Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, 11 June 2010
The Holy Father presided at a Eucharistic concelebration in St. Peter’s Square to mark the close of the Year for Priests which was called to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the death of St. John Mary Vianney, the holy “Cure of Ars”. The Eucharist was concelebrated by cardinals and bishops of the Roman Curia, as well as by more than fifteen thousand priests from all over the world. The Holy Father consecrated the wine in the same chalice as that used by St. John Mary Vianney, which is conserved in Ars.
In his homily the Pope noted how the Year for Priests was celebrated to ensure “a renewed appreciation of the grandeur and beauty of the priestly ministry. The priest is not a mere office-holder. … Rather, he does something which no human being can do of his own power: in Christ’s name he speaks the words which absolve us of our sins and in this way he changes, starting with God, our entire life. Over the offerings of bread and wine he speaks Christ’s words of thanksgiving, … which open the world to God and unite it to Him. The priesthood, then, is not simply ‘office’ but Sacrament”.
“This audacity of God Who entrusts Himself to human beings (Who, conscious of our weaknesses, nonetheless considers men capable of acting and being present in His stead) this audacity of God is the true grandeur concealed in the word ‘priesthood’. …This is what we wanted to reflect upon and appreciate anew over the course of the past year. We wanted to reawaken our joy at how close God is to us, … we also wanted to demonstrate once again to young people that this vocation, this fellowship of service for God and with God, does exist”.
“It was to be expected that this new radiance of the priesthood would not be pleasing to the ‘enemy’; he would have rather preferred to see it disappear, so that God would ultimately be driven out of the world. And so it happened that, in this very year of joy for the Sacrament of the priesthood, the sins of priests came to light – particularly the abuse of the little ones. … We too insistently beg forgiveness from God and from the persons involved, while promising to do everything possible to ensure that such abuse will never occur again; and that in admitting men to priestly ministry and in their formation we will do everything we can to weigh the authenticity of their vocation and make every effort to accompany priests along their journey”.
“Had the Year for Priests been a glorification of our individual human performance, it would have been ruined by these events. But for us what happened was precisely the opposite: we grew in gratitude for God’s gift, a gift concealed in ‘earthen vessels’ which ever anew, even amid human weakness, makes His love concretely present in this world. So let us look upon all that happened as a summons to purification, as a task which we bring to the future and which makes us acknowledge and love all the more the great gift we have received from God. In this way, His gift becomes a commitment to respond to God’s courage and humility by our own courage and our own humility”.