Letter to Priests
Printable version here: ACBC_Letter2Priests.pdf (394.32 Kb)
Dear Brothers in Christ,
The bishops of Australia write to you in a spirit of deep gratitude. In this special “Year for Priests”, called by Pope Benedict, we thank you for your devoted ministry in answer to God’s call and in response to the needs of his people.
When God promised to give his people true shepherds (Jer 3:15), he identified a priestly character modelled “after his own heart” and distinguished notably by faithfulness and courage. We write now to say what we perhaps too seldom take the time to express: namely, our heartfelt and humble appreciation of your faithfulness and courage. This is evident in the myriad of responses you make daily to the demands of priestly life, as you preach the Word and celebrate the sacraments, and minister to God’s people.
More than 3,000 of you care for and exercise leadership in our nation’s parishes and institutions with outstanding dedication and wisdom. Our people are greatly blessed by this as their warm response to the Year for Priests has shown. We have our hesitations and fears: they are for us an invitation to deepen our spirituality, accepting with hopeful hearts the difficulties of our times in the spirit of the resurrection, rather than emptying the cross of Christ (1 Cor. 1:17).
Perhaps more than ever before, we are being challenged to heighten and strengthen the measure of our holiness and hope, as well as the intensity of our prayer and spiritual reflection. Further, that same challenge calls us to be reliant not only on God primarily - as we must - but on one another in the presbyterate, shaping together in trust and openness a common mission, and sharing each other’s warm and selfless friendship.
We honour the retired priests amongst us for their years of faithfulness and service. At the same time, we welcome in a special way the many priests who have graced our shores from other lands, who in a missionary spirit broaden our vision of the Church. We thank them for leaving the comfort of their shores, their family and friends, in order to serve the Church in this land.
Significantly, this Year for Priests begins and ends with our celebration of the Feast of the Sacred Heart, and marks the 150th anniversary of the death of St John Vianney. There is a happy providence in this, since it invites us to see our mission, our vocation, our gift, and practical ministry of priesthood beginning and ending in the heart of Christ. For the Lord, for St John Vianney, and for us, it is finally a matter of love – the depths of God’s love in the human heart of Christ, flowing through the heart of every priest into the world, as true shepherds “after his own heart”. When this is so, each one of you – to a distinctive and irreplaceable degree - embodies for those whose lives you touch something of the height and length and breadth of the love of Christ.
No bishop can work without the support of his priests. To you we owe so much. We assure you of our continued support and prayers during this Year of grace. We look to you with confidence and hope for the future, praying that God will continue to pour new gifts into all of our hearts, and we express our appreciation of your ministry and life. For what you are in Christ Jesus, above all else, we express our deep admiration and thanks today.
Archbishop Philip E. Wilson
Archbishop of Adelaide
President, Australian Catholic Bishops Conference