On Thursday, 9 March, the Holy Father addressed the clergy of Rome
as he does each year at the beginning of Lent. This year's meeting
took the form of a Jubilee celebration: the priests assembled at the
obelisk in St Peter's Square, walked in procession through the Holy
Door of the Vatican Basilica, prayed to Our Lady in front of
Michelangelo's Pieta, recited the Creed at St Peter's tomb and then
participated in a Penance service with individual confessions. The
priests were then joined by the Holy Father, who stressed the
importance of the sacrament of Reconciliation for the priest
himself. "As steward of the divine mysteries, he must appear to
his faithful first and foremost as one 'saved' who continually
receives from God and the Church the grace to live in union with
Christ, the source of his ministry's effectiveness". The Pope
went on to discuss many of the pastoral challenges which parish
priests must face in the Diocese and city of Rome. Here is a
translation of his address, which was given in Italian.
Priests too need Godís forgiveness
Holy Father speaks on role of Penance in priestly life during
annual address to clergy of Rome
"Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel".
1. The Lord's invitation, which we heard again yesterday during
the rite of giving ashes, opened the season of Lent and marks the
journey of God's people to Easter.
Conversion and faith in Christ, the one Saviour, are at the heart
of the Jubilee pilgrimage which you have made in St Peter's Basilica
today, dear priests of the presbyterate of Rome.
I affectionately greet the Cardinal Vicar, the Vicegerent, the
Auxiliary Bishops and each of you. I am pleased to meet you, as I do
every year at the beginning of Lent, for a moment of deep communion
between the Bishop of Rome and his priests.
Common prayer and friendship foster priestly unity
This year the Jubilee characterizes our meeting and makes it even
richer in spiritual and ecclesial themes. The passage through the
Holy Door, the profession of faith and especially the sacrament of
Reconciliation which you have celebrated show everyone that the
priest himself, the minister of God's forgiveness, needs to receive
this forgiveness in a spirit of faith, humility and deep trust. As
steward of the divine mysteries, he must appear to his faithful
first and foremost as one "saved" who continually receives
from God and the Church the grace to live in union with Christ, the
source of his ministry's effectiveness.
The sacrament of Penance renews that "life in the
Spirit" and that Gospel radicalism which must distinguish the
life and ministry of the priest. It is also a great help for
overcoming any acquiescence in those forms of self-justification
characteristic of the mentality and culture of our time, which lead
to a loss of the sense of sin and prevent one from experiencing the
consoling joy of God's forgiveness.
2. For the priest's spiritual life and apostolic work, a
relationship of communion and brotherhood with the Bishop and with
other priests is also very important. For the growth of this
relationship, each of you must make a generous commitment; the
pressure of your pastoral activity must not prevent you from
fostering that deep unity with your brothers which is nourished by
common prayer, meeting and dialogue, and the fostering of sincere
Participation in continuing formation programmes, spiritual and
pastoral help for brothers with particular needs, assistance to sick
or elderly priests, willingness to dialogue and meet also with those
who have left the priesthood, show a desire to follow the ways of
communion and reconciliation with success and dedication. A united
and harmonious presbyterate that can work together is a powerful
witness to the faithful and increases the effectiveness of your
3. Reconciliation with the Lord and mutual communion open new
possible ties for meeting those who expect from us, pastors of the
Church, signs of attention and special pastoral care.
Families must be your primary concern. During the city mission
they received the message of Christ, the one Saviour, and this year
too they expect another visit to continue this positive and
Therefore every parish is called to put great effort, with the
valuable help of missionaries, into repeating the Lenten meeting
with all families, to make the powerful message of the Jubilee echo
in people's hearts: "God loves you and has sent Jesus Christ
his Son to save you".
A visit strengthens the sense of belonging to the community for
many people who often live on its fringes but who do not refuse, but
in fact are waiting for opportunities and concrete signs of
listening and dialogue which will help them to overcome loneliness
and anonymity and to form a new network of human and spiritual
relationships on the basis of a faith which was never completely
rejected or forgotten.
We priests, as the first missionaries of the Gospel and following
the example of Jesus the Good Shepherd who goes in search of the
lost sheep, must dedicate ourselves with special pastoral charity to
families in trouble, to those who live far from the Church and have
serious problems of faith or morals, to those whose members are
suffering from sickness or old age, and those which are going
through particularly painful situations because of divisions between
spouses or children. The Holy Year, a year of great pardon and of
God's mercy, gives everyone the possibility of being heard, accepted
and encouraged to find ways of reconciliation with the Lord and with
his brethren, even when everything seems lost or irreversible. What
seems impossible to man is not impossible for God when we open
ourselves to him with humility and responsiveness to the grace of
Every area must be reached with message of God's mercy
4. It will also be your concern to see that the message of God's
mercy and the living experience of his forgiveness reach, through
the active efforts of lay Christians, every area of life and work,
in order to reaffirm the power of Christ's love, which overcomes
divisions and misunderstandings and re-establishes; more fraternal
and harmonious relationships. No area or situation of life is
foreign to the Gospel or to the active evangelizing presence of the
priest and of every baptized person.
You must also pay special pastoral attention to young people, to
whom Christ turns his loving gaze even when they abandon the
Christian community that raised them with the faith and the
sacraments. How many adolescents and young people of our city do not
know they are loved and sought by the Lord, because no one tells
them and no one reaches out to them with sincere friendship and
brotherhood where they are found: in places of study or work, sport
or free time, in the streets of their neighbourhood!
This task first involves young believers, who are called to be
missionaries to their peers and to rediscover, in communities and
groups, that the joy of faith in Christ should be communicated and
offered to everyone without fear and with apostolic courage.
However, we cannot forget that the priest, by vocation, is an
evangelizer and spiritual father to the young people entrusted to
him by the Lord. They need to find in their priest an available and
sincere friend, but also a witness who lives his calling with joy
and with spiritual and moral consistency. Then they will be helped,
in turn, to discover, and to accept the vocation that gives their
whole life meaning and value.
The preparation and celebration of the next World Youth Day is a
truly providential opportunity to renew youth ministry and to instil
new vocational and missionary zeal in parishes, movements and
Eucharist sustains active charity towards the needy
5. Celebrating the Jubilee means opening our hearts to our poorer
brothers and sisters, seeing in them the presence of the suffering
Christ who asks to be welcomed with active love.
In the Letter I sent to the whole diocesan and urban community, I
stressed that the Church of Rome has "down the centuries,
written bright pages of welcome, especially during Jubilees, with
concrete and lasting signs of love for neighbour".
Today "Roman charity', which is practised by offering
hospitality to poor and needy pilgrims, also spurs the diocesan
community, families and every ecclesial reality to be willing to
extend hospitality, especially during important events, such as the
Jubilees for young People and for families, in which numerous
pilgrims from all over the world will participate.
Nor can the entire diocesan community fail to care for the many
poor who, live in our city. Sensitivity and attention to our
neediest brothers and sisters will certainly be active if Christian
communities know how to receive from the Eucharist, the bread of new
life for the world, that special power of love which can also change
society, making it more just, peaceful and united.
The sign of charity that will be inaugurated during the
International Eucharistic Congress represents the commitment. of the
diocesan community to bear witness to its encounter with the Lord,
in the sacrament of his Body given and his Blood shed, by practical
service to the poor.
6. "Turn away from sin and be faithful to the
May the invitation of the Ash Wednesday liturgy support and
accompany our Lenten journey as we follow Christ, the Door of
salvation and our Peace, to make fruitful with his grace the
ministry of reconciliation, which in this favourable time and
throughout the Holy Year we are called to exercise with special
May Mary most holy, Mother of Mercy, who goes before us on the
path of faith and charity, guide the Jubilee pilgrimage of the
Church of Rome, of her priests and of her faithful, so that
"the" Lord's gift of reconciliation will be received with
a humble, trusting and sincere heart.
Lastly, I would like to add that this morning I celebrated Holy
Mass for the intentions of all my brother priests in the Roman