Vatican City (AsiaNews) – With tonight’s Vespers at the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, which bring to a close the Pauline Year, Benedict XVI will sum up this year dedicated to the rediscovery of the Apostle Paul whom he presents as a model for the Year for Priests which just begun. Benedict XVI will preside over Vespers in the basilica, home to the Apostle’s remains, in the presence of representatives of Bartholomew I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.
The Pauline Year, which the Pope launched to remember the 2,000 years since the birth of the Apostle of Tarsus, “was a true period of grace in which, through pilgrimages, catecheses, publications and various initiatives, the figure of Saint Paul was offered again to the entire Church. His vibrant message among Christian communities revived everywhere the passion for Christ and the Gospel.”
At the same time the Apostle Paul represents “a splendid model to follow” in the Year for Priests as well, which began on 19 June, a year which can strengthen the latter’s “commitment to inner renewal, making them stronger and more incisive evangelical witness in today’s world.”
Paul of Tarsus must be especially followed in his “love for Christ, in the zeal to announce the Gospel, in the dedication to the community,” and “in the elaboration of effective syntheses of pastoral theology.”
“Saint Paul exemplifies the priest who identifies totally with his ministry, as did the Curé d’Ars, conscious that he carries a priceless treasure, which is the message of salvation, but in an “earthen vessel” (cf 2 Cor, 4:7),” said the Pontiff. “For this reason he is at the same time both strong and humble, intimately convinced that everything is due to God, everything is his grace.”
“The love of Christ impels us,” wrote the Apostle. As something that could be every priest’s motto the Spirit “compels” (cf Acts, 2022) him to be a faithful steward of the mysteries of God (cf 1 Cor, 4:1-2). Indeed the presbyter must belong wholly to Christ and the Church, to whom he must devote his undivided love, like a faithful husband to his wife.”
This is the fifth time in the last few days that Benedict XVI stresses the importance of the Year for Priests, hopeful that it will renew presbyters’ vocation.
Placed under the protection of Saint Jean-Baptiste-Marie Vianney, the Curé d’Ars, this period “will not fail to bring many benefits to the Christian people, especially the clergy.”
Speaking to thousands of pilgrims in Saint Peter’s Square, the Pontiff concluded his reflection before the Angelus saying:
“Dear friends, together with Saints Peter and Paul the Apostles, we now invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary; that she may obtain from the Lord many blessings for priests during the Year for Priests which just began. May Our Lady—whom Saint Jean-Baptiste-Marie Vianney loved so much and who persuaded his parishioners to love—help each and every priest to reinvigorate the gift of God which in him is virtue of the holy Ordination, so that he may grow in holiness and be ready to bear witness, if necessary through martyrdom, of the beauty of his total and final consecration to Christ and the Church.”
The Pope also dedicated a special greeting to the priest and the parishioners of the community of the Annunciation in the Syriac Maronite Eparchy of Latakiyah in Syria who were present.