, 11), at the transfiguration on the mountain (cf. Lk. 28-29) when he heals the deaf and mute (cf. Mk. 7, 34) and Lazarus awakened (cf Joh. 11, 41 ff), before the profession of Peter (Lk. 9, 18) when teaching the disciples to pray (Lk. 11, 1), and they then return from their mission (cf. Mt. 11, 25 ff; Lk. 10, 21 ff), at the blessing of the children (cf. Mt. 19, 13) and when praying for Peter (cf. Lk. 22, 32).

All of his daily activity came from prayer. So he withdrew to the desert or to the mountain to pray (cf. Mk. 1, 35; 6, 46; Lk. 5, 16; Mt. 4, 1; Mt. 14, 23), he got up early in the morning (cf. Mk. 1, 35) and spent the whole night in prayer with God (cf. Mt. 14, 23. 25; Mk. 6, 46. 48; Lk. 6, 12).

Until the end of his life, at the last supper (cf. Joh. 17, 1-26), in agony (cf. Mt. 26, 36-44 par.) And on the cross (cf Lk. 23, 34. 46; Mt. 27, 46; Mk. 15, 34) the divine Master showed that prayer animated his messianic service and his Easter exodus. Raised from death, he lives forever and prays for us (cf. Hbr. 7, 25).(123)

Following the example of Christ, the priest must know how to preserve the vitality and fullness of the moments of silence and prayer and thereby cultivate and deepen his own existential relationship with the living person of Jesus the Lord.

41. The model of the praying church

1. In order to remain true to his committed "being with Jesus", the priest should take the praying church as an example.

2. In passing on the word of God, the priest should bear in mind the admonition addressed to him by the bishop on the day of his ordination: “Make the word the subject of your constant contemplation, always believe what you read, teach what you believe, realize something in life you teach. In this way you will nourish the people of God with the doctrine of faith and comfort and support them with the good example of your life. You will help build the temple of God, who is the church «. The same applies to the celebration of the sacraments and especially of the Eucharist: “Therefore, be aware of what you are doing, imitate what you are doing. After you have celebrated the mystery of the Lord's death and resurrection, carry the death of Christ in your body and enter into his new life ”. And finally, with regard to the pastoral direction of the People of God, so that they may be led to the Father, through Christ and in the Holy Spirit: “Never stop looking at Christ, the Good Shepherd, who has not come to help himself but to serve and to save those who were haunted who were lost ". (124)

42. Prayer as "communio"

By virtue of his special bond with the Lord, the priest will know how to survive those moments when he might feel lonely in the midst of people; namely by emphatically renewing his being with Christ, who in the Eucharist is his refuge and best resting place.

Like Jesus, who was constantly with the Father in solitude (cf. Lk. 3, 21; Mk. 1, 35), (125) the priest must also be a person who finds communion with God in solitude, in order to then with St. Ambrose to be able to say: "I am never less lonely than when I seem lonely". (126)

In the Lord the priest will find strength and means to bring people closer to God again, to kindle their faith and to achieve commitment and cooperation.

Pastoral love

43.Sign of Christ's love

Pastoral love is the inner and dynamic principle that can unite the diverse and varied pastoral activities of the priest. In view of the socio-cultural and religious environment in which he lives, it is an indispensable tool to lead people to the life of grace.

Imbued with such love, the service must be a manifestation of Christ's love, the attitudes and attitudes of which the priest will reveal, even to the point of giving himself completely to the flock entrusted to him. (127)

The imitation of the pastoral love of Christ up to the appropriate shaping of one's own life is a goal that demands efforts and constant sacrifices from the priest, because it does not consist in improvising, pausing or achieving once-for-all. The servant of Christ will feel obliged to live and testify to this reality always and everywhere, even if, for reasons of age, he should no longer have concrete pastoral tasks.

44. functionalism

Pastoral love runs the risk, especially today, of being emptied of its meaning by so-called "functionalism". Indeed, it is not uncommon for one, even on the part of some priests, to perceive the influence of a mentality which erroneously tends to reduce the ministerial priesthood to only the functional aspects. "Making" the priest, offering individual services and guaranteeing certain services, would therefore be the whole priestly existence. Such a reduced conception of the priest's identity and office risks pushing his life towards a void, which is then often filled with ways of life that do not fit his own office.

The priest, who knows how to be a servant of Christ and his Bride, will find in prayer, study and spiritual reading the necessary strength to overcome this danger as well. (128)

Word proclamation

45. Faithful to the word

Christ entrusted the apostles and the Church with the task of proclaiming the good news to all people. The transmission of the faith is the discovery, proclamation and deepening of the Christian vocation; That is, the call of God goes out to every person to whom the mystery of salvation is shown, and with it at the same time the place that he is to occupy as an adopted son in the Son with reference to that mystery. (129) This double aspect is summarized in the Creed emphasized, which is one of the preferred Expressions of the faith with which the Church has always responded to God's call. (130)

Now the priestly service is faced with two tasks which are, as it were, both sides of the same coin. First there is the missionary character of the transmission of the faith. The service of the word cannot be abstract and remote from people's lives; on the contrary, it must make direct reference to the meaning of human life, of every human being, and therefore respond to the most pressing questions that arise for human conscience.

On the other hand, authenticity is required, as is conformity with the faith of the church, which preserves the truth about God and about man. This must be done with the greatest sense of responsibility, since it is about the most important questions about life and the meaning of human existence.

In this context, for a fruitful service to the word, the priest will take into account the primacy of the lived testimony, which reveals the power of God's love and makes his word convincing. This also applies to the verbal sermon about the mystery of Christ to believers, to non-believers and to non-Christians; for catechesis, which is an orderly and organic exposition of the doctrine of the Church; for the application of revealed truth to the solution of concrete cases. (131)

The awareness of the absolute necessity to "remain" faithful and anchored in the word of God as well as in tradition in order to be true disciples of Christ and to know the truth (cf. Joh. 8. 31-32), has always accompanied the history of priestly spirituality. This was also solemnly affirmed by the Second Vatican Council. (132)

Contemporary society in particular, which is marked by theoretical and practical materialism, subjectivism and problematicism, needs to recognize the gospel as "the power of God that can save those who believe" (cf. Rom. 1, 16) is offered. The priests, bearing in mind that "faith depends on the sermon and that the sermon itself is done through the word of Christ" (Rom. 10, 17), all will use their energies to fulfill this mission, which is paramount in their service. They are not only witnesses, but also herald and narrator of the faith. (133)

This service - exercised in hierarchical communion - enables them to expound with authority the Catholic faith and the faith of the Church officially to testify. For "the people of God are united in the first place by the word of the living God, which is rightly asked of the priest". (134)

In order to be authentic, the word must "without duplicity and without any falsification, but as an open demonstration of the truth before God" (Ex Cor. 4, 2). With mature responsibility the priest will avoid perturbing, reducing, distorting, or watering down the divine message. His task is "not to teach one's own wisdom, but rather to teach the word of God and to invite all to conversion and holiness". (135)

So the sermon cannot limit itself to conveying one's own thoughts, bringing out personal experience and offering simple explanations of a psychological, (136) sociological or philanthropic nature; Nor can it indulge excessively in fascinating rhetoric, as it often happens in the mass media. It is a matter of proclaiming a word that cannot be arbitrarily chosen because it is entrusted to the Church to be guarded, researched, and faithfully handed down. (137)

46. Word and life

The awareness of one's own mission as a preacher of the Gospel will have to be given more and more concrete pastoral form so that, in the light of God's Word, the priest can appropriately enliven the various situations and environments in which he exercises his ministry.

In order to be effective and credible, it is therefore important that the priest - from the point of view of his faith and ministry - with a constructive and critical mind, the ideologies, the language, the cultural entanglements and the typologies disseminated by the mass media and who can largely condition attitudes and see through them.

Inspired by the apostle who exclaimed: "Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!" Cor. 9, 16), he will know how to use all the means of communication that science and modern technology offer him.

Certainly not everything depends on such means or on human abilities, since divine grace can also achieve its purpose independently of human work. But in God's plan, the preaching of the word is usually the privileged way of transmission of the faith and evangelization.

For the many who today are outside or far from the preaching of Christ, the priest will feel the fearful questions particularly urgent and topical: “How will they be able to believe without having heard of it? And how will they be able to hear about it without someone to preach? "(Rom. 10, 14).

In order to answer such questions, he will personally feel obliged to be particularly familiar with the Holy Scriptures through the study of a healthy, above all patristic exegesis, also through meditation according to methods that have proven themselves in the spiritual tradition of the Church, in order to acquire an understanding inspired by love. (138) Therefore, the priest has the duty to devote special attention to the long and short-term preparation of the liturgical homily, with regard to the content, the balance between the exposive and applicative parts, the pedagogy and the Lecture technique, up to good diction, which takes into account the dignity of the matter and the addressee. (139)

47. Word and catechesis

Catechesis is an important part of that mission of evangelization and a privileged tool of doctrine and maturation of the faith. (140) The priest, as collaborator and agent of the bishop, is responsible for stimulating, coordinating and coordinating the catechetical activities of the community entrusted to him to direct. It is important that he understands how to integrate such activities into an organic project of evangelism and, above all, to guarantee the unanimity of the catechesis of his own community with the person of the bishop, with the local Church and with the Church as a whole. (141)

In particular, he will take care to obtain a right and appropriate responsibility and cooperation with regard to catechesis, be it among members of religious institutes and communities of apostolic life, be it with appropriately prepared lay faithful, (142) whom he recognizes and respects for catechetical task.

He will devote special efforts to the basic formation and further training of catechists, as well as to associations and movements. As far as possible, the priest should be the "catechist of the catechists" who forms with them a true communion of the Lord's disciples who serve as a point of reference for those taking part in catechesis.

As a teacher (143) and educator (144) of the faith, the priest will ensure that catechesis is a privileged part of Christian education in the family, in religious instruction, in the formation of apostolic movements, etc.and that it reaches all categories of believers: children, young people, adults, seniors. In addition, he will understand how to pass on catechetical teaching content by using all aids such as didactic aids and communication tools that can be effective so that the believers are put in a position according to their level of understanding, their abilities, their age and their practical living conditions, to experience Christian doctrine more fully and to put it into practice appropriately. (145)

To this end, the priest will not want to be without the Catechism of the Catholic Church as the main point of reference. Indeed, this text represents the sure and authentic norm of the Church's teaching. (146)

The sacrament of the Eucharist

48. The Eucharistic Mystery

If the ministry of the word is the basic element of the priestly ministry, its heart and vital center is undoubtedly the Eucharist, which is above all the real presence in time of the only and eternal sacrifice of Christ. (147)

As a sacramental commemoration of the death and resurrection of Christ, as a real and effective representation of the only redemption sacrifice, as the source and culmination of Christian life and all evangelization, (148) the Eucharist is the beginning, the center and the goal of priestly service, because » all ecclesiastical services and apostolic works are closely tied to the Eucharist and ordered to it. "(149) Consecrated in order to continue offering the holy sacrifice, the priest manifested his identity in a conspicuous way.

Indeed, there is an intimate connection between the centrality of the Eucharist, pastoral love and the unity of the life of the priest, (150) who receives through them decisive instructions for the path of holiness, which he is called to attain in a special way.

When the priest, through his own service, offers Christ, the Eternal High Priest, intelligence, will, voice and hands so that he may offer the sacramental sacrifice of salvation to the Father, he should make the inner attitude of the Master his own and like Him as "Gift" must live for his own brothers. Therefore he must learn to unite himself intimately with the offering by offering his whole life on the sacrificial altar as a visible sign of the free and obliging love of God.

49. Celebration of the Holy Eucharist

It is necessary to remember the irreplaceable value that the daily celebration of St. Has mass (151) for the priest, even if no believers should come together for it. He will experience it as the central moment of the whole day and daily ministry, as the fruit of honest longing and as an opportunity for a deep and effective encounter with Christ. And he will take great care to celebrate them with devotion and heartfelt concern.

In a civilization that is more and more sensitive to communication through signs and images, the priest will pay attention to everything that can enhance the adornment and sacredness of the Eucharistic celebration. When celebrating the Eucharist, it is important to properly consider the suitability and cleanliness of the place, the architecture of the altar and tabernacle, (152) the grandeur of the vessels, the vestments, (153) the song, (154) the music, (155) holy silence (156) etc. These are all elements that can contribute to a better participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. Too little attention namely to the symbolic aspects of the liturgy, further omissions and haste, superficiality and disorder, drain the symbolism and weaken the growth of faith. (157) Whoever celebrates badly shows the weakness of his faith and does not educate others to believe. Celebrating well, on the other hand, is an important first catechesis on the holy sacrifice.

Then, even if the priest puts all his abilities at the service of the celebration of the Eucharist in order to bring it to life in the celebration of all the faithful, he must adhere to the established rite, according to the liturgical books approved by the competent authorities, with no additions or additions Omissions and without any changes. (158)

All ordinaries, superiors and moderators of the communities of apostolic life have a serious duty to set a good example and to ensure that the liturgical norms relating to the celebration of the Eucharist are faithfully observed everywhere.

Celebrating and concelebrating priests must put on the sacred vestments prescribed by the rubrics. (159)

50. Eucharistic Adoration

The central position of the Eucharist should be recognizable not only through the dignified celebration of the sacrifice, but also through frequent adoration of the sacrament in such a way that the priest is also a role model for the community of what pious attention and diligent meditation - wherever possible - concerns before the Lord present in the tabernacle. It is to be hoped that priests entrusted with the leadership of the congregation should give broad space to communal worship and ensure that the most holy sacrament of the altar is observed and honored more than any other rite and gesture outside of the celebration of the Mass. "Faith and love for the Eucharist cannot allow Christ present in the tabernacle to remain alone". (160)

A privileged time of Eucharistic Adoration can be the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours, which during the day is a real continuation of the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving presented in St. Mass has its center and its sacramental origin. In the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours, the priest united with Christ is the voice of the Church for the whole world. The celebration will take place, if possible collectively, in a suitable form so that it "is the interpreter and means of transmission of the universal voice that praises the glory of God and implores the salvation of man". (161)

Exemplary solemnity should be observed in such celebrations by the chapters of the canons.

One must, however, always avoid reducing it to a mere duty, both in the communal and in the individual celebration, which runs mechanically like a simple and hasty reading, without the necessary attention to the meaning of the text.

The sacrament of penance

51. Servant of Reconciliation

The gift of the Risen One to the apostles is the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins: “Receive the Holy Spirit; to whom you forgive their sins they are forgiven and to whom you do not forgive them they are not forgiven "(Joh. 20, 21-23). Christ entrusted the work of reconciliation between man and God exclusively to his apostles and their followers. According to Christ's will, priests are therefore the only dispensers of the sacrament of reconciliation. (162) Like Christ, they are sent to call sinners to conversion and to bring them back to the Father through a merciful judgment.

Sacramental reconciliation re-establishes friendship with God the Father and with all his children in his family, which is the Church, which is thereby rejuvenated and built up in all its dimensions: universal, diocesan, parochial. (163)

Despite the sad finding that the sense of sin has largely been lost in the cultures of our time, the priest must be joyful and devoted in exercising the ministry of conscience-building, forgiveness, and peace.

For this reason he should know how to identify himself with the sacrament and, by accepting the attitude of Christ like a good Samaritan bowing over wounded humanity, he should make the new Christian recognizable in the wholesome dimension of repentance, which aims at healing and forgiveness. (164)

52. Devotion to the service of reconciliation

Because of his office (165) and because of his sacramental consecration, the priest must spend time and energy listening to confessions. Experience shows that believers like to come to the sacraments, where they know that priests are available for this. This applies everywhere, but above all for the most visited churches and for the pilgrimage churches, where fraternal and responsible cooperation with members of the order and older priests is possible.

Every priest will adhere to the ecclesiastical norms that defend and promote the value of individual confession and also the personal comprehensive confession of sins in direct conversation with the confessor. (166) Under certain conditions, making communal confession and absolution is reserved only for such extraordinary cases , which are mentioned in the applicable guidelines. (167) The confessor should illuminate the conscience of the penitent with possibly few words, but adapted to the specific situation, in order to encourage a personal reorientation towards conversion and to go deeply into his spiritual path, also by imposing reasonable satisfaction. (168)

In any case, the priest will know how to keep the celebration of reconciliation on the sacramental level and to face the danger of reducing it to a purely psychological or simply formalistic activity.

This will be shown, among other things, by faithful adherence to the applicable discipline with regard to place and confessional. (169)

53. Confession as a necessity

Like every good believer, the priest needs to confess his own sins and weaknesses. He is the first to know that the practice of this sacrament strengthens him in faith and in love for God and neighbor.

In order for the beauty of penance to be shown effectively and in the best of circumstances, it is essential that the sacrament servant offer personal testimony and precede other believers in the experience of forgiveness. This is also the first condition for a pastoral revaluation of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In this sense it is good if the faithful know and see that their priests also go to confession regularly: (170) “The whole priestly existence would inevitably be seriously damaged if it were neglected or for other reasons, regularly and with genuine ones Faith and deep piety to receive the sacrament of penance. If a priest no longer goes to confession or does not confess well, this is very quickly reflected in his priestly life and work, and the community of which he is shepherd also soon becomes aware of this ". (171)

54. Soul guidance for yourself and for others

In parallel to the sacrament of Reconciliation, the priest will not fail in the service of guiding the soul. The rediscovery and dissemination of this practice, even at times other than those provided for confession, is a great benefit for the Church at this time. (172) The generous and active attitude of the priests who practice it is also an important one Opportunity to identify and support vocations to priestly and religious life.

In order to contribute to the improvement of their spirituality, it is necessary that the priests themselves practice soul guidance. By placing the formation of your soul in the hands of a wise brother, from the very first steps in the service you will develop an awareness of the importance of not following the paths of spiritual life and pastoral engagement alone. Using this instrument of spiritual formation, which is so tried and tested in the Church, the priests will have full freedom in choosing who to lead them.

Church leader

55. Priests for the community

The priest is asked to deal with the typical requirements of another aspect of his office in addition to those already dealt with. It is a concern for the life of the community entrusted to him, which is expressed above all in the testimony of love.

As shepherd of the community, the priest exists and lives for it; for them he prays, studies, works and for them he sacrifices himself. For her he is ready to give his life, loving her like Christ and showing her all his love and respect, (173) wasting himself with all his might and without setting time limits for her in order to make her in the image of the Church As the bride of Christ, to the satisfaction of the Father, to make it appear ever more beautiful and worthy of the love of the Holy Spirit.

This nuptial dimension of the priestly life as shepherd will have the effect that he will lead his community by devotedly serving all and each of its members, illuminating their consciousness with the light of revealed truth, taking care of the evangelical authenticity of Christian life with authority, Corrects errors, forgives, heals wounds, comforts the afflicted and promotes brotherhood. (174)

This overall delicate and complex concern guarantees an increasingly transparent and effective testimony of love. In addition, it will also make visible the deep communion that develops between the priest and his community, as it were as a continuation and actualization of communion with God, with Christ and with the Church. (175)

56. "Sentire cum ecclesia"

In order to be a good "leader" of his people, the priest will be careful to recognize the signs of the times: those more far-reaching and profound ones, which concern the universal Church and her way in human history, and those more obvious, which concern the concrete situation affect the individual community.

This distinction requires constant and correct openness in the study of theological and pastoral problems, as well as carrying out a careful reflection on the social, cultural and scientific data that characterize our time.

In the exercise of their office, the priests will know how to bring this requirement into a constant and honest attitude of "sentire cum ecclesia", so that they will always work in binding communion with the Pope, with the bishops, with the other confreres in the priesthood, with the Religious and with the laity.

Moreover, in the exercise of their duties, they will not fail to seek the cooperation of religious and lay faithful, taking into account the legitimate forms and capacities of each person.

The priestly celibacy

57. Firm will of the Church

Convinced of deep theological and pastoral reasons that support the relationship between priesthood and celibacy, and enlightened by the testimony that, despite painful negative cases, confirms the spiritual and evangelical value in so many priestly existences, the Church at the Second Vatican Council and repeats in later papal doctrinal statements the "firm will to maintain the law which requires of the priest candidates in the Latin rite freely chosen and permanent celibacy". (176)

Celibacy is namely a gift which the Church has received and wants to preserve, convinced that it is a great good for herself and for the world.

58. Theological-spiritual justification of celibacy

Like every evangelical value, celibacy must be lived as something liberating and new, as a special testimony to the radicalism in following Christ and as a sign of eschatological reality. “Not everyone can understand it, only those who have been granted it. There are eunuchs who were born as such by their mother; some were made eunuchs by humans and there are others who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Who can grasp it, grasp it "(Mt. 19, 10-12).(177)

In order to live the gift received with love and generosity, it is particularly important that the priest understands the theological and spiritual justification of the ecclesiastical discipline of celibacy as early as the seminary training Chastity, i.e. the complete and permanent abstinence for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, so that the consecrated servants can more easily cling to Christ with an undivided heart and devote themselves more freely to the service of God and mankind (179) before anyone expresses his will to be ready for it , ecclesiastical discipline manifests the will of the church, which finds its deepest basis in the close bond between celibacy and holy consecration, which configures the priest with Jesus Christ, the head and bridegroom of the church. (180)

The letter to the Ephesians (cf. 5, 25-27) places the priestly gift of Christ (cf. 5, 25) in close connection with the sanctification of the church (cf. 5, 26), which is loved with spousal love. Inserted sacramentally into this priesthood of the exclusive love of Christ for the Church, his faithful Bride, the priest expresses such love with his celibate commitment which also becomes a fruitful source of pastoral activity.

Celibacy, then, is not an external influence on priestly ministry, nor can it be viewed simply as an institution imposed by law. For whoever receives the Sacrament of Orders has striven for it fully consciously and freely, (181) after many years of preparation, thorough reflection and zealous prayer. Having come to the firm conviction that Christ gives him this gift for the good of the Church and for the service of others, the priest assumes celibacy for life and confirms his will according to the promise made during the ordination of the diaconate. (182)

For these reasons, ecclesiastical law, on the one hand, affirms the charism of celibacy and shows how intimately it is connected with sacred service in that double dimension of the relationship between Christ and the Church, on the other hand, it protects the freedom of those who accept it ) The priest consecrated to Christ under a new and noble title (184) must be fully aware that he has received a legally binding, precisely defined gift from which there is a moral obligation to comply. This legally binding obligation, voluntarily accepted, is of theological nature. It is a sign of that spousal reality that comes to fruition in sacramental consecration. The priest also assumes that spiritual and yet real fatherhood, which has a universal dimension and is then specifically concretized in relation to the community entrusted to him. (185)

59. The example of Jesus

Celibacy is thus self-surrender "in" and "with" Christ to his Church and an expression of priestly service at the Church "in" and "with" the Lord. (186)