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Priestly fraternity means cooperation

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Church
General Audience, Wednesday 1 September 1993 - in French, Italian & Spanish  

"1. The "priestly community" or presbyterate that we have spoken of in the preceding catecheses establishes among those who belong to it a network of reciprocal relationships that are situated within the ecclesial communion arising from Baptism. The most specific foundation of these relationships is the common sacramental and spiritual sharing in the priesthood of Christ, from which a spontaneous sense of belonging to the presbyterate stems.

The Council pointed this out clearly: "Priests, by virtue of their ordination to the priesthood, are united among themselves in an intimate sacramental brotherhood. In individual dioceses, priests form one priesthood under their own bishop" (PO 8). Because of mutual knowledge, closeness and habits of life and work, this relationship with the diocesan presbyterate further develops that sense of belonging, which creates and nurtures fraternal communion and opens it to pastoral cooperation.

The bonds of pastoral charity are expressed in the ministry and the liturgy, as the Council goes on to note: "Each one, therefore, is united in special bonds of apostolic charity, ministry and brotherhood with the other members of this priesthood. This has been manifested from ancient times in the liturgy when the priests present at an ordination are invited to impose hands together with the ordaining bishop on the new candidate, and with united hearts concelebrate the Sacred Eucharist" (PO 8). These cases represent sacramental communion, and also that spiritual communion which in the liturgy finds the una vox to proclaim to God unity of spirit and to testify about it to the brothers and sisters.

2. Priestly fraternity is also expressed in the unity of pastoral ministry, in the wide variety of tasks, offices and activities to which presbyters are assigned. "Even though priests are assigned to different duties, nevertheless they carry on one priestly ministry" (PO 8).

The variety of duties can be considerable, for example: parish ministry and inter-parish and multi-parish ministry; diocesan, national and international activities; education, research, analysis; teaching in the various areas of religious and theological doctrine; every apostolate of giving witness, sometimes by studying and teaching various branches of human knowledge; in addition, spreading the Gospel message through the media; religious art in its many forms; the variety of charitable services; moral guidance to different categories of people involved in research or other work; and lastly, ecumenical activities, which are very timely and important today. This variety cannot create classes or inequalities, because for priests these tasks always fall within the scope of evangelization. We say with the Council: "All, indeed, are united in the building up of the body of Christ which, especially in our times, requires manifold duties and new methods" (PO 8).

3. Therefore, it is important for every priest to be willing--and properly trained--to understand and value the work performed by his brothers in the priesthood. It is a question of a Christian and ecclesial spirit, as well as an openness to the signs of the times. He will have to understand, for example, that there is a variety of needs in building the Christian community, as there are a diversity of charisms and gifts. There is also a variety of ways to plan and carry out apostolic projects, since new work methods can be proposed and employed in the pastoral sphere, while always remaining within the Church's communion of faith and action.

Reciprocal understanding is the basis of mutual help in the various areas. Let us repeat what the Council said: "It is very important that all priests, whether diocesan or religious, help one another always to be fellow workers in the truth" (PO 8). Reciprocal help can be given in many ways, from being willing to assist a confrère in need, to accepting a work plan in a spirit of pastoral cooperation. This seems ever more necessary among the different agencies and groups and in the overall coordination of the apostolate. It should be kept in mind that the parish itself (as sometimes the diocese too), although having its autonomy, cannot be an island. This is especially so at a time like our own, which abounds with means of communication, population mobility, the popularity of various attractions, a new uniformity of tendencies, attitudes, fashions and schedules. Parishes are the living organs of the one body of Christ, the one Church. They welcome and serve both the members of the local communities and all those who for any reason come there at a given moment, which could mean that God has become visible in a conscience, in a life. Naturally, this should not become a source of disorder or confusion in regard to canon law, which is also at the service of pastoral care.

4. A particular effort of mutual understanding and reciprocal help is desirable and should be fostered especially in the relationships between older and younger priests. Both are so necessary for the Christian community and so dear to bishops and to the Pope. The Council itself urged older priests to have understanding and sympathy for the projects of the younger ones, and advised the latter to have respect for the experience of their elders and to trust them. It recommended that both groups treat each other with sincere affection, in accordance with the example given by so many priests, past and present (cf. PO 8).

How many things spring from the heart to the lips on these points, concretely showing the "priestly communion" that links presbyters! Let us be content to mention some things suggested by the Council: "In a fraternal spirit, priests should extend hospitality (cf. Heb 13:1-2), cultivate kindliness and share their goods in common (cf. Heb 13:16). They should be especially solicitous for the sick, the afflicted, those overburdened with work, the lonely, those exiled from their homeland, and those who suffer persecution (cf. Mt 5:10)" (PO 8).

When every pastor, every priest, looks back over his life, he finds it strewn with experiences when he needed understanding, help and the cooperation of so many brothers. The other faithful also find themselves with the various kinds of needs listed above, as do so many others! Who knows whether it would be possible to do more for all those "poor," loved by the Lord and entrusted by him to the Church's charity, and also for those who could be facing moments of crisis as the Council reminds us (cf.PO 8). Indeed, conscious of having followed the voice of the Lord and the Gospel, we must strive each day to do ever more and better for everyone.

5. The Council also suggests some community projects to foster mutual help in cases of need, which can be done in a permanent and almost institutional way on behalf of the brethren.

First of all, it mentions periodic fraternal gatherings for rest and relaxation, in order to answer the human need for restoring one's physical, mental and spiritual strength, which Jesus, the "Teacher and Lord," in his careful attention to the condition of others, already had in mind when he invited the apostles: "Come by yourselves to an out-of-the-way place and rest a little" (Mk 6:31). This invitation also applies to priests in every age, in ours more than ever, given the urgent tasks and their complexity in the pastoral ministry too (cf. PO 8).

The Council thus encourages projects that are meant to provide and facilitate a common life for presbyters in a permanent way, including wisely established and organized arrangements for living together, or at least for an easily accessible and practical common table in appropriate places. The reasons for these provisions are not only economic and practical, but also spiritual and in harmony with the institutions of the early Jerusalem community (cf. Acts 2:46-47). They are obvious and urgent in the modern condition of many presbyters and prelates, who must be offered attention and care to alleviate their difficulties and labors (cf. PO 8).

"One should hold also in high regard and eagerly promote those associations which, having been recognized by competent ecclesiastical authority, encourage priestly holiness in the ministry by the use of an appropriate and duly approved rule of life and by fraternal aid, intending thus to do service to the whole order of priests" (PO 8).

6. In many places and in the past as well, holy priests have experienced this. The Council zealously desires that it be as widespread as possible; new institutions providing great benefit for the clergy and Christian people are not wanting. Their growth and effectiveness vary in proportion to their fulfillment of the conditions laid down by the Council: the goal of priestly sanctification, fraternal help between priests, communion with ecclesiastical authority at the level of the diocese or the Apostolic See, according to the circumstances. This communion implies approved statutes as a rule of life and work, without which the members would almost inevitably be condemned to disorder or to the arbitrary impositions of some stronger personalities. It is an old problem for every type of association, and also occurs in the religious and ecclesiastical sphere. The Church's authority also fulfills its mission of service to priests and all the faithful when it exercises this function of discerning authentic values, protecting people's spiritual freedom and guaranteeing the validity of associations as well as the whole life of the community.

Here too it is a question of realizing the holy ideal of "priestly communion.""

After the Catechesis, Papa Giovanni Paolo II greeted the pilgrims in various languages

Ai fedeli di lingua tedesca 

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder!

Mit diesen kurzen Überlegungen zum priesterlichen Dienst grübe ich Euch, liebe Schwestern und Brüder, nochmals sehr herzlich. Mein besonderer Willkommensgrub gilt den Schüler–und Studentengruppen, den Kirchenchören aus der Diözese Passau, den Teilnehmern der Leserfahrt des Bistumsblattes ”Paulinus“ der Diözese Trier sowie den Ordensschwestern aus verschiedenen europäischen Ländern, die an einem Weiterbildungskurs der Salvatorianerinnen in Rom teilnehmen. Möge der Besuch an den Gräbern der Apostel Euch in Eurem Glauben neue Kraft und Freude schenken. Dazu erteile ich Euch, Euren lieben Angehörigen in der Heimat sowie all jenen, die uns über Radio Vatikan und das Fernsehen verbunden sind, von Herzen meinen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai fedeli di lingua francese 

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

J’accueille cordialement les pèlerins et visiteurs de langue française présents à cette audience. En particulier, j’adresse un salut chaleureux au groupe vietnamien du mouvement des “ Cursillos ”: je leur offre mes meilleurs vœux ainsi qu’à leurs familles et à tous leurs compatriotes, qui sont présents dans ma prière.

Aux jeunes et aux aînés, je donne de grand cœur ma Bénédiction Apostolique.

Ai pellegrini di espressione inglese 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I extend a cordial welcome to all the English–speaking visitors at today’s Audience, especially the pilgrims from England, Ireland, Indonesia and the United States. My special greeting goes to the Missionary Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus who are visiting Rome for a course of spiritual renewal. Upon all of you I invoke the grace and peace of Christ our Saviour.

A fedeli giapponesi 

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Rispettabili componenti della “Nippon Television”.

Vi ringrazio di cuore perché con il vostro valido aiuto la Cappella Sistina ha potuto riprendere tutto il suo splendore, e perciò il mondo intero gioisce. Vi ricompensi abbondantemente il Signore Dio.

E voi, care alunne di “ Seibo Jiogakuin ” di Kyoto, vi benedico volentieri, affinché il vostro viaggio di aggiornamento porti molti frutti sotto la protezione della Madonna.

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!  

Ai pellegrini di lingua spagnola 

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

Saludo ahora muy cordialmente a todos los peregrinos y visitantes de lengua española. En particular, a los integrantes de la Asociación cultural “ Yankuikanauhuák ”, de México, y a las peregrinaciones provenientes de Gerona, San Salvador y Uruguay.

A todos imparto con gran afecto la Bendición Apostólica.

Ai fedeli di espressione portoghese

Caríssimos irmãos e irmãs de língua portuguesa,

Aproveito a ocasião para encarecer–vos uma prece especial pela próxima viagem que a Divina Providência me impele a realizar na Lituânia, Letónia e Estónia. Pedi pela unidade da fé e pelo progresso humano e social daquelas nações. Saúdo o Coral “ Ars Nova ” de Belo Horizonte do Brasil, e, de todo o coração, vos concedo a minha Benção Apostólica, com votos de muita saúde, paz e prosperidade para as vossas famílias.

Ai gruppi di visitatori italiani 

Nel salutare i pellegrini di lingua italiana desidero oggi rivolgere un pensiero ai giovani di Vimodrone, diocesi di Milano, i quali ricordano con questa visita il 25° anniversario di fondazione del loro oratorio parrocchiale, ed in segno di comunione con l’intera Chiesa vogliono dare il via ad un rinnovato cammino spirituale, partendo da questa Città con una simbolica fiaccola. Carissimi giovani, fate in modo che il vostro centro giovanile sia un punto di riferimento efficace per costruire in voi un’esistenza improntata alla sequela di Cristo. Seguire Cristo, imparare da lui ad operare scelte conformi alla santità della vita, apprendere dal Signore a servire il prossimo, divenire suoi discepoli, cooperare al cammino del Vangelo. Ecco un programma per un oratorio che vuole essere un’autentica scuola di vita cristiana.

Accolgo con gioia anche i bambini croati ospiti della Caritas diocesana di Montecassino e mi congratulo con i Sacerdoti e le Religiose che li assistono.  

Ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli

Saluto, infine, tutti voi, giovani, malati e sposi novelli, invocando su ciascuno l’effusione della grazia di Dio. Questo dono ineffabile del Signore è forza redentrice che sostiene il pieno sviluppo di voi, giovani; conforto che dona salute a voi, cari malati; sapienza che rinsalda il vostro amore, sposi novelli. Nessuno dimentichi che la grazia, insieme dono ed impegno, interpella le vostre vite e costruisce in voi l’identità dei figli di Dio. Sia propiziatrice di questo dono della grazia la benedizione apostolica che volentieri imparto a tutti.

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