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Priests are not social workers, Pope says

CWN - March 12, 2010

A Catholic priest cannot be reduced to a "social worker," Pope Benedict XVI told a group of priests in Rome on March 12. Adopting that model of priestly ministry, he said, runs "the risk of betraying the very priesthood of Christ."

Speaking to participants in a theological conference organized by the Congregation for Clergy, the Holy Father said that clerics must not "surrender to the temptation of reducing [the priesthood] to predominant cultural models." In today's world, "widespread secularization" has cut into appreciation for the priest in his pastoral and ministerial role, and accentuated his public activities, he said.

Today, the Pope said, "There is great need for priests who speak of God to the world and who present the world to God; men not subject to ephemeral cultural fashions, but capable of authentically living the freedom that only the certainty of belonging to God can give." He stressed the importance of imitating Christ's priesthood and speaking in a prophetic voice. "And the prophecy most necessary today is that of faithfulness," the Pope said.

"The vocation of priests is an exalted one, and remains a great mystery," the Pontiff continued. "The lay faithful will be able to meet their human needs in many other people, but only in the priest will they find that Word of God which must always be on his lips, the Mercy of the Father abundantly and gratuitously distributed."

During his Friday meeting with the priests' group, the Pope did directly address the sex-abuse scandal which has dominated the week's headlines in Europe. However he did say that priests, in their complete dedication to a life of ministry, should value the discipline of celibacy as "an expression of the gift of the self to God and to others."

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  • Posted by: Ken - Mar. 13, 2010 5:03 AM ET USA

    I humbly request the Holy Father send a copy of this statement to every priest and bishop in the United States. Not that they all are in need of this counsel, but that action would ensure all who do need this reminder gets it!!

  • Posted by: Gregory108 - Mar. 12, 2010 7:38 PM ET USA

    I agree! There's a mistaken notion that the mercy and forgiveness of God saves everyone. If everyone's saved already, then all we have to do is feed the hungry and clothe the naked, but we don't need to preach the gospel, both in season and out of season, and to offer easy access to sacraments, confession and Mass. So priests become social workers and often short-shrift their sacramental work, the only work the laity just can't do, to accomplish temporal work! Try to find confesions in mid week!

  • Posted by: MesaConsultant2395 - Mar. 12, 2010 3:36 PM ET USA

    It's nice to hear the Holy Father's guidance on this, as very many priests of Council, believed and still believe, that there true vocation is to help people survive in this world, and not concern themselves with the next. This is particular true in North America, where many priests busy themselves with making sure that people rent is paid, that their immigration papers & status is correct, etc., instead of preparing them for salvation. What a waste.

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