Vatican document on 'the Priest, Leader and Pastor'

 On Friday afternoon in the Holy See Press Office, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos and Archbishop Csaba Ternyak, the prefect and secretary of the Congregation for Clergy, presented the Instruction 'The Priest, Pastor and Leader of the Parish Community.' The Introduction of the document, includes the Holy Father's speech to participants in the plenary assembly of the congregation on November 23, 2001. The first part tackles the topic of common and ordained priesthood and the central elements of the ministry and life of priests. The second part talks about the parish and the office of parish priest, and the current challenges in parish pastoral care. It concludes with a prayer of the parish priest to Our Lady. Cardinal Castrillon said this Instruction follows a series of documents such as the "Directory on the ministry and life of Priests" (1994), the Interdicasterial Instruction "Ecclesiae de mysterio" (1997) and the Circular Letter "The Priest and the Third Christian Millennium, Teacher of the Word, Minister of the Sacraments and Leader of the Community," published on the occasion of the Great Jubilee. "The main objective of this Instruction," he said, "is to define for the community and the clergy the role of pastor and sacramental leader, who from the parish encourages and leads (the people) to Christ, the Way to the Father." The prefect emphasized that this document will help parish priests "to live out better their pastoral duties and to collaborate effectively for the good of the community so that the same community discovers once again the irreplaceable importance of the parish priest." Referring to the first part of the text, which is doctrinal in nature, Cardinal Castrillon said the parish priest is "a man of communion, with the local Church and with the universal Church. Therefore, he must be a model of adherence to the Magisterium of the Church and he must truly feel like a father to the community and to each one of its members. He is an authentic leader of souls." Regarding priestly identity, he said that "it must be searched for in pastoral grace which derives from having received the Sacrament of Orders. ... One must be able to recognize it by his way of being, of doing things and expressing himself, by his lifestyle and his way of introducing himself externally as well." "A priest does not simply 'work' as a priest," he said. "He 'is' a priest! ... A parish priest is a priest whom everyone encounters naturally in their life. He is one who lives immersed among the people, in neighbourhoods, among the everyday problems of all kinds of people," in all environments. The Cardinal concluded by affirming that the Instruction "could help so that the ministry of the pastor as leader of the community and his specific function of pastoral governing do not disappear or become unnatural in the midst of other structures that would like to, or in fact do, take their place, even if they may be valid and respectable structures." For his part, Archbishop Ternyak emphasized that all priests must study the reference texts and authorized guides in depth for their life and their ministry. He also said that they should include them in programs of permanent formation. The purpose of the document, he added, is "to define the role of 'sacramental leader' of the parish priest. It does not intend to undervalue in any way the active role of the lay faithful in the parish community." "This document," he said, "is also a tribute to the many parish priests in the whole world who carry out their ministry faithfully and silently, despite difficulties, misunderstandings and humiliation." Source: Vatican Information Service

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