VATICAN CITY, MAR 21, 1997 (VIS) - The "Letter of the Holy Father Pope John Paul II to Priests for Holy Thursday 1997" was made public this morning. Dated March 16, this annual message is 12 pages long and has been published in Italian, English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese and Polish.

In the first of five sections, Pope John Paul recalls his ordination on November 1, 1946, and the recent 50th anniversary celebrations. He thanks all those involved in helping him mark this date, and has special words for the many priests who, like him, celebrated 50 years of ordination in 1996.

The first three parts are preceded by the words "Iesu, Sacerdos in aeternum, miserere nobis!"

In section two, the Holy Father reminds priests that he is writing this Holy Thursday letter in the first of the three years of preparation for the Jubilee Year 2000. By dedicating 1997 to Christ, 1998 to the Holy Spirit and 1999 to the Father, writes the Pope, "thus we shall conclude the Second Millennium in a great song of praise to the Holy Trinity."

Following are excerpts from the remaining three sections of the Pope's letter to priests:

"3. Iesu, Sacerdos in aeternum, miserere nobis! ... This invocation is taken from the Litany of our Lord Jesus Christ, Priest and Victim, which was recited in the Seminary at Krakow on the day before ordinations to the priesthood. ... But I wish to highlight it in the present Letter, for I think it brings out in a particularly rich and profound way the priesthood of Christ and our link with that priesthood. ... He who offered himself as a bloody sacrifice on the Cross also instituted its unbloody 'memorial' for all times, under the species of bread and wine. And under these species he entrusted his Sacrifice to the Church. In this way the Church þ and in the Church every priest þ celebrates the one Sacrifice of Christ.

"I remember vividly the impression made by the words of consecration when I uttered them for the first time together with the Bishop who had just ordained me. ..."

"How could these wondrous words not be at the very heart of every priestly life? Let us repeat them every time as if it were the first! Let us take care that they are never said out of habit. They express the fullest realization of our priesthood.

"4. ... Christ brings into the eternal Holy Place the self-sacrifice which is the price of our redemption. The offering þ the victim þ is inseparable from the priest. The Litany of Jesus Christ, Priest and Victim, recited in the Seminary, helped me to understand all this better. I constantly return to this fundamental lesson.

"5. Today is Holy Thursday. The whole Church gathers in spirit in the Upper Room where the Apostles gathered with Christ for the Last Supper. Let us re-read Christ's words of farewell in the Gospel of Saint John. ..."

"Friends: this is what Jesus calls the Apostles. This is what he also wishes to call us who, thanks to the Sacrament of Holy Orders, share in his priesthood. Let us listen to these words with great emotion and humility. They contain the truth. First of all, the truth about friendship, but also a truth about ourselves who share in the priesthood of Christ as ministers of the Eucharist. Could Jesus have expressed to us his friendship any more eloquently than by enabling us, as priests of the New Covenant, to act in his name, 'in persona Christi Capitis'? Precisely this takes place in all our priestly service, when we administer the sacraments and especially when we celebrate the Eucharist."

"Christ says: 'You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide' (Jn 15:16). At the end of this Letter, I offer these words to you as a wish. On the day of the institution of the sacrament of the priesthood let us make this our wish for one another, dear Brothers: that we may go and bear fruit, like the Apostles, and that our fruit may abide."

av Webmaster publisert 31.03.2006, sist endret 10.03.2011 - 02:39