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At Chrism Mass, Pope reflects on priest's vestments April 05, 2007

Celebrating the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday with the priests of Rome, Pope Benedict XVI said that priests should prepare themselves thoroughly to celebrate Mass and administer the sacraments, remembering that they act in the person of Christ.

In his homily for the Mass-- which he celebrated in St. Peter's basilica, with hundreds of priests joining him to renew their ordination vows-- the Holy Father spoke at length on the liturgical vestments that priests wear. These vestments, he remarked, should remind the priests that are taking on a special role.

Using the metaphor that St. Paul invoked, the Pope said that in Baptism the faithful "have clothed yourselves with Christ." At ordination a priest is clothed once again, taking on the person of Christ, so that when he administers the sacraments "he does not speak for himself, but speaks for the Other: for Christ."

As he dons the liturgical vestments, the Pope continued, the priest should reflect on his ministry, and seek to purify his own mind and heart. The vestments, he said, should be a reminder of "how much that is unclean remains in our own lives," and a spur to greater identification with Christ.

The Holy Father assured priests that if their minds are fixed on Christ as they celebrate Mass, they will perform the liturgical actions properly, and so "draw people into communion with Him." The morning Mass in the Vatican basilica was the first of two major liturgical ceremonies for Pope Benedict on Holy Thursday. In the early evening he was to travel across Rome, to the basilica of St. John Lateran, to preside at the Mass of the Lord's Supper, commemorating the institution of the Eucharist.

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