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 CNS Story:

POPE-PRIESTS Feb-18-2010 (430 words) xxxi

Priesthood is a life marked by compassion, pope tells Rome clergy

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Priesthood isn't a job that one fulfills a few hours a day, but it is a way of life focused on serving as a bridge between God and suffering humanity, Pope Benedict XVI told priests of the Diocese of Rome.

Priests are called to live not just "in blessed contemplation," but "to enter like Christ into human misery and take it up, going to the people who are suffering" and sharing their pain, the pope said Feb. 18 as he led the clergy in "lectio divina," a prayerful reading and meditation on selections from the Letter to the Hebrews on the mystery of priesthood.

Priests are called to be "real mediators between humanity and God," he said, and in order to do so they must be totally dedicated to God, yet fully human and deeply compassionate in the face of the concerns, anxieties, joys and sorrows of others.

The pope, speaking without a prepared text, reflected at length on the New Testament letter. He explained the possible meanings of some of the words in their original Greek and referred to other Scripture passages, liturgical texts, the ancient Greek philosophers Plato and Socrates, the seventh-century St. Maximus of Constantinople, St. John of God, the German Scripture scholar Adolf von Harnack and Cardinal Albert Vanhoye, a specialist on the Letter to the Hebrews.

The pope said the letter's description of Christ as the high priest makes it clear that Christ offered God the perfect sacrifice by willingly giving his life for the sins of humanity, but he also offered God his tears for the sorrows of the world.

As humanity cried out, "God, help us, hear us," Jesus carried the cry of humanity to God and "in this way realized his priesthood, the function of mediator, transporting and taking on the suffering of the world," he said.

"Our priesthood, too, is not limited to the act of worship of the holy Mass in which everything is consigned into the hands of Christ; offering all of our compassion, the sufferings of this world so far from God, is a priestly act," the pope said.

"Priesthood is not something that involves a few hours, but is realized through our whole pastoral life with its sufferings, weaknesses, sadness and also joy, naturally," he said.

The pope ended his meditation by praying that God would help him and all priests continually deepen their understanding of the mystery of priesthood, "to live this mystery better and better and, in that way, help the world open up to God so the world would be redeemed."


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