18-May-2000 -- ZENIT.org News Agency |

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JUBILEE FOR PRIESTS CONTINUES WITH PRAYER VIGIL

Rosary, Witnesses, Music, and an Appearance by the Pope

VATICAN CITY, MAY 17 (ZENIT.org).- The Jubilee for Priests continued today with a program of spiritual events. Today's activities ended with a prayer vigil in St. Peter's square for the thousands of priests and seminarians in Rome for the event.

Between decades of the Rosary and interspersed throughout the evening, the priests were treated to music, including soprano soloists, a children's choir, and a Bavarian orchestra. One singer interpreted the works of St. Thérèse of Lisieux in song, while later a young German priest, Fr. Albert Gutberlet, sang a song of his own writing honoring Bl. Karl Leisner, who died in Dachau.

After the Rosary came a series of testimonies from founders of orders and movements. Fr. Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legionaries of Christ and the Regnum Christi movement, said, "Today, I give thanks to God, from the deepest recesses of my soul, for having chosen me to become a priest, for having kept me close to His love, and for having used me, as he believed best, for the works he wished to achieve through me."

Msgr. Luigi Giussani, founder of Communion and Liberation, was unable to appear in person to give his testimony as he recently had a heart attack and is in recovery. He sent a representative to address the crowds in his behalf. "We are men called to bring true, authentic relgious practice into the world. If not, we will be tasteless salt, worthy of being trampled. For this reason, we beg to become like Christ, imitators of the Father of Mercies."

Finally, Bishop Javier Echeverría, prelate of Opus Dei, came forward. He pointed out that exactly 8 years ago, May 17, 1992, the founder of this prelature, Blessed Josemaría Escriva, was beatified in St. Peter's Square. He read a series of passages from the founder's writings to illuminate the role of the priest.

Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, which organized this Jubilee, stressed the importance of the Blessed Sacrament in the priest's life and ministry. "The sense of our priestly vocation is found in the Eucharist: we are men of the Eucharist. The priest is Eucharist. Like Christ, he is minister, gift, and sacrifice at the same time. Sacerdos et Hostia."

The Holy Father also made a brief appearance to greet the gathered crowds, who tomorrow will rejoin in St. Peter's Square to celebrate the Pope's 80th birthday. After his words, he imparted the Apostolic Blessing.

The Pope's address was followed by two more witnesses. A priest from St. Petersburg, Eugenio Heinrichs, O.P. He spoke about the experience of rebirth in the Catholic Church in Russia. He told a moving story about the first Easter after the reconsecration of his Church in 1993. There is a tradition in Eastern Europe to put a red stole on the Crucifix during Eastertide, and "on the day before Easter, we found an old red stole covered with golden ornaments. On the back of it was a monogram that proved that it had belonged to my predecessor, Msgr. Konstanty Budkiewicz. He was shot by the NKVD on Easter night, 1923, that is, exactly 70 years before our first Easter night. Is this not a miracle? I don't think there can be two opinions. It is a miracle! A blessing from eternity."

Finally, a Spanish couple with 10 children, four of whom are priests, came onto the stage to tell their story, accompanied by all their children. Mrs. Martinez's comments about life with ten children in the family brought smiles to the faces of many in the audience. She wanted to encourage all families in the world to encourage any of their children who might have a vocation, because "the world has great need of priests to bring the word and the presence of God to the four corners of the earth."

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