Priesthood brought me closer to God — pope

July 11, 2011

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict reflected on his 60 years as a priest, calling it a demanding and "awe-inspiring" ministry that brought him closer to God.

The pope's personal recollection came June 29, the anniversary of his priestly ordination in Bavaria in 1951 and the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, the patron saints of Rome.

During the three-hour Mass, he gave 41 archbishops the woollen pallium as a sign of their pastoral responsibility as shepherds. Among them was the new primate of the Church in Canada, Archbishop Gerald Lacroix of Quebec.

The pope devoted most of his homily to his 60 years of priestly ministry. He said he felt he had to look back on "the things that have left their mark."

"'I no longer call you servants, but friends.' Sixty years on from the day of my priestly ordination, I hear once again deep within me these words of Jesus that were addressed to us new priests at the end of the ordination ceremony by the archbishop, Cardinal Faulhaber, in his slightly frail yet firm voice," the pope said.

"I knew, at that moment, the Lord himself was speaking to me in a very personal way."

The pope said he felt called into the circle of those God knows in a special way, to a friendship that implies responsibilities.

"He trusts me to proclaim his word, to explain it aright and to bring it to the people of today."

Pope Benedict said friendship in this sense is about conforming one's will to God and being prepared to step outside oneself and toward others - moving "beyond the inertia of self-centredness."

This calling of the priest to friendship with God is "so awe-inspiring that one can feel daunted as the decades go by amid so many experiences of one's own frailty and his inexhaustible goodness," he said.