The Year for Priests will be inaugurated by Pope Benedict XVI on June 19th

Vatican City, May 29, 2009 - "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."

This is the opening of the letter written by the Prefect for the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, addressed to the priests of the world, asking for their common effort "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.”

The Cardinal continues: “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, honours them, admires them and that she recognises with gratitude their pastoral work and the witness of the their life.” While the priests “are important not only for what they do but also for who they are,” the Cardinal mentions that “some priests have been shown to have been involved in gravely problematic and unfortunate situations,” and obviously, “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.”

Among the objectives of this Year, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy mentions “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.” He also expresses the hope that it will 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 ,” and “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.”

The Letter concludes with an invitation to all the Bishops' Conferences, dioceses, parishes, and local communities, to prepare a program for this special Year. “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.”

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