A Year of Prayer by Priests, With Priests and for Priests
VATICAN CITY, MAY 27, 2009 - Text of the letter Cardinal Cláudio Hummes,
prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, about the Year for Priests, which
begins on 19 June 2009.
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The Year for Priests, announced by our beloved Pope Benedict XVI to celebrate
the 150th anniversary of the death of the saintly Curé of Ars, St. John
Mary Vianney, is drawing near. It will be inaugurated by the Holy Father on the
19th June, the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the World Day of Prayer
for the Sanctification of Priests. The announcement of the Year for Priests has
been very warmly received, especially amongst priests themselves. Everyone wants
to commit themselves with determination, sincerity and fervor so that it may be
a year amply celebrated in the whole world -- in the Dioceses, parishes and in
every local community -- with the warm participation of our Catholic people who
undoubtedly love their priests and want to see them happy, holy and joyous in
their daily apostolic labors.
It must be a year that is both positive and forward looking in which the Church
says to her priests above all, but also to all the Faithful and to wider society
by means of the mass media, that she is proud of her priests, loves them, honors
them, admires them and that she recognizes with gratitude their pastoral work
and the witness of the their life. Truthfully priests are important not only for
what they do but also for who they are. Sadly, it is true that at the present
time some priests have been shown to have been involved in gravely problematic
and unfortunate situations. It is necessary to investigate these matters, pursue
judicial processes and impose penalties accordingly. However, it is also important
to keep in mind that these pertain to a very small portion of the clergy. The
overwhelming majority of priests are people of great personal integrity, dedicated
to the sacred ministry; men of prayer and of pastoral charity, who invest their
entire existence in the fulfillment of their vocation and mission, often through
great personal sacrifice, but always with an authentic love towards Jesus Christ,
the Church and the people, in solidarity with the poor and the suffering. It is
for this reason that the Church is proud of her priests wherever they may be found.
May this year be an occasion for a period of intense appreciation of the priestly
identity, of the theology of the Catholic priesthood, and of the extraordinary
meaning of the vocation and mission of priests within the Church and in society.
This will require opportunities for study, days of recollection, spiritual exercises
reflecting on the Priesthood, conferences and theological seminars in our ecclesiastical
faculties, scientific research and respective publications.
The Holy Father, in announcing the Year in his allocution on the 16th March last
to the Congregation for the Clergy during its Plenary Assembly, said that with
this special year it is intended "to encourage priests in this striving for
spiritual perfection on which, above all, the effectiveness of their ministry
depends". For this reason it must be, in a very special way, a year of prayer
by priests, with priests and for priests, a year for the renewal of the spirituality
of the presbyterate and of each priest. The Eucharist is, in this perspective,
at the heart of priestly spirituality. Thus Eucharistic adoration for the sanctification
of priests and the spiritual motherhood of religious women, consecrated and lay
women towards priests, as previously proposed some time ago by the Congregation
for the Clergy, could be further developed and would certainly bear the fruit
May it also be a year in which the concrete circumstances and the material sustenance
of the clergy will be considered, since they live, at times, in situations of
great poverty and hardship in many parts of the world.
May it be a year as well of religious and of public celebration which will bring
the people -- the local Catholic community -- to pray, to reflect, to celebrate,
and justly to give honor to their priests. In the ecclesial community a celebration
is a very cordial event which expresses and nourishes Christian joy, a joy which
springs from the certainty that God loves us and celebrates with us. May it therefore
be an opportunity to develop the communion and friendship between priests and
the communities entrusted to their care.
Many other aspects and initiatives could be mentioned that could enrich the Year
for Priests, but here the faithful ingenuity of the local churches is called for.
Thus, it would be good for every Dioceses and each parish and local community
to establish, at the earliest opportunity, an effective program for this special
year. Clearly it would be important to begin the Year with some notable event.
The local Churches are invited on the 19th June next, the same day on which the
Holy Father will inaugurate the Year for Priests in Rome, to participate in the
opening of the Year, ideally by some particular liturgical act and festivity.
Let those who are able most surely come to Rome for the inauguration, to manifest
their own participation in this happy initiative of the Pope.
God will undoubtedly bless with great love this undertaking; and the Blessed Virgin
Mary, Queen of the Clergy, will pray for each of you, dear priests.
Cardinal Cláudio Hummes
Archbishop Emeritus of São Paulo
Prefect, Congregation for the Clergy