09/18/2005, 00.00
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Pope: saints and priests help us to live the Eucharist

Castel Gandolfo (AsiaNews) – The fundamental theme of Benedict XVI's Angelus address today was an appeal to priests, that while celebrating the Eucharist each one may become a "worshipper and contemplative" of this "great miracle of love". The pope recalled John Chrysostom, Padre Pio, John Maria Vianney, saints of east and west, all "ministers of the altar" who drew the power of imitating Christ from the daily intimacy of the sacrament of the Eucharist. The pope recalled the stigmata of Padre Pio as a sign of his imitation of Christ and the witness of John Vianney, a simple parish priest, who revived the fortunes of the Church in France, sorely tested by the violence of the French revolution.

Here are the words of the pope before the Angelus prayer, spoken – curiously – partly in Italian and partly in Latin:

Dear brothers and sisters!

While the Year of the Eucharist draws to a close, I want to take up a particularly important theme again, which was also close to the heart of my venerated predecessor John Paul II: the relationship between sanctity – the way and the goal of the pilgrimage of the Church and of each and every Christian – and the Eucharist. In particular, my thoughts go today to priests, to stress that the secret of their sanctification is to be found right in the Eucharist. Through sacred Ordination, the priest receives the gift and commitment of repeating sacramentally the gestures and words with which Jesus instituted the memorial of his Easter at the Last Supper. In his hands is renewed this great miracle of love, of which he is called to become an ever more faithful witness and proclaimer (cfr Lett. ap. Mane nobiscum Domine, 30). This is why the priest must be first and foremost a worshipper and contemplative of the Eucharist, starting from the very moment in which he celebrates it. We are well aware that the validity of the Sacrament does not depend on the sanctity of the celebrant, but its effectiveness for himself and for others, will be all the greater to the extent that he lives it with profound faith, ardent love, and a fervent spirit of prayer.

Throughout the year, the Liturgy presents us with examples of saintly ministers of the Altar, who drew the power of imitating Christ from daily intimacy with him in Eucharistic celebration and adoration. Some days ago, we recalled the memory of St John John Chrysostom, patriarch of Constantinople at the end of the fourth century. He was defined as "mouth of gold" for his extraordinary eloquence; but he was also called "Eucharistic doctor" for the vastness and the depth of his doctrine on the most holy Sacrament. The "divine liturgy" which is most commonly celebrated in the eastern Churches bears his name, and his motto: "one man full of zeal is enough to transform a people", evidence of how effective Christ's activity is through his ministers. In our era, the figure of St Pio of Pietrelcina stands out; we will commemorate his memory on Friday. Celebrating Holy Mass, he relived the mystery of Calvary with such fervour that he edified the faith and devotion of all. Even the stigmata which God gave him as a gift were an expression of intimate conformity with the crucified Jesus. Thinking about priests in love with the Eucharist, one cannot forget St John Maria Vianney, the humble parish priest of Ars at the time of the French revolution. With the sanctity of his life and his pastoral zeal, he managed to make his small environment into a model Christian community animated by the Word of God and the Sacraments.

Let us turn now to Mary, praying in a special way for all the priests of the world so they may draw from this Year of the Eucharist the fruit of a renewed love for the Sacrament they celebrate. Through the intercession of the Virgin Mother of God, may they always live and testify to the mystery which was placed in their hands for the salvation of the world.

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