VATICAN CITY, APR 6, 2004 (VIS) - This morning Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos and Archbishop Csaba Ternyak, prefect and secretary respectively of the Congregation for the Clergy, presented the Holy Father's Letter to Priests on the occasion of Holy Thursday, 2004.
Cardinal Castrillon emphasized three aspects of the letter: "First of all, the intimate connection of the sacrament of the Eucharist with the ordained priesthood. ... In the second place, John Paul stresses its sacred character and therefore the irreplaceable nature of the ordained ministry." In this sense, he indicated that "the faith allows us to discover that Christ is present in priests so that the world may understand that reconciliation obtained through the Holy Cross, whose fruit is the Eucharist, is not an act confined to a specific time or place, but transcends the categories of life on earth and extends continually in time until Christ will come at the end of the world."
The third aspect, said the cardinal, is "vocational pastoral" care. Prayer for vocations "must be accompanied by pastoral care with the purpose of understanding life is a vocation and that God calls some of us to follow Him more closely in communion with Him and in self-giving. Therefore, Christian families have an important and invaluable mission and a responsibility for vocations, especially through the parish, to help them to correspond in a generous and conscious way."
Archbishop Ternyak referred to the total number of clergy in the world (including bishops and deacons) which at the end of 2001 numbered 439,850, whereas in 1961 the clergy numbered 406,509. Fourteen percent of parishes today (216,736 at the end of 2001) were created in the last thirty years.
"It is necessary," he said, "to speak to young people directly in order to show them the beauty of Catholic priesthood, lived out with a heart full of love for God and for others, and by men who happily consecrate themselves and their freedom to the service of their brothers and sisters. One of the fundamental tools of vocational pastoral care is the priest himself, with fidelity to his vocation and enthusiasm in the exercise of the ministry. (The Church needs) men in love with the Eucharist who can help young people to discover their devotion for a vocation of ontological identification with Christ who offers Himself for the salvation of all and who becomes a gift in the Eucharist."
At the end of the press conference, Cardinal Castrillon announced that next October there will be a world congress in Malta on the theme "Priests, forgers of saints in the third millennium."
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