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The priesthood of Benedict XVI

Since 1897, during the long pontificate of Leo XIII, a Pope has not celebrated the sixtieth anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. Benedict XVI has now done so, commemorating this uncommon milestone on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul – the patron apostles of Rome felix cantata of medieval pilgrims and then of the liturgy – on a splendid summer day. Just like the one on June 29, 1951 in Freising, when the venerable Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber laid his hands on the head of Joseph Ratzinger, of his older brother Georg, and 42 of their companions.

All of those young men, with the exception of one, were older than the 24-year-old Joseph:  the war had slowed the course of studies in the seminary, which had been transformed into a hospital. With the Pope, and his brother, three of the priests who were ordained on that day concelebrated mass: Fritz Zimmermann, Bernhard Schweiger and Rupert Berger. This last, had said his first mass, like the Ratzinger brothers, on the following Sunday, July 8th, in Traunstein. Others, for reasons of age, were unable to attend, while the greater part of the friends of that day live with the communion of saints.

And on the theme of friendship – friendship with God, Christian friendship, friendship of every human person – Benedict XVI gave his homily, a profound meditation on priesthood, addressed to all of the faithful and whomever wants to listen. Opening their hearts to the words of a man who has dedicated and continues to dedicate every day of his life to the discovery of the greatness of the love of God and to continually seeking his friendship. To move beyond, “the boundaries of our own world and to bring the Gospel to the world of others, so that it pervades everything and hence the world is opened up for God’s kingdom.” The God who definitively revealed himself in Jesus of Nazareth, who is “our friend” and wants from his disciples a fruit which abides: love, which is sown in souls.

It is providential that this sixtieth anniversary of the priestly ordination of Benedict XVI falls on the same day in which the newspaper of the Holy See celebrates a century and a half. Indicating to the paper that the road is, “to follow the God who sets out in this way, we want to move beyond the inertia of self-centredness, so that He himself can enter our world.”

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St. Peter’s Square

Sept. 16, 2019

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