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Scandal cannot conceal 'radiance of the priesthood,' Pope tells 15,000 priests

Catholic World News - June 11, 2010

At a Mass in St. Peter's Square concluding the Year for Priests, Pope Benedict XVI said that it was no coincidence that the sex-abuse scandal struck during a year set aside for celebration of the priesthood.

The Year for Priests was dedicated to a spiritual revival of the clergy, the Pope said in his homily. "It was to be expected," he said, "that this new radiance of the priesthood would not be pleasing to the Enemy."

Thus it was not surprising, the Pope reasoned, that during the year "the sins of priests came to light-- particularly the abuse of little ones."

The Pope said that the Church must "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." He called for vigilance in the training and supervision of future priests, and emphasized the importance of discipline within the Church:

The Church too must use the shepherd’s rod, the rod with which he protects the faith against those who falsify it, against currents which lead the flock astray. The use of the rod can actually be a service of love. Today we can see that it has nothing to do with love when conduct unworthy of the priestly life is tolerated. Nor does it have to do with love if heresy is allowed to spread and the faith twisted and chipped away, as if it were something that we ourselves had invented.

At the same time, while acknowledging the sins of some priests, the Pope said that the scandal should give the faithful a new perspective on the great gift of the priesthood. "Had the Year for Priests been a glorification of our individual human performance, it would have been ruined by these events," he said. But in fact the revelations of priests' weaknesses is a reminder that God serves the Church, and makes Himself available to the world, through the ministry of weak and fallen human persons.

The priesthood, Pope Benedict said, is a demonstration of the "audacity of God who entrusts Himelf to human beings," fully realizing their weakness." God's astonishing confidence in man comprises "the true grandeur concealed in the word 'priesthood,'" the Pontiff said. "The world’s religions, as far as we can see, have always known that in the end there is only one God. But this God was distant," the Pope continued. Through the priestly ministry, God becomes immediately present to his creatures. Therefore a Catholic priest is "no mere office-holder" but a direct participant in Christ's saving action.

Pope Benedict delivered his long and beautiful homily on the priesthood at a Mass that closed the observances of the Year for Priests. This year coincided with the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the death of St. John Vianney, the Curé of Ars, who was frequently cited by the Pope this year as a model of priestly dedication. As he celebrated the Mass the Pope used the chalice that once belonged to the French saint.

More than 15,000 priests-- who had come to Rome at the Pope's invitation for the final celebrations of the year-- joined in concelebrating the Eucharistic liturgy.

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