VATICAN CITY (CNS): Pope Benedict XVI called for prayer and encouragement to nourish new vocations within the Church, and reminded priests that it is their job to vigorously defend their flocks from evil.
Pope Benedict (pictured) marked the World Day of Prayer for Vocations by telling the faithful in St Peter’s Square on April 25 that vocations are born primarily through prayer, and that they can be nourished by the prayers of parents and ordained clergy.
Before reciting the Regina Coeli, Pope Benedict said “the most important form of witness in inspiring vocations is prayer”, and he invited parents “to pray so that the hearts of your children open to listen to the Good Shepherd”.
The Pope emphasised the role of the priest in protecting the people they were chosen to lead and steering them to God.
Quoting the Gospel of St John, the Pope said, “Only the Good Shepherd, with immense tenderness, guards his flock and defends it from evil, and only in him can the faithful put their absolute faith.”
Pope Benedict reminded priests and bishops of their responsibility to “adhere totally to their vocation and mission through a severe self-discipline” of abstinence and meditation.
They should be ready to listen and forgive the faithful in their care, and should also cultivate priestly fraternity, he said.
The Pope reiterated the priest’s role of protector by quoting St Gregory of Nazianzus, a fourth-century doctor of the Church, who wrote, “Teach us your love for the sheep … your understanding and your watchfulness … the battles in defence of the flock.”
The Pope’s call to priests and bishops about their roles and duties came as the Church was working to address a widening scandal regarding the abuse of minors by priests and other Church personnel. Pope Benedict has pledged to do everything possible to remedy the problem.
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