DECREE ON THE MINISTRY AND LIFE OF PRIESTS
PROMULGATED BY HIS HOLINESS,
POPE PAUL VI
ON DECEMBER 7, 1965
1. The excellence
of the order of priests in the Church has already been recalled to the minds of
all by this sacred synod.(1) Since, however, in the renewal of Christ's Church
tasks of the greatest importance and of ever increasing difficulty are being
given to this order, it was deemed most useful to treat of the subject of
priests at greater length and with more depth. What is said here applies to all
priests, especially those devoted to the care of souls, with suitable
adaptations being made for priests who are religious. Priests by sacred
ordination and mission which they receive from the bishops are promoted to the
service of Christ the Teacher, Priest and King. They share in his ministry, a
ministry whereby the Church here on earth is unceasingly built up into the
People of God, the Body of Christ and the Temple of the Holy Spirit. Therefore,
in order that their ministry be carried on more effectively and their lives be
better provided for, in pastoral and human circumstances which very often change
so profoundly, this sacred synod declares and decrees as follows.
THE PRIESTHOOD IN THE MINISTRY
OF THE CHURCH
2. The Lord Jesus,
"whom the Father has sent into the world" (Jn 10:36) has made his whole Mystical
Body a sharer in the anointing of the Spirit with which he himself is anointed.(1)
In him all the faithful are made a holy and royal priesthood; they offer
spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ, and they proclaim the
perfections of him who has called them out of darkness into his marvelous
light.(2) Therefore, there is no member who does not have a part in the mission
of the whole Body; but each one ought to hallow Jesus in his heart,(3) and in
the spirit of prophecy bear witness to Jesus.(4)
The same Lord,
however, has established ministers among his faithful to unite them together in
one body in which, "not all the members have the same function" (Rom 12:4).
These ministers in the society of the faithful are able by the sacred power of
orders to offer sacrifice and to forgive sins,(5) and they perform their
priestly office publicly for men in the name of Christ. Therefore, having sent
the apostles just as he himself been sent by the Father,(6) Christ, through the
apostles themselves, made their successors, the bishops,(7) sharers in his
consecration and mission. The office of their ministry has been handed down, in
a lesser degree indeed, to the priests.(8) Established in the order of the
priesthood they can be co-workers of the episcopal order for the proper
fulfillment of the apostolic mission entrusted to priests by Christ.(9)
The office of
priests, since it is connected with the episcopal order, also, in its own degree,
shares the authority by which Christ builds up, sanctifies and rules his Body.
Wherefore the priesthood, while indeed it presupposes the sacraments of
Christian initiation, is conferred by that special sacrament; through it priests,
by the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are signed with a special character and are
conformed to Christ the Priest in such a way that they can act in the person of
Christ the Head.(10)
In the measure in
which they participate in the office of the apostles, God gives priests a
special grace to be ministers of Christ among the people. They perform the
sacred duty of preaching the Gospel, so that the offering of the people can be
made acceptable and sanctified by the Holy Spirit.(11) Through the apostolic
proclamation of the Gospel, the People of God are called together and assembled.
All belonging to this people, since they have been sanctified by the Holy Spirit,
can offer themselves as "a sacrifice, living, holy, pleasing to God" (Rom 12:1).
Through the ministry of the priests, the spiritual sacrifice of the faithful is
made perfect in union with the sacrifice of Christ. He is the only mediator who
in the name of the whole Church is offered sacramentally in the Eucharist and in
an unbloody manner until the Lord himself comes.(12) The ministry of priests is
directed to this goal and is perfected in it. Their ministry, which begins with
the evangelical proclamation, derives its power and force from the sacrifice of
Christ. Its aim is that "the entire commonwealth of the redeemed and the society
of the saints be offered to God through the High Priest who offered himself also
for us in his passion that we might be the body of so great a Head."(13)
therefore, which priests pursue in their ministry and by their life is to
procure the glory of God the Father in Christ. That glory consists in this-that
men working freely and with a grateful spirit receive the work of God made
perfect in Christ and then manifest it in their whole lives. Hence, priests,
while engaging in prayer and adoration, or preaching the word, or offering the
Eucharistic Sacrifice and administering the other sacraments, or performing
other works of the ministry for men, devote all this energy to the increase of
the glory of God and to man's progress in the divine life. All of this, since it
comes from the Pasch of Christ, will be crowned by the glorious coming of the
same Lord, when he hands over the Kingdom to God the Father.(14)
3. Priests, who
are taken from among men and ordained for men in the things that belong to God
in order to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins,(15) nevertheless live on earth
with other men as brothers. The Lord Jesus, the Son of God, a Man sent by the
Father to men, dwelt among us and willed to become like his brethren in all
things except sin.(16) The holy apostles imitated him. Blessed Paul, the doctor
of the Gentiles, "set apart for the Gospel of God" (Rom 1:1) declares that he
became all things to all men that he might save all.(17) Priests of the New
Testament, by their vocation and ordination, are in a certain sense set apart in
the bosom of the People of God. However, they are not to be separated from the
People of God or from any person; but they are to be totally dedicated to the
work for which the Lord has chosen them.(18) They cannot be ministers of Christ
unless they be witnesses and dispensers of a life other than earthly life. But
they cannot be of service to men if they remain strangers to the life and
conditions of men.(19) Their ministry itself, by a special title, forbids that
they be conformed to this world;(20) yet at the same time it requires that they
live in this world among men. They are to live as good shepherds that know their
sheep, and they are to seek to lead those who are not of this sheepfold that
they, too, may hear the voice of Christ, so that there might be one fold and one
shepherd.(21) To achieve this aim, certain virtues, which in human affairs are
deservedly esteemed, contribute a great deal: such as goodness of heart,
sincerity, strength and constancy of mind, zealous pursuit of justice,
affability, and others. The Apostle Paul commends them saying: "Whatever things
are true, whatever honorable, whatever just, whatever holy, whatever loving,
whatever of good repute, if there be any virtue, if anything is worthy of praise,
think upon these things" (Phil 4:8).(22)
The Ministry of Priests
4. The People of
God are joined together primarily by the word of the living God.(1) And
rightfully they expect this from their priests.(2) Since no one can be saved who
does not first believe,(3) priests, as co-workers with their bishops, have the
primary duty of proclaiming the Gospel of God to all.(4) In this way they
fulfill the command of the Lord: "Going therefore into the whole world preach
the Gospel to every creature" (Mk 16:15),(5) and they establish and build up the
People of God. Through the saving word the spark of faith is lit in the hearts
of unbelievers, and fed in the hearts of the faithful. This is the way that the
congregation of faithful is started and grows, just as the Apostle describes: "Faith
comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ" (Rom 10:17).
To all men,
therefore, priests are debtors that the truth of the Gospel(6) which they have
may be given to others. And so, whether by entering into profitable dialogue
they bring people to the worship of God,(7) whether by openly preaching they
proclaim the mystery of Christ, or whether in the light of Christ they treat
contemporary problems, they are relying not on their own wisdom for it is the
word of Christ they teach, and it is to conversion and holiness that they exhort
all men.(8) But priestly preaching is often very difficult in the circumstances
of the modern world. In order that it might more effectively move men's minds,
the word of God ought not to be explained in a general and abstract way, but
rather by applying the lasting truth of the Gospel to the particular
circumstances of life.
The ministry of
the word is carried out in many ways, according to the various needs of those
who hear and the special gifts of those who preach. In areas or communities of
non-Christians, the proclaiming of the Gospel draws men to faith and to the
sacraments of salvation.(9) In the Christian community, especially among those
who seem to understand and believe little of what they practice, the preaching
of the word is needed for the very ministering of the sacraments. They are
precisely sacraments of faith, a faith which is born of and nourished by the
word.(10) This is especially true of the Liturgy of the Word in the celebration
of Mass, in which the proclaiming of the death and resurrection of Christ is
inseparably joined to the response of the people who hear, and to the very
offering whereby Christ ratified the New Testament in his blood. In this
offering the faithful are united both by their dispositions and by their
discernment of the sacrament.(11)
5. God, who alone
is holy and who alone bestows holiness, willed to take as his companions and
helpers men who would humbly dedicate themselves to the work of sanctification.
Hence, through the ministry of the bishop, God consecrates priests, that being
made sharers by special title in the priesthood of Christ, they might act as his
ministers in performing sacred functions. In the liturgy they continue to carry
on his priestly office by the action of his Spirit.(12) By Baptism men are truly
brought into the People of God; by the sacrament of Penance sinners are
reconciled to God and his Church; by the Anointing of the Sick, the ill are
given solace; and especially by the celebration of Mass they offer sacramentally
the Sacrifice of Christ. In administering all sacraments, as St. Ignatius
Martyr(13) has borne witness from the early days of the Church, priests by
various titles are bound together hierarchically with the bishop. And so in a
certain way they make him present in every congregation.(14)
sacraments, as well as with every ministry of the Church and every work of the
apostolate, are tied together with the Eucharist and are directed toward it.(15)
The Most Blessed Eucharist contains the entire spiritual boon of the Church,(16)
that is, Christ himself, our Pasch and Living Bread, by the action of the Holy
Spirit through his very flesh vital and vitalizing, giving life to men who are
thus invited and encouraged to offer themselves, their labors and all created
things, together with him. In this light, the Eucharist shows itself as the
source and the apex of the whole work of preaching the Gospel. Those under
instruction are introduced by stages to a sharing in the Eucharist, and the
faithful, already marked with the seal of Baptism and Confirmation, are through
the reception of the Eucharist fully joined to the Body of Christ.
Eucharistic Action, over which the priest presides, is the very heart of the
congregation. So priests must instruct their people to offer to God the Father
the Divine Victim in the Sacrifice of the Mass, and to join to it the offering
of their own lives. In the spirit of Christ the Shepherd, they must prompt their
people to confess their sins with a contrite heart in the sacrament of Penance,
so that, mindful of his words "Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand" (Mt
4:17), they are drawn closer to the Lord more and more each day. Priests
likewise must instruct their people to participate in the celebrations of the
sacred liturgy in such a way that they become proficient in genuine prayer. They
must coax their people on to an ever more perfect and constant spirit of prayer
for every grace and need. They must gently persuade everyone to the fulfillment
of the duties of his state of life, and to greater progress in responding in a
sensible way to the evangelical counsels. Finally, they must train the faithful
to sing hymns and spiritual songs in their hearts to the Lord, always giving
thanks to God the Father for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus
extend to the other hours of the day the praise and thanksgiving of the
Eucharistic celebration in praying the Divine Office, offered in the name of the
Church for all the people entrusted to their care, and indeed for the whole
The house of
prayer in which the Most Holy Eucharist is celebrated and reserved, where the
faithful gather and where the presence of the Son of God, our Savior, offered
for us on the altar of sacrifice bestows strength and blessings on the faithful,
must be spotless and suitable for prayer and sacred functions.(18) There pastors
and the faithful are called to acknowledge with grateful heart the gift of him,
Who through his humanity constantly pours divine life into the members of his
Body.(19) Let priests take care so to foster a knowledge of and facility in the
liturgy, that by their own liturgical ministry Christian communities entrusted
to their care may ever more perfectly give praise to God, the Father, and Son,
and Holy Spirit.
6. Exercising the
office of Christ, the Shepherd and Head, and according to their share of his
authority, priests, in the name of the bishop, gather the family of God together
as a brotherhood enlivened by one spirit. Through Christ they lead them in the
Holy Spirit to God the Father.(20) For the exercise of this ministry, as for the
other priestly duties, spiritual power is conferred upon them for the building
up of the Church.(21) In building up of the Church, priests must treat all with
exceptional kindness in imitation of the Lord. They should act toward men, not
as seeking to please them,(22) but in accord with the demands of Christian
doctrine and life. They should teach them and admonish them as beloved sons,(23)
according to the words of the Apostle: "Be urgent in season, out of season,
reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience and doctrine" (2 Tim 4:2).(24)
as educators in the faith, must see to it either by themselves or through others
that the faithful are led individually in the Holy Spirit to a development of
their own vocation according to the Gospel, to a sincere and practical charity,
and to that freedom with which Christ has made us free.(25) Ceremonies however
beautiful, or associations however flourishing, will be of little value if they
are not directed toward the education of men to Christian maturity.(26) In
furthering this, priests should help men to see what is required and what is
God's will in the important and unimportant events of life. Also, Christians
should be taught that they live not only for themselves, but, according to the
demands of the new law of charity; as every man has received grace, he must
administer the same to others.(27) In this way, all will discharge in a
Christian manner their duties in the community of men.
Although they have
obligations toward all men, priests have a special obligation to the poor and
weak entrusted to them, for our Lord himself showed that he was united to
them,(28) and their evangelization is mentioned as a sign of messianic
activity.(29) With special diligence, attention should be given to youth and
also to married people and parents. It is desirable that these join together in
friendly meetings for mutual aid in leading more easily and fully and in a
Christian manner a life that is often difficult. Priests should remember that
all religious, both men and women, who certainly have a distinguished place in
the house of the Lord, deserve special care in their spiritual progress for the
good of the whole Church. Finally, and above all, priests must be solicitous for
the sick and the dying, visiting them and strengthening them in the Lord.(30)
The office of
pastor is not confined to the care of the faithful as individuals, but also in a
true sense is extended to the formation of a genuine Christian community. Yet
the spirit of the community should be so fostered as to embrace not only the
local church, but also the universal Church. The local community should promote
not only the care of its own faithful, but, filled with a missionary zeal, it
should prepare also the way to Christ for all men. In a special way, catechumens
and the newly-baptized who must be educated gradually to know and to live the
Christian life are entrusted to his care.
community, however, is built up unless it has its basis and center in the
celebration of the most Holy Eucharist; from this, therefore, all education to
the spirit of community must take its origin.(31) This celebration, if it is to
be genuine and complete, should lead to various works of charity and mutual
help, as well as to missionary activity and to different forms of Christian
community by prayer, example, and works of penance, exercise a true motherhood
toward souls who are to be led to Christ. The Christian community forms an
effective instrument by which the path to Christ and his Church is pointed out
and made smooth for non-believers. It is an effective instrument also for
arousing, nourishing and strengthening the faithful for their spiritual combat.
In building the
Christian community, priests are never to put themselves at the service of some
human faction of ideology, but, as heralds of the Gospel and shepherds of the
Church, they are to spend themselves for the spiritual growth of the Body of
Priests' Relationships with Others
7. All priests, in
union with bishops, so share in one and the same priesthood and ministry of
Christ that the very unity of their consecration and mission requires their
hierarchical communion with the order of bishops.(32) At times in an excellent
manner they manifest this communion in liturgical concelebration as joined with
the bishop when they celebrate the Eucharistic Sacrifice.(33) Therefore, by
reason of the gift of the Holy Spirit which is given to priests in Holy Orders,
bishops regard them as necessary helpers and counselors in the ministry and in
their role of teaching, sanctifying and nourishing the People of God.(34)
Already in the ancient ages of the Church we find liturgical texts proclaiming
this with insistence, as when they solemnly call upon God to pour out upon the
candidate for priestly ordination "the spirit of grace and counsel, so that with
a pure heart he may help and govern the People of God,"(35) just as in the
desert the spirit of Moses was spread abroad in the minds of the seventy prudent
men,(36) "and using them as helpers among the people, he easily governed
account of this communion in the same priesthood and ministry, bishops should
regard priests as their brothers and friends(38) and be concerned as far as they
are able for their material and especially for their spiritual well-being. For
above all upon the bishops rests the heavy responsibility for the sanctity of
their priests.(39) Therefore, they should exercise the greatest care in the
continual formation of their priests.(40) They should gladly listen to their
priests, indeed consult them and engage in dialogue with them in those matters
which concern the necessities of pastoral work and welfare of the diocese. In
order to put this into effect, there should be-in a manner suited to today's
conditions and necessities,(41) and with a structure and norms to be determined
by law-a body or senate(42) of priests representing all the priests. This
representative body by its advice will be able to give the bishop effective
assistance in the administration of the diocese.
losing sight of the fullness of the priesthood which the bishops enjoy, must
respect in them the authority of Christ, the Supreme Shepherd. They must
therefore stand by their bishops in sincere charity and obedience.(43) This
priestly obedience, imbued with a spirit of cooperation is based on the very
sharing in the episcopal ministry which is conferred on priests both through the
Sacrament of Orders and the canonical mission.(44)
This union of
priests with their bishops is all the more necessary today since in our present
age, for various reasons, apostolic undertakings must necessarily not only take
on many forms but frequently extend even beyond the boundaries of one parish or
diocese. No priest, therefore, can on his own accomplish his mission in a
satisfactory way. He can do so only by joining forces with other priests under
the direction of the Church authorities.
8. 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. Even though priests are assigned to different
duties, nevertheless they carry on one priestly ministry for men. All priests
are sent as co-workers in the same apostolate, whether they engage in parochial
or extra-parochial ministry. This is true whether they devote their efforts to
scientific research or teaching, or whether by manual labor they share in the
lot of the workers themselves-if there is need for this and competent authority
approves-or finally whether they fulfill some other apostolic tasks or labor
designed for the apostolate. All, indeed, are united in the building up of the
Body of Christ which, especially in our times, requires manifold duties and new
methods. It is very important that all priests, whether diocesan or religious,
help one another always to be fellow workers in the truth.(45) 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. Each and every priest,
therefore, is united with his fellow priests in a bond of charity, prayer and
total cooperation. In this manner, they manifest that unity which Christ willed,
namely, that his own be perfected in one so that the world might know that the
Son was sent by the Father.(46)
therefore, should receive younger priests as true brothers and help them in
their first undertakings and priestly duties. The older ones should likewise
endeavor to understand the mentality of younger priests, even though it be
different from their own, and follow their projects with good will. By the same
token, young priests should respect the age and experience of their seniors;
they should seek their advice and willingly cooperate with them in everything
that pertains to the care of souls. In a fraternal spirit, priests should extend
hospitality,(47) cultivate kindliness and share their goods in common.(48) They
should be particularly solicitous for the sick, the afflicted, those
overburdened with work, the lonely, those exiled from their homeland, and those
who suffer persecution.(49) They should gladly and joyfully gather together for
recreation, remembering Christ's invitation to the weary apostles: "Come aside
to a desert place, and rest awhile" (Mk 6:31). And further, in order that
priests may find mutual assistance in the development of their spiritual and
intellectual life, that they may be able to cooperate more effectively in their
ministry and be saved from the dangers of loneliness which may arise, it is
necessary that some kind of common life or some sharing of common life be
encouraged among priests. This, however, may take many forms, according to
different personal or pastoral needs, such as living together where this is
possible, or having a common table, or at least by frequent and periodic
meetings. 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.
Finally, by reason
of the same communion in the priesthood, priests should realize that they are
obliged in a special manner toward those priests who labor under certain
difficulties. They should give them timely help, and also, if necessary,
admonish them discreetly. Moreover, they should always treat with fraternal
charity and magnanimity those who have failed in some matters, offer urgent
prayers to God for them, and continually show themselves as true brothers and
9. Though priests
of the New Testament, in virtue of the sacrament of Orders, exercise the most
outstanding and necessary office of father and teacher among and for the People
of God, they are nevertheless, together with all Christ's faithful, disciples of
the Lord, made sharers in his Kingdom by the grace of God's call.(50) For
priests are brothers among brothers(51) with all those who have been reborn at
the baptismal font. They are all members of one and the same Body of Christ, the
building up of which is required of everyone.(52)
therefore, must take the lead in seeking the things of Jesus Christ, not the
things that are their own.(53) They must work together with the lay faithful,
and conduct themselves in their midst after the example of their Master, who
among men "came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life
as redemption for many" (Mt 20:28). Priests must sincerely acknowledge and
promote the dignity of the laity and the part proper to them in the mission of
the Church. And they should hold in high honor that just freedom which is due to
everyone in the earthly city. They must willingly listen to the laity, consider
their wants in a fraternal spirit, recognize their experience and competence in
the different areas of human activity, so that together with them they will be
able to recognize the signs of the times. While trying the spirits to see if
they be of God,(54) priests should uncover with a sense of faith, acknowledge
with joy and foster with diligence the various humble and exalted charisms of
the laity. Among the other gifts of God, which are found in abundance among the
laity, those are worthy of special mention by which not a few of the laity are
attracted to a higher spiritual life. Likewise, they should confidently entrust
to the laity duties in the service of the Church, allowing them freedom and room
for action; in fact, they should invite them on suitable occasions to undertake
worlds on their own initiative.(55)
have been placed in the midst of the laity to lead them to the unity of charity,
"loving one another with fraternal love, eager to give one another precedence"
(Rom 12:10). It is their task, therefore, to reconcile differences of mentality
in such a way that no one need feel himself a stranger in the community of the
faithful. They are defenders of the common good, with which they are charged in
the name of the bishop. At the same time, they are strenuous assertors of the
truth, lest the faithful be carried about by every wind of doctrine.(56) They
are united by a special solicitude with those who have fallen away from the use
of the sacraments, or perhaps even from the faith. Indeed, as good shepherds,
they should not cease from going out to them.
Mindful of the
prescripts on ecumenism,(57) let them not forget their brothers who do not enjoy
full ecclesiastical communion with us.
Finally, they have
entrusted to them all those who do not recognize Christ as their Savior.
faithful, for their part, should realize their obligations to their priests, and
with filial love they should follow them as their pastors and fathers. In like
manner, sharing their cares, they should help their priests by prayer and work
insofar as possible so that their priests might more readily overcome
difficulties and be able to fulfill their duties more fruitfully.(58)
The Distribution of Priests, and Vocations to the Priesthood
10. The spiritual
gift which priests receive at their ordination prepared them not for a sort of
limited and narrow mission but for the widest possible and universal mission of
salvation "even to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8), for every priestly
ministry shares in the universality of the mission entrusted by Christ to his
apostles. The priesthood of Christ, in which all priests really share, is
necessarily intended for all peoples and all times, and it knows no limits of
blood, nationality or time, since it is already mysteriously prefigured in the
person of Melchisedech.(59) Let priests remember, therefore, that the care of
all churches must be their intimate concern. Hence, priests of such dioceses as
are rich in vocations should show themselves willing and ready, with the
permission of their own ordinaries (bishops), to volunteer for work in other
regions, missions or endeavors which are poor in numbers of clergy.
Present norms of
incardination and excardination should be so revised that, while this ancient
institution still remains intact, they will better correspond to today's
pastoral needs. Where a real apostolic spirit requires it, not only should a
better distribution of priests be brought about but there should also be favored
such particular pastoral works as are necessary in any region or nation anywhere
on earth. To accomplish this purpose there should be set up international
seminaries, special personal dioceses or prelatures (vicariates), and so forth,
by means of which, according to their particular statutes and always saving the
right of bishops, priests may be trained and incardinated for the good of the
Priests should not
be sent singly to a new field of labor, especially to one where they are not
completely familiar with the language and customs; rather, after the example of
the disciples of Christ,(60) they should be sent two or three together so that
they may be mutually helpful to one another. Likewise, thoughtful care should be
given to their spiritual life as well as their mental and bodily welfare; and,
so far as is possible, the circumstances and conditions of labor should be
adapted to individual needs and capabilities. At the same time it will be quite
advantageous if those priests who go to work in a nation new to them not only
know well the language of that place but also the psychological and social
milieu peculiar to the people they go to serve, so that they may communicate
with them easily, thus following the example of Paul the Apostle who could say
of himself: "For when I was free of all I made myself the servant of all, that I
might win over many. Among Jews I was a Jew that I might win over the Jews" (1
11. The Shepherd
and Bishop of our souls(61) so constituted his Church that the people whom he
chose and acquired by his blood(62) would have its priests to the end of time,
and that Christians would never be like sheep without a shepherd.(63)
Recognizing Christ's desire, and at the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the
apostles considered it their duty to select men "who will be capable of teaching
others" (2 Tim 2:2). This duty, then, is a part o the priestly mission by which
every priest becomes a sharer in the care of the whole Church, lest ministers be
ever lacking for the People of God on earth. Since, however, there is common
cause between the captain of a ship and the sailors,(64) let all Christian
people be taught that it is their duty to cooperate in one way or another, by
constant prayer and other means at their disposal,(65) that the Church will
always have a sufficient number of priests to carry out her divine mission. In
the first place, therefore, it is the duty of priests, by the ministry of the
word and by the example of their own lives, showing forth the spirit of service
and the paschal joy to demonstrate to the faithful the excellence and necessity
of the priesthood; then they should see to it that young men and adults whom
they judge worthy of such ministry should be called by their bishops to
ordination, sparing no effort or inconvenience in helping them to prepare for
this call, always saving their internal and external freedom of action. In this
effort, diligent and prudent spiritual direction is of the greatest value.
Parents and teachers and all who are engaged in any way in the education of boys
and young men should so prepare them that they will recognize the solicitude of
our Lord for his flock, will consider the needs of the Church, and will be
prepared to respond generously to our Lord when he calls, saying: "Here I am
Lord, send me" (Is 6:8). This voice of the Lord calling, however, is never to be
expected as something which in an extraordinary manner will be heard by the ears
of the future priest. It is rather to be known and understood in the manner in
which the will of God is daily made known to prudent Christians. These
indications should be carefully noted by priests.(66)
vocations, therefore, whether diocesan or national, are highly recommended to
the consideration of priests.(67) In sermons, in catechetical instructions, and
written articles, priests should set forth the needs of the Church both locally
and universally, putting into vivid light the nature and excellence of the
priestly ministry, which consoles heavy burdens with great joys, and in which in
a special way, as the Fathers of the Church point out, the greatest love of
Christ can be shown.(68)
The Life of Priests
The Vocation of Priests to the Life of Perfection
12. Priests are
made in the likeness of Christ the Priest by the Sacrament of Orders, so that
they may, in collaboration with their bishops, work for the building up and care
of the Church which is the whole Body of Christ, acting as ministers of him who
is the Head. Like all other Christians they have received in the sacrament of
Baptism the symbol and gift of such a calling and such grace that even in human
weakness(1) they can and must seek for perfection, according to the exhortation
of Christ: "Be you therefore perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt
5:48). Priests are bound, however, to acquire that perfection in special
fashion. They have been consecrated by God in a new manner at their ordination
and made living instruments of Christ the Eternal Priest that they may be able
to carry on in time his marvelous work whereby the entire family of man is again
made whole by power from above.(2) Since, therefore, every priest in his own
fashion acts in place of Christ himself, he is enriched by a special grace, so
that, as he serves the flock committed to him and the entire People of God, he
may the better grow in the grace of him whose tasks he performs, because to the
weakness of our flesh there is brought the holiness of him who for us was made a
High Priest "holy, guiltless, undefiled not reckoned among us sinners" (Heb
Christ, whom the
Father sanctified, consecrated and sent into the world,(3) "gave himself for us
that he might redeem us from all iniquity and cleanse for himself an acceptable
people, pursuing good works" (Tt 2:14), and thus through suffering entered into
his glory.(4) In like fashion, priests consecrated by the anointing of the Holy
Spirit and sent by Christ must mortify the works of the flesh in themselves and
give themselves entirely to the service of men. It is in this way that they can
go forward in that holiness with which Christ endows them to perfect man.(5)
Hence, those who
exercise the ministry of the spirit and of justice(6) will be confirmed in the
life of the spirit, so long as they are open to the Spirit of Christ, who gives
them life and direction. By the sacred actions which are theirs daily as well as
by their entire ministry which they share with the bishop and their fellow
priests, they are directed to perfection in their lives. Holiness does much for
priests in carrying on a fruitful ministry. Although divine grace could use
unworthy ministers to effect the work of salvation, yet for the most part God
chooses, to show forth his wonders, those who are more open to the power and
direction of the Holy Spirit, and who can by reason of their close union with
Christ and their holiness of life say with St. Paul: "And yet I am alive; or
rather, not I; it is Christ that lives in me" (Gal 2:20).
Hence, this holy
council, to fulfill its pastoral desires of an internal renewal of the Church,
of the spread of the Gospel in every land and of a dialogue with the world of
today, strongly urges all priests that they strive always for that growth in
holiness by which they will become consistently better instruments in the
service of the whole People of God, using for this purpose those means which the
Church has approved.(7)
13. Priests who
perform their duties sincerely and indefatigably in the Spirit of Christ arrive
at holiness by this very fact.
Since they are
ministers of God's word, each day they read and hear the word of God, which it
is their task to teach others. If at the same time they are ready to receive the
word themselves they will grow daily into more perfect followers of the Lord. As
St. Paul wrote to Timothy, "Let this be thy study, these thy employments, so
that all may see how well thou doest. Two things claim thy attention, thyself
and the teaching of the faith, spend thy care on them; so wilt thou and those
who listen to thee achieve salvation" (1 Tim 4:15-16). As they seek how they may
better teach others what they have learned,(8) they will better understand "the
unfathomable riches of Christ" (Eph 3:8) and the manifold wisdom of God.(9) If
they keep in mind that it is God who opens hearts,(10) and that power comes not
from themselves but from the might of God,(11) in the very fact of teaching
God's word they will be brought closer to Christ the Teacher and led by his
Spirit. Thus those who commune with Christ share in God's love, the mystery of
which, kept hidden from the beginning of time,(12) is revealed in Christ.
especially in the person of Christ as ministers of holy things, particularly in
the Sacrifice of the Mass, the sacrifice of Christ who gave himself for the
sanctification of men. Hence, they are asked to take example from that with
which they deal, and inasmuch as they celebrate the mystery of the Lord's death
they should keep their bodies free of wantonness and lusts.(13) In the mystery
of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, in which priests fulfill their greatest task, the
work of our redemption is being constantly carried on;(14) and hence the daily
celebration of Mass is strongly urged, since even if there cannot be present a
number of the faithful, it is still an act of Christ and of the Church.(15) Thus
when priests join in the act of Christ the Priest, they offer themselves
entirely to God, and when they are nourished with the body of Christ they
profoundly share in the love of him who gives himself as food to the faithful.
In like fashion they are united with the intention and love of Christ when they
administer the sacraments. This is true in a special way when in the performance
of their duty in the sacrament of Penance they show themselves altogether and
always ready whenever the sacrament is reasonably sought by the faithful. In the
recitation of the Divine Office, they offer the voice of the Church which
perseveres in prayer in the name of the whole human race, together with Christ
who "lives on still to make intercession on our behalf."
As they direct and
nourish the People of God, may they be aroused by the example of the Good
Shepherd that they may give their life for their sheep,(16) ready for the
supreme sacrifice following the example of priests who, even in our own day,
have not shrunk from giving their lives. As they are leaders in the faith and as
they "enter the sanctuary with confidence, through the blood of Christ" (Heb
10:19) they approach God "with sincere hearts in the full assurance of the
faith" (Heb 10:22) they set up a sure hope for their faithful,(17) that they may
comfort those who are depressed by the same consolation wherewith God consoles
them.(18) As leaders of the community they cultivate an asceticism becoming to a
shepherd of souls, renouncing their personal convenience, seeking not what is
useful to themselves but to many, for their salvation,(19) always making further
progress to do their pastoral work better and, where needful, prepared to enter
into new pastoral ways under the direction of the Spirit of Love, which breathes
where it will.(20)
14. In the world
of today, when people are so burdened with duties and their problems, which
oftentimes have to be solved with great haste, range through so many fields,
there is considerable danger of dissipating their energy. Priests, too, involved
and constrained by so many obligations of their office, certainly have reason to
wonder how they can coordinate and balance their interior life with feverish
outward activity. Neither the mere external performance of the works of the
ministry, nor the exclusive engagement in pious devotion, although very helpful,
can bring about this necessary coordination. Priests can arrive at this only by
following the example of Christ our Lord in their ministry. His food was to
follow the will of him who had sent him to accomplish his work.(21)
In order to
continue doing the will of his Father in the world, Christ works unceasingly
through the Church. He operates through his ministers, and hence he remains
always the source and wellspring of the unity of their lives. Priests, then, can
achieve this coordination and unity of life by joining themselves with Christ to
acknowledge the will of the Father. For them this means a complete gift of
themselves to the flock committed to them.(22) Hence, as they fulfill the role
of the Good Shepherd, in the very exercise of their pastoral charity they will
discover a bond of priestly perfection which draws their life and activity to
unity and coordination. This pastoral charity(23) flows out in a very special
way from the Eucharistic sacrifice. This stands as the root and center of the
whole life of a priest. What takes place on the altar of sacrifice, the priestly
heart must make his own. This cannot be done unless priests through prayer
continue to penetrate more deeply into the mystery of Christ.
In order to
measure and verify this coordination of life in a concrete way, let priests
examine all their works and projects to see what is the will of God(24)-namely,
to see how their endeavors compare with the goals of the Gospel mission of the
Church. Fidelity to Christ cannot be separated from faithfulness to his Church.
Pastoral charity requires that priests avoid operating in a vacuum(25) and that
they work in a strong bond of union with their bishops and brother priests. If
this be their program, priests will find the coordination and unity of their own
life in the oneness of the Church's mission. They will be joined with the Lord
and through him with the Father in the Holy Spirit. This will bring them great
satisfaction and a full measure of happiness.(26)
Special Spiritual Requirements in the Life of a Priest
15. Among the
virtues that priests must possess for their sacred ministry none is so important
as a frame of mind and soul whereby they are always ready to know and do the
will of him who sent them and not their own will.(27) The divine task that they
are called by the Holy Spirit to fulfill(28) surpasses all human wisdom and
human ability. "God chooses the weak things of the world to confound the strong"
(1 Cor 1:27). Aware of his own weakness, the true minister of Christ works in
humility trying to do what is pleasing to God.(29) Filled with the Holy
Spirit,(30) he is guided by him who desires the salvation of all men. He
understands this desire of God and follows it in the ordinary circumstances of
his everyday life. With humble disposition he waits upon all whom God has sent
him to serve in the work assigned to him and in the multiple experiences of his
priestly ministry, since it is the ministry of the Church itself, can only
function in the hierarchical union of the whole body. Pastoral charity,
therefore, urges priests, as they operate in the framework of this union, to
dedicate their own will by obedience to the service of God and their fellow men.
In a great spirit of faith, let them receive and execute whatever orders the
holy father, their own bishop, or other superiors give or recommend.
With a willing
heart let them spend and even exhaust themselves(31) in whatever task they are
given, even though it be menial and unrecognized. They must preserve and
strengthen a necessary oneness with their brothers in the ministry, especially
with those whom God has selected as visible rulers of his Church. For in this
way they are laboring to build the Body of Christ which grows "through every
gesture of service."(32) This obedience is designed to promote the mature
freedom of the children of God; by its very nature it postulates that in the
carrying out of their work, spurred on by charity, they develop new approaches
and methods for the greater good of the Church. With enthusiasm and courage, let
priests propose new projects and strive to satisfy the needs of their flocks. Of
course, they must be ready to submit to the decisions of those who rule the
Church of God.
By this humility
and by willing responsible obedience, priests conform themselves to Christ. They
make their own the sentiments of Jesus Christ who "emptied himself, taking on
the form of a servant," becoming obedient even to death (Phil 2:7-9). By this
obedience he conquered and made up for the disobedience of Adam, as the Apostle
testifies, "for as by the disobedience of one man, many were made sinners, so
also by the obedience of one, many shall be made just"(Rom 5:19).
16. (Celibacy is
to be embraced and esteemed as a gift). Perfect and perpetual continence for the
sake of the Kingdom of Heaven, commended by Christ the Lord(33) and through the
course of time as well as in our own days freely accepted and observed in a
praiseworthy manner by many of the faithful, is held by the Church to be of
great value in a special manner for the priestly life. It is at the same time a
sign and a stimulus for pastoral charity and a special source of spiritual
fecundity in the world.(34) Indeed, it is not demanded by the very nature of the
priesthood, as is apparent from the practice of the early Church(35) and from
the traditions of the Eastern Churches. where, besides those who with all the
bishops, by a gift of grace, choose to observe celibacy, there are also married
priests of highest merit. This holy synod, while it commends ecclesiastical
celibacy, in no way intends to alter that different discipline which
legitimately flourishes in the Eastern Churches. It permanently exhorts all
those who have received the priesthood and marriage to persevere in their holy
vocation so that they may fully and generously continue to expend themselves for
the sake of the flock commended to them.(36)
has a many-faceted suitability for the priesthood. For the whole priestly
mission is dedicated to the service of a new humanity which Christ, the victor
over death, has aroused through his Spirit in the world and which has its origin
"not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man but of God
(Jn 1:13). Through virginity, then, or celibacy observed for the Kingdom of
Heaven,(37) priests are consecrated to Christ by a new and exceptional reason.
They adhere to him more easily with an undivided heart,(38) they dedicate
themselves more freely in him and through him to the service of God and men, and
they more expeditiously minister to his Kingdom and the work of heavenly
regeneration, and thus they are apt to accept, in a broad sense, paternity in
Christ. In this way they profess themselves before men as willing to be
dedicated to the office committed to them-namely, to commit themselves
faithfully to one man and to show themselves as a chaste virgin for Christ(39)
and thus to evoke the mysterious marriage established by Christ, and fully to be
manifested in the future, in which the Church has Christ as her only Spouse.(40)
They give, moreover, a living sign of the world to come, by a faith and charity
already made present, in which the children of the resurrection neither marry
nor take wives.(41)
For these reasons,
based on the mystery of Christ and his mission, celibacy, which first was
recommended to priests, later in the Latin Church was imposed upon all who were
to be promoted to sacred orders. This legislation, pertaining to those who are
destined for the priesthood, this holy synod again approves and confirms, fully
trusting this gift of the Spirit so fitting for the priesthood of the New
Testament, freely given by the Father, provided that those who participate in
the priesthood of Christ through the sacrament of Orders-and also the whole
Church-humbly and fervently pray for it. This sacred synod also exhorts all
priests who, in following the example of Christ, freely receive sacred celibacy
as a grace of God, that they magnanimously and wholeheartedly adhere to it, and
that persevering faithfully in it, they may acknowledge this outstanding gift of
the Father which is so openly praised and extolled by the Lord.(42) Let them
keep before their eyes the great mysteries signified by it and fulfilled in it.
Insofar as perfect continence is thought by many men to be impossible in our
times, to that extent priests should all the more humbly and steadfastly pray
with the Church for that grace of fidelity, which is never denied those who seek
it, and use all the supernatural and natural aids available. They should
especially seek, lest they omit them, the ascetical norms which have been proved
by the experience of the Church and which are scarcely less necessary in the
contemporary world. This holy synod asks not only priests but all the faithful
that they might receive this precious gift of priestly celibacy in their hearts
and ask of God that he will always bestow this gift upon his Church.
to the world and temporal goods, and voluntary poverty.) In their friendly and
brotherly dealings with one another and with other men, priests are able to
learn and appreciate human values and esteem created goods as gifts of God. By
living in the world, let priests know how not to be of the world, according to
the word of our Lord and Master.(43) By using the world as those who do not use
it,(44) let them achieve that freedom whereby they are free from every
inordinate concern and become docile to the voice of God in their daily life.
From this freedom and docility grows spiritual discretion in which is found the
right relationship to the world and earthly goods. Such a right relationship is
of great importance to priests, because the mission of the Church is fulfilled
in the midst of the world and because created goods are altogether necessary for
the personal development of man. Let them be grateful, therefore, for all that
the heavenly Father has given them to lead a full life rightly, but let them see
all that comes to them in the light of faith, so that they might correctly use
goods in response to the will of God and reject those which are harmful to their
For priests who
have the Lord as their "portion and heritage," (Num 18:20) temporal goods should
be used only toward ends which are licit according to the doctrine of Christ and
the direction of the Church.
goods, properly so called, according to their nature and ecclesiastical law,
should be administered by priests with the help of capable laymen as far as
possible and should always be employed for those purposes in the pursuit of
which it is licit for the Church to possess temporal goods-namely, for the
carrying out of divine worship, for the procuring of honest sustenance for the
clergy, and for the exercise of the works of the holy apostolate or works of
charity, especially in behalf of the needy.(45) Those goods which priests and
bishops receive for the exercise of their ecclesiastical office should be used
for adequate support and the fulfillment of their office and status, excepting
those governed by particular laws.(46) That which is in excess they should be
willing to set aside for the good of the Church or for works of charity. Thus
they are not to seek ecclesiastical office or the benefits of it for the
increase of their own family wealth.(47) Therefore, in no way placing their
heart in treasures,(48) they should avoid all greediness and carefully abstain
from every appearance of business.
are invited to embrace voluntary poverty by which they are more manifestly
conformed to Christ and become eager in the sacred ministry. For Christ, though
he was rich, became poor on account of us, that by his need we might become rich.(49)
And by their example the apostles witnessed that a free gift of God is to be
freely given,(50) with the knowledge of how to sustain both abundance and need.(51)
A certain common use of goods, similar to the common possession of goods in the
history of the primitive Church,(52) furnishes an excellent means of pastoral
charity. By living this form of life, priests can laudably reduce to practice
that spirit of poverty commended by Christ.
Led by the Spirit
of the Lord, who anointed the Savior and sent him to evangelize the poor,(53)
priests, therefore, and also bishops, should avoid everything which in any way
could turn the poor away. Before the other followers of Christ, let priests set
aside every appearance of vanity in their possessions. Let them arrange their
homes so that they might not appear unapproachable to anyone, lest anyone, even
the most humble, fear to visit them.
Aids to the Life of Priests
18. (Aids to
encourage the spiritual life.) In order that, in all conditions of life, they
may be able to grow in union with Christ, priests, besides the exercise of their
conscious ministry, enjoy the common and particular means, old and new, which
the Spirit never ceases to arouse in the People of God and which the Church
commends, and sometimes commands,(54) for the sanctification of her members.
Outstanding among all these spiritual aids are those acts by which the faithful
are nourished in the Word of God at the double table of the Sacred Scripture and
the Eucharist.(55) The importance of frequent use of these for the
sanctification of priests is obvious to all. The ministers of sacramental grace
are intimately united to Christ our Savior and Pastor through the fruitful
reception of the sacraments, especially sacramental Penance, in which, prepared
by the daily examination of conscience, the necessary conversion of heart and
love for the Father of Mercy is greatly deepened. Nourished by spiritual reading,
under the light of faith, they can more diligently seek signs of God's will and
impulses of his grace in the various events of life, and so from day to day
become more docile to the mission they have assumed in the Holy Spirit. They
will always find a wonderful example of such docility in the Blessed Virgin
Mary, who was led by the Holy Spirit to dedicate herself totally to the mystery
of man's redemption.(56) Let priests love and venerate with filial devotion and
veneration this mother of the Eternal Highpriest, Queen of Apostles and
Protector of their own ministry.
In the fulfillment
of their ministry with fidelity to the daily colloquy with Christ, a visit to
and veneration of the Most Holy Eucharist, spiritual retreats and spiritual
direction are of great worth. In many ways, but especially through mental prayer
and the vocal prayers which they freely choose, priests seek and fervently pray
that God will grant them the spirit of true adoration whereby they themselves,
along with the people committed to them, may intimately unite themselves with
Christ the Mediator of the New Testament, and so as adopted children of God may
be able to call out "Abba, Father" (Rom 8:15).
19. (Study and
pastoral knowledge.) Priests are admonished by their bishop in the sacred rite
of ordination that they "be mature in knowledge" and that their doctrine be
"spiritual medicine for the People of God."(57) The knowledge of the sacred
minister ought to be sacred because it is drawn from the sacred source and
directed to a sacred goal. Especially is it drawn from reading and meditating on
the Sacred Scriptures,(58) and it is equally nourished by the study of the Holy
Fathers and other Doctors and monuments or tradition. In order, moreover, that
they may give apt answers to questions posed by men of this age, it is necessary
for priests to know well the doctrines of the magisterium and the councils and
documents of the Roman pontiffs and to consult the best of prudent writers of
culture and also sacred science has progressed in our times, priests are urged
to suitably and without interruption perfect their knowledge of divine things
and human affairs and so prepare themselves to enter more opportunely into
conversation with their contemporaries.
priests more readily study and effectively learn the methods of evangelization
and the apostolate. Let opportune aids be prepared with all care, such as the
institution of courses and meetings according to territorial conditions, the
erection of centers of pastoral studies, the establishment of libraries, and the
qualified supervision of studies by suitable persons. Moreover, let bishops,
either individually or united in groups, see to it that all their priests at
established intervals, especially a few years after their ordination,(59) may be
able to frequent courses in which they will be given the opportunity to acquire
a fuller knowledge of pastoral methods and theological science, both in order
that they may strengthen their spiritual life and mutually communicate their
apostolic experiences with their brothers.(60) New pastors and those who have
newly begun pastoral work, as well as those who are sent to other dioceses or
nations, should be helped by these and other suitable means with special care.
bishops will be solicitous that there will be some who dedicate themselves to a
deeper study of theology, that there will not be lacking suitable teachers for
the formation of clerics, that the rest of the priests and the faithful will be
helped to acquire the doctrine they need, and that healthy progress will be
encouraged in the sacred disciplines, so necessary for the Church.
equitable remuneration for priests.) As those dedicated to the service of God
and the fulfillment of the office entrusted to them, priests deserve to receive
an equitable remuneration, because "the laborer is worthy of his hire," (Lk
10:7)(61) and "the Lord directed that those who preach the Gospel should have
their living from the Gospel" (1 Cor 9:14). Wherefore, insofar as an equitable
remuneration of the priests would not be provided otherwise, the faithful
themselves-that is, those in whose behalf the priest labors-are truly obliged to
see to it that they can provide what help is necessary for the honorable and
worthy life of the priests. The bishops, however, should admonish the faithful
concerning this obligation of theirs. And they should see to if whether each
individual for his own diocese or, more aptly, several together for their common
territory-that norms are established according to which suitable support is
rightly provided for those who do fulfill or have fulfilled a special office in
the service of the People of God. The remuneration received by each one, in
accord with his office and the conditions of time and place, should be
fundamentally the same for all in the same circumstances and befitting his
station. Moreover, those who have dedicated themselves to the service of the
priesthood, by reason of the remuneration they receive, should not only be able
to honorably provide for themselves but also themselves be provided with some
means of helping the needy. For the ministry to the poor has always been held in
great honor in the Church from its beginnings. Furthermore, this remuneration
should be such that it will permit priests each year to take a suitable and
sufficient vacation, something which indeed the bishops should see that their
priests are able to have.
ought to be given to the office fulfilled by sacred ministers. Therefore the
so-called system of benefices should be relinquished or at least so reformed
that the place of the benefits, or the right to revenue from the endowment
attached to an office, would be held as secondary, and the first place in law
would be given to the ecclesiastical office itself. From this it should be
understood that whatever office is conferred in a stable manner is to be
exercised for a spiritual purpose.
21. (On setting up
common funds and establishing a system of social assistance for priests.) We
should always keep before our eyes the example of the faithful of the early
Church in Jerusalem, who "held all things in common" (Acts 4;32) "and
distribution was made to each according to each one's need" (Acts 4:35). So it
is supremely fitting, at least in regions where the support of the clergy
completely or largely depends on the offerings of the faithful, that their
offerings for this purpose be collected by a particular diocesan institution,
which the bishop administers with the help of priests and, when useful, of
laymen who are expert in financial matters. Further it is hoped that insofar as
is possible in individual dioceses or regions there be established a common fund
enabling bishops to satisfy obligations to other deserving persons and meet the
needs of various dioceses. This would also enable wealthier dioceses to help the
poorer, that the need of the latter might be supplemented by the abundance of
the former.(62) These common funds, even though they should be principally made
up of the offerings of the faithful, also should be provided for by other duly
nations where social security for the clergy is not yet aptly established, let
the episcopal conferences see to it that-in accord with ecclesiastical and civil
laws-there may be either diocesan institutes, whether federated with one another
or established for various dioceses together, or territorial associations, which
under the vigilance of the hierarchy would make sufficient and suitable
provision for a program of preventive medicine, and the necessary support of
priests who suffer from sickness, invalid conditions or old age. Let priests
share in this established institute, prompted by a spirit of solidarity with
their brothers to take part in their tribulations(63) while at the same time
being freed from an anxious concern for their own future so that they can
cultivate evangelical poverty more readily and give themselves fully to the
salvation of souls. Let those in charge of this act to bring together the
institutes of various nations in order that their strength he more firmly
achieved and more broadly based.
CONCLUSION AND EXHORTATION
22. Having before
our eyes the joys of the priestly life, this holy synod cannot at the same time
overlook the difficulties which priests experience in the circumstances of
contemporary life. For we know how much economic and social conditions are
transformed, and even more how much the customs of men are changed, how much the
scale of values is changed in the estimation of men. As a result, the ministers
of the Church and sometimes the faithful themselves feel like strangers in this
world, anxiously looking for the ways and words with which to communicate with
it. For there are new obstacles which have arisen to the faith: the seeming
unproductivity of work done, and also the bitter loneliness which men experience
can lead them to the danger of becoming spiritually depressed.
The world which
today is entrusted to the loving ministry of the pastors of the Church is that
which God so loved that he would give his only Son for it.(1) Truly this world,
indeed weighed down with many sins but also endowed with many talents, provides
the Church with the living stones(2) which are built up into the dwelling place
of God in the Spirit.(3) This same Holy Spirit, while impelling the Church to
open new ways to go to the world of today, suggests and favors the growth of
fitting adaptations in the ministry of priests.
remember that in performing their office they are never alone, but strengthened
by the power of Almighty God, and believing in Christ who called them to share
in his Priesthood, they should devote themselves to their ministry with complete
trust, knowing that God can cause charity to grow in them.(4) Let them be
mindful of their brothers in the priesthood as well, and also of the faithful of
the entire world who are associated with them. For all priests cooperate in
carrying out the saving plan of God,(5) that is, the Mystery of Christ, the
sacrament hidden from the ages in God, which is only brought to fulfillment
little by little through the collaboration of many ministries in building up the
Body of Christ until it grows to the fullness of time. All this, hidden with
Christ in God,(6) can be uniquely perceived by faith. For the leaders of the
People of God must walk by faith, following the example of faithful Abraham, who
in faith "obeyed by going out into a place which he was to receive for an
inheritance; and he went out not knowing where he was going" (Heb 11:8). Indeed,
the dispenser of the mysteries of God can see himself in the man who sowed his
field, of whom the Lord said: "then sleep and rise, night and day, and the seed
should sprout without his knowing" (Mk 4:27). As for the rest, the Lord Jesus,
who said: "Take courage, I have overcome the world," (Jn 16:33) did not by these
words promise his Church a perfect victory in this world. Certainly this holy
synod rejoices that the earth has been sown with the seed of the Gospel which
now bears fruit in many places, under the direction of the Holy Spirit who fills
the whole earth and who has stirred up a missionary spirit in the hearts of many
priests and faithful. Concerning all this, this holy synod gives fervent thanks
to the priests of the entire world. "Now to him who is able to accomplish all
things in a measure far beyond what we ask or conceive in keeping with the power
that is at work in us-to him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus" (Eph
1. Second Vatican
Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy,
Dec. 4, 1963; AAS 56 (1964) pp 7ff; Dogmatic Constitution
Lumen Gentium Nov.
21, 1964: AAS 57 (1965) p 5ff;
Decree Christus Dominus
on Pastoral Duties of Bishops, Oct. 28, 1965; Decree on Priestly Training, Oct.
1. Cf. Mt 3:16;
Lk 4:18; Acts 4:27, 10:38.
2. Cf. 1 Pt
3. Cf. 1 Pt
4.Cf. Rev 19:10;
Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution
Lumen Gentium, Nov.
21, 1964, n 35: AAS 57 (1965) p 40-41.
5. Council of Trent,
23rd session, chapter 1, canon 1: Denzinger 957 and 961 (1764 and 1771).
6. Cf. Jn 20:21;
Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution
Lumen Gentium, Nov.
21, 1964, n 22: AAS 57 (1965) pp 21-28.
7. Cf. Second
Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution
Lumen Gentium, Nov.
21, 1964, n 22: AAS 57 (1965) pp 33-36.
8. Cf. ibid
9. Cf. Roman
Pontifical Ordination of a Priest, preface. These words are already found in
the Verona Sacramentary (ed. L.C. Moehlberg, Rome 1956, p 122); also in Frankish
Missal (ed. L.C. Moehlberg, Rome 1957, p 9) and in the Book of Sacramentaries of
the Roman Church (ed. L.C. Moehlberg, Rome 1960, p 25) and Roman German
Pontificals (ed. Vogel-Elze, Vatican City 1963, vol. I, p 34).
10. Cf. Second
Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution
Lumen Gentium, Nov.
21, 1964, n 10: AAS 57 (1965) pp 14-15.
11. Cf. Rom
12. Cf. 1 Cor
13 St. Augustine, De
Civitate Dei 10, 6: PL 41, 284.
14. Cf. 1 Cor
15. Cf. Heb 5:1.
16. Cf. Heb
17. Cf. 1 Cor
18. Cf. Acts
19. Paul VI,
Aug.6, 1964: AAS 56 (1964), pp 627 and 638.
20. Cf. Rom
21. Cf. Jn
22. Cf. St. Polycarp,
Epist. ad Philippenses, 6, 1 (ed. F.X. Funk, Apostolic Fathers, I, p
1. Cf. 1 Pt
1:23; Acts 6:7; 12:24. "(The apostles) preached the word of truth and founded
Churches." (St. Augustine, On Psalms, 44, 23; PL 36, 508).
2. Cf. Mal 2:7;
1 Tim 4:11-13; 1 Tim 1:9.
3. Cf. Mk 16:16.
4. Cf. 2 Cor
11:7. All that has been said regarding bishops also applies to priests inasmuch
as they are cooperators of the bishops. Cf. Statuta Ecclesiae Antiqua, c. 3 (ed.
Ch. Munier, Paris 1960, p 79); Decree of Gracian, c. 6, D.88 (ed.
Friedberg, 1, 307); Council of Trent, Decree De Reform., Session 5, c. 2,
n 9 (Ecumenical Council Decrees, ed. Herder, Rome 1963, p 645); Session 24, c. 4
(p 739); Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution
Lumen Gentium, Nov.
21, 1964, n 25: AAS 57 (1965), pp 29-31.
5. Cf. Constitutiones
Apostolorum II, 26, 7: "(Priests) are teachers of sacred science as the Lord
himself commanded when he said: 'Going, therefore, teach, etc.'" (ed. F.X. Funk,
Didascalia et Constitutiones Apostolorum, I, Paderborn 1905, p 105); Leonine
Sacramentary and other sacramentaries up to the Roman Pontifical, preface of the
ordination of priests: "By this providence, Lord, you have added to the apostles
of your Son fellow teachers of the faith through whom the apostles have filled
the whole world with their teaching." Ordo Book of the Mozarabic Liturgy,
preface to the ordination of priests: "Teacher of peoples and ruler of subjects,
he keeps intact the Catholic faith and announces true salvation to all." (ed. M.
Ferotin, Paris, 1904, col. 55).
6. Cf. Gal 2:5.
7. Cf. 1 Pt
8. Cf. Rite of priestly
ordination in the Alexandrian Jocobite Church: "...Gather your people to the
word of doctrine like a foster-mother who nourishes her children" (H. Denzinger,
Oriental Rites, Book II, Wurzburg 1863, p 14).
9. Cf. Mt 28:19;
Mk 16:16; Tertullian, On Baptism, 14, 2 (The Body of Christians, Latin
Series, I p 289, 11-13); St. Athanasius, Against the Arians, 2, 42 (PG 26, 237);
St. Jerome, On Matthew, 28, 19 (PL 26, 218 BC): "First let them teach all
nations, and then pour water on those who have learned. It cannot be that the
body receive the sacrament of baptism unless the soul first has received the
truth of faith;" St. Thomas, "Exposition of the first decretal," n 1: "Sending
his disciples to preach, our Savior enjoined on them three things: first, that
they teach the faith; second, that they confer the sacraments on believers....
(ed. Marietti, Opuscula Theologica, Taurini-Rome 1954, 1138).
10. Cf. Second
Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy,
Dec. 4, 1963, n 35, 2: AAS 56 (1964), p 109.
11. Cf. ibid, nn 33,
35, 48, 52 (pp 108-109, 113, 114).
12. Cf. ibid, n 7 (pp
100-101); Pius XII, encyclical letter, Mystici Corporis, June 29, 1943:
AAS 35 (1943), p 230.
13. St. Ignatius
Martyr, Smyrn., 8, 1-2 (ed. F.X. Funk, p 282, 6-15); Constitutions of the
Apostles, VIII, 12, 3 (ed. F.X. Funk, p 496); VIII,29, 2 (p 532).
14. Cf. Second
Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution
Lumen Gentium, Nov.
21, 1964, n 28: AAS 57 (1965), pp 33-36.
15. "The Eucharist
indeed is a quasi consummation of the spiritual life, and the goal of all the
sacraments" (St. Thomas, Summa Theol. III, q.73, a.3 c); cf. Summa Theol.
III, q. 65, a. 3.
16. Cf. St. Thomas,
Summa Theol. III, q. 65, a. 3, ad 1; q. 79, a.1, c. and ad 1.
17. Cf. Eph
18. Cf. St.
Jerome, Epistles, 114, 2 (PL 22, 934), See Second Vatican Council,
Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy,
Dec. 4, 1963, nn 122-127: AAS 56 (1964), pp 130-132.
19. Paul VI, encyclical
letter Mysterium Fidei, Sept. 3, 1965: AAS 57 (1965), p 771.
20. Cf. Second
Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution
Lumen Gentium, Nov.
21, 1964, n 28: AAS 57 (1965), pp 33-36.
21. Cf. 2 Cor
22. Cf. Gal
23. Cf. 1 Cor
24. Cf. Didascalia,
II, 34, 3; II, 46, 6; II,47, 1; Constitutions of the Apostles, II, 47, 1
(ed. F.X. Funk, Didascalia and Constitutions, I, pp 116, 142 and 143).
25. Cf. Gal 4:3;
5:1 and 13.
26. Cf. St. Jerome,
Epistles, 58, 7 (PL 22, 584).
27. Cf. 1 Pt
28. Cf. Mt
29. Cf. Lk 4:18.
30. Other categories
could be named, e.g. migrants, nomads, etc. The Decree on the Pastoral Duties
of Bishops, Oct. 28, 1965, treats of these.
31. Cf. Didascalia,
II, 59, 1-3 (ed. F.X. Funk, I, p 170); Paul VI, allocution to Italian clergy
present at the 13th week-long congress at Orvieto on pastoral aggiornamento,
Sept. 6, 1963: AAS 55 (1963) pp 750ff.
32. Cf. Second
Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution
Lumen Gentium, Nov.
21, 1964, n 28: AAS 57 (1965), p 35.
33. Cf. cited
Ecclesiastical Constitution of the Apostles, XVIII: (ed. Th. Schermann, Die
allgemeine Kirchenordnung, I, Paderborn 1914, p 26; A. Harnack, T. u. U., II, 4,
p 13, nn 18 and 19); Pseudo-Jerome, The Seven Orders of the Church (ed. A.W.
Kalff, Wurzburg 1937, p 45); St. Isidore of Hispali, Ecclesiastical Offices, c.
VII (PL 83, 787).
34. Cf. Didascalia,
II, 28, 4 (ed. F.X. Funk, p 108); Constitutions of the Apostles, II, 28,
4;II, 34, 3 (ibid., pp 109 and 117).
35. Constitutions of
the Apostles, VIII, 16, 4 (ed. F.X. Funk, 1, p 522, 13); cf. Epitome of
the Constitutions of the Apostles, VI (ibid., II, p 80, 3-4); Testamentum
Domini, (transl. I.E. Rahmani, Moguntiae 1899, p 69). Also in Trad. Apost. (ed.
B. Botte, La Tradition Apostolique, Munster, i. W. 1963, p 20).
36. Cf. Nm
37. Roman Pontifical
on the ordination of a priest, preface: these words are also found in the
Leonine Sacramentary, the Gelasian Sacramentary and the Gregorian Sacramentary.
Similar words can be found in the Oriental Liturgies: cf. Trad Apost.: (ancient
Latin version of Verona, ed. B. Botte, La Tradition Apostolique de St.
Hippolyte. Essai de reconstruction, Munster i. W. 1963, p 20); Constitutions
of the Apostles, VIII, 16, 4 (ed. F.X. Funk, I, p 522, 16- 17); Epitome
on the Constitutions of the Apostles, 6 (ed. F.X. Funk, II, p 20, 5-7);
Testamentum Domini (transl. I.E. Rahmani, Moguntiae 1899, p 69); Euchologium
Serapionis, XXVII (ed. F.X. Funk, Didascalia and Constitutions, II, p 190, lines
1-7); Maronite Rite of Ordination (transl. H. Denzinger, Rites of the
Orientals, II, Wurzburg 1863, p. 161). Among the Fathers can be cited: Theodore
of Mopsuestia, On First Timothy, 3, 8 (ed. Swete, II, pp 119-121); Theodoretus,
Questions on Numbers, XVIII (PG 80, 372 b).
38. Cf. Second
Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution
Lumen Gentium, Nov.
21, 1964, n 28: AAS 57 (1965), p 35.
39. Cf. John
XXIII, encyclical letter
Sacerdotii Nostri Primordia,
Aug. 1, 1959: AAS 51 (1959), p 576; St. Pius X, Exhortation to the Clergy
Haerent Animo, Aug. 4, 1908: Acts of St. Pius X, vol. IV (1908), pp 237 ff.
40. Cf. Second
Decree on the Pastoral Duties of Bishops,
Oct. 28, 1956 nn 15 and 16.
41. The Cathedral
Chapter is already found in established law, as the "senate and assembly" of the
of Canon Law, c.391), or if there is not
one, an assembly of diocesan consultors (cf.
Code of Canon Law, cc. 423-428). It is our
desire to give recognition to such institutions so that modern circumstances and
necessities might better be provided for. As is evident, this synod of priests
forms the pastoral consilium spoken of in the
Decree on the Pastoral Duties of Bishops
of Oct. 28, 1965 (n.27), of which the laity can also be members, and whose
function is mainly to map out a plan of action for pastoral work. Concerning
priests as counselors of the bishops, one might refer to the Didascalia,
II, 28, 4 (ed. F.X. Funk,II, p 108); also Constitutions of the Apostles, II 28,4
(ed. F.X. Funk, I, p 109); St. Ignatius Martyr, Magn. 6, 1 (ed. F.X. Funk, p
234, 10-16); Trall. 3, 1 (ed. F.X. Funk, p 244, 10-12); Origen, Against Celsus,
3, 30: "Priests are counselors or 'bouleytai'" (PG 11, 957 d-960 a).
42. St. Ignatius
Martyr, Magn. 6, 1: (ed. F.X. Funk, p 234, 10-13); St. Ignatius Martyr, Trall.,
3, 1: (ibid., p 244, 10-12); St. Jerome, On Isaiah, II, 3 (PL 24, 61 A).
43. Cf. Paul VI,
allocution to the family heads of Rome and Lenten speakers, March 1, 1965,
in the Sistine Hall: AAS 57 (1965), p 326.
Constitutions of the Apostles, VIII 47, 39: (ed. F.X. Funk, p 577).
45. Cf. 3 Jn 8.
46. Cf. Jn.
47. Cf. Heb
48. Cf. Heb
49. Cf. Mt 5:10.
50. Cf. 1 Thes
2:12; Col 1:13.
51. Cf. Mt
23:8. Also Paul VI, encyclical letter
Ecclesiam Suam, Aug.
6, 1964: AAS 58 (1964) p 647.
52. Cf. Eph 4:7 and 16;
Constitutions of the Apostles, VIII, 1, 20: (ed. F.X. Funk, I, p 467).
53. Cf. Phil
54. Cf. 1 Jn
55. Cf. Second
Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution
Lumen Gentium, Nov.
21, 1964, n 37: AAS 57 (1965), pp 42-43.
56. Cf. Eph 4:14.
Decree on Ecumenism, Nov.
21, 1964: AAS 57 (1965), pp 90ff.
58. Cf. Second
Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution
Lumen Gentium, Nov
21, 1964, n 37: AAS 57 (1965), pp 42-43.
59. Cf. Heb 7:3.
60. Cf. Lk 10:1.
61. Cf. 1 Pt
62. Cf. Acts
63. Cf. Mt 9:36.
64. Roman Pontifical,
on the ordination of a priest.
65. Cf. Second
Decree on Priestly Training,
Oct. 28, 1965, n 2.
66. Paul VI, allocution
of May 5, 1965: L'Osservatore Romano, 5-6-65, p 1.
67. Cf. Second
Decree on Priestly Training,
Oct. 28, 1965, n 2.
68. The Fathers teach
this in their explanations of Christ's words to Peter: "Do you love me? ...Feed
my sheep." (Jn 21:17); This St. John Chrysostom, On the Priesthood,
II, 1-2 (PG 47-48, 633); St.Gregory the Great, Reg. Past. Liber, P I c. 5 (PL
77, 19 a).
1. Cf. 2 Cor
2. Cf. Pius XI,
Ad Catholici Sacerdotii,
Dec. 20, 1935: AAS 28 (1936) n 10.
3. Cf. Jn 10:36.
4. Lk 24:26.
5. Cf. Eph 4:13.
6. Cf. 2 Cor
7. Cf. among
others: St. Pius X, exhortation to the clergy Haerent Animo, Aug. 4,
1908: St. Pius X, AAS 4 (1908), pp 237ff. Pius XI, encyclical letter
Ad Catholici Sacerdotii,
Dec. 20, 1935; AAS 28 (1936). Pius XII apostolic exhortation Menti nostrae,
Sept. 23, 1950: AAS (1950) 657ff. John XXIII, encyclical letter
Sacerdoti Nostri Primordia,
Aug. 1, 1959: AAS 51 (1959) 545ff.
8. Cf. St. Thomas,
Summa Theol. II-II, q. 188, a. 7.
9. Cf. Heb
10. Acts 16:14.
11. Cf. 2 Cor
12. Cf. Eph 3:9.
13. Cf. Roman
Pontifical on the ordination of priests.
14. Cf. Roman Missal,
Prayer over the Offerings of the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost.
15. Paul VI, encyclical
letter Mysterium Fidei, Sept. 3, 1965: AAS 57 (1965), pp 761-762. Cf. Second
Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Dec. 4, 1963, nn 26 and 27;
AAS 56 (1964), p 107.
16. Cf. Jn 10:11.
17. Cf. 2 Cor 1:7.
18. Cf. 2 Cor 1:4.
19. Cf. 1 Cor 10:33.
20. Cf. Jn 3:8.
21. Cf. Jn 4:34.
22. Cf. 1 Jn 3:16.
23. "May it be a duty
of love to feed the Lord's flock" (St. Augustine, Tract on John, 123, 5: PL 35,
24. Cf. Rom 12:2.
25. Cf. Gal 2:2.
26. Cf. 2 Cor 7:4.
27. Cf. Jn 4:34; 5:30;
28. Cf. Acts 13:2.
29. Cf. Eph 5:10.
30. Cf. Acts 20:22.
31. Cf. 2 Cor 12:15.
32. Cf. Eph 4:11-16.
33. Cf. Mt 19:22.
34. Cf. Second Vatican
Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, Nov. 21, 1964 n 42: AAS 57 (1965)
35. Cf. 1 Tim 3:2-5: Tt
36. Cf. Pius XI,
encyclical letter Ad Catholici Sacerdotii Dec. 30, 1935: AAS 28 (1936) p 28.
37. Cf. Mt 19:12.
38. Cf. 1 Cor 7:32-34.
39. Cf. 2 Cor 11:2.
40. Cf. Second Vatican
Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, Nov. 21, 1964, n 42 and 44: AAS 57
(1965), pp 47-49 and 50-51; Decree on the Renewal of Religious Life, Oct. 18,
1965, n 12.
41. Cf. Lk 20:35-36;
Pius XI, encyclical letter Ad Catholici Sacerdotii Dec.20, 1935, AAS 28 (1936)
pp 24-28; Pius XII, encyclical letter Sacra Virginitas, March 25, 1954, AAS 46
(1954) nn 169-172.
42. Cf. Mt 19:11.
43. Cf. Jn 17:14-16.
44. Cf. 1 Cor 7:31.
45. Council of Antioch,
canon 25: Mansi 2, 1328; Decree of Gratian, c. 23, C. 12 q. 1. (ed. Friedberg,
1, pp 684-685).
46. This is to be
understood especially with regard to the laws and customs prevailing in the
47. Council of Paris a,
829, can 15: M.G.H. Sect. III, Concilia, t. 2, para 6 622; Council of Trent,
Session XXV, De Reform., chapter 1.
48. Ps 62:11 (Vulgate
49. Cf. 2 Cor 8:9.
50. Cf. Acts 8:18-25.
51. Cf. Phil 4:12.
52. Cf. Acts 2:42-47.
53. Cf. Lk 4:18.
54. Cf. Code of Canon
Law, 125 ff.
55. Cf. Second Vatican
Council Decree on the Renewal of Religious Life, Oct. 28, 1965, n 6; Dogmatic
Constitution on Divine Revelation, Nov. 18, 1965, n 21.
56. Cf. Second Vatican
Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, Nov. 21, 1964, n 65: AAS 57 (1965)
57. Roman Pontifical On
the Ordination of Priests.
58. Cf. Second Vatican
Council, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Nov. 18, n 25.
59. This course is not
the same as the pastoral course which is to be undertaken immediately after
ordination, spoken of in the Decree on Priestly Training, Oct.28, 1965, n 22.
60. Second Vatican
Council, Decree on the Pastoral Duties of Bishops. Oct.28, 1965, n 16.
61. Cf. Mt 10:10; 1 Cor
9:7; 1 Tim 5:18.
62. Cf. 2 Cor 8:14.
63. Cf. Phil 4:14.
1. Cf. Jn 3:16.
2. Cf. 1 Pt 2:5.
3. Cf. Eph 2:22.
4. Cf. Roman Pontifical,
on the ordination of priests.
5. Cf. Eph 3:9.
6. Cf. Col 3:3.