Cardinal Hummes' Letter to Priests: "What a Mission! What an 'Amoris Officium!'"

VATICAN CITY, JANUARY. 26, 2007.- Here is the letter to priests sent Wednesday by Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, the new prefect of the Congregation for Clergy. The letter is available on the dicastery's Web page:

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Greetings from His Eminence
Claudio Cardinal Hummes

My dear brother Priests,

I have felt a desire to address a cordial greeting to you, even if only through our Internet site.

I have been in Rome for a brief time, called by our beloved Pope Benedict XVI to cooperate with him in the service of love toward the priests, deacons and catechists of the Church.

In the first instance, you know that I must offer a deferential note of gratitude to Cardinal Dario Castrillón Hoyos, my immediate predecessor. It is thanks to his vision that I can now entrust my words to the mysterious paths of the Internet.

He has been a true friend of priests. He has carried you in his heart as a pastor; he has prayed for you; he has loved you.

Dear friends, it now falls on me to carry you in my heart, to pray for you, and to love you.

I cannot hide that I still feel like of a "novice." I have also had a bit of nostalgia on leaving São Paulo in Brazil. But, like Abraham, I trust in my Lord and God. I am here to be a bishop for you and a priest with you.

To serve priests! What a mission! What an "amoris officium!"

We are bearers of a specific identity that constantly characterizes us in our existence and in our activity. We are consecrated and incorporated into the activity of Christ. The gestures and the words of Jesus become re-actualized in time and in history to elicit in those who fulfill them "the same sentiments of Christ" and the same effects of salvation.

The Church, in conferring the sacrament of orders, ontologically constitutes the priest as an "alter Christus," or as some say, an "ipse Christus"; and it establishes him as a minister of the word and as a minister of the prophetic action and pastoral love of Christ. His function, therefore, is not to exhaust himself exclusively in the dimension of worship, but to fulfill himself in the prophetic dimension by proclaiming the word and in the pastoral dimension by being a guide for the community.

Among the beautiful expressions of the Second Vatican Council is the following statement, which synthesizes the functions of the priest while delineating his identity: "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" ("Presbyterorum Ordinis," 2).

Dear brothers, we are proud and joyful of our priestly identity. We are proud to be priests.

It is true, ours is not an easy mission. But united to Christ the eternal High Priest, and with Mary, Mother of the first Priest and of all priests, we will always be mindful of giving testimony to the hope that is within us to our numerous brothers and sisters who, even today, long for the way, the truth and the life.

From the Vatican, Jan. 24, 2007
Memorial of St. Francis de Sales

Claudius Cardinal Hummes
Prefect of the Congregation for Clergy