|On The Priesthood
After having called the Twelve to follow him, Jesus kept them at his side and lived with them, imparting his teaching of salvation to them through word and example, and finally he sent them out to all mankind … Priests are called to prolong the presence of Christ, embodying his way of life and making him visible in the midst of the flock entrusted to their care … The priest is a servant of the Church as communion because he builds up the unity of the Church community in the harmony of diverse vocations, charisms, and services … Priests are there to serve the faith, hope, and charity of the laity.
They recognize and uphold, as brothers and friends, the dignity of the laity as children of God and help them to exercise fully their specific role in the overall context of the Church’s mission … Priests have become living instruments of Christ the eternal Priest so that through the ages they can accomplish his wonderful work of reuniting the whole human race with heavenly power … The service of love is the fundamental meaning of every vocation, and it finds a specific expression in the priestly vocation. Indeed, a priest is called to live out, as radically as possible, the pastoral charity of Jesus, the love of the Good Shepherd who “lays down his life for the sheep” (Jn 10: 11) … The priest should be able to know the depths of the human heart, to perceive difficulties and problems, to make meeting and dialogue easy, to create trust and cooperation, to express serene and objective judgments … Through his daily contact with people, his sharing in their daily lives, the priest needs to develop and sharpen his human sensitivity so as to understand more clearly their needs, respond to their demands, perceive their unvoiced questions, and share the hopes and expectations, the joys and burdens which are part of life: thus he will be able to meet and enter into dialogue with all people.
All the difficult circumstances which people find in their path as Christians are fraternally lived and sincerely suffered in the priest’s heart. And he, in seeking answers for others, is constantly spurred on to find them first of all for himself … People need to come out of their anonymity and fear. They need to be known and called by name, to walk in safety along the paths of life, to be found again if they have become lost, to be loved, to receive salvation as the supreme gift of God’s love. All this is done by Jesus, the Good Shepherd – by himself and by his priests with him.
POPE JOHN PAUL II