by Bob Reddy, Florida Catholic (5/2/12)
FORT MYERS â€“Â In persona Christi (in the person of Christ), is what a priest becomes at his ordination, and this commitment comes with great uncertainty and risks. The reward for priests is that while they will not have the same life as others now, they will be rewarded is the knowledge of the true salvation in the transcendence of an eternal life.
Reflecting on the call to holiness, Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council â€śCor Unum,â€ť spoke April 26 at a special gathering the priests of the Diocese of Venice at Resurrection Parish in Fort Myers. Bishop Frank J. Dewane worked for the Cardinal for 5 Â˝ years at the Pontifical Council â€śCor Unumâ€ť at theVatican and was particularly pleased to have his friend and colleague visit the Diocese of Venice.
Cardinal Cordes began by reminding the priests of the roots of the Ministerial Priesthood by saying that before the death of Jesus, He had an inner circle made up of the disciples who were connected with the mission of Christ to proclaim the arrival of theKingdomofGod. â€śJesus granted the authority of His disciples to go out into the world. The mission of being a witness for Christ is inconceivable without this sacred event. The idea of the Ministerial Priesthood in inexorably linked to this idea. We must find strength in this concept of mission and spreading the word of Christ to the world.â€ť
The Second Vatican Council described a priest as a member of the community with a special gift, Cardinal Cordes continued. The priest cannot be substituted by others, the Council stated, but he has this gift to guide and foster the community.
Through an anointing with the Holy Spirit, the priest is sealed with a special character as he gives his live to God, he added. Holiness is an inseparable unity between consecration and the mission of Christ making a priest much more than someone who presides over a Eucharistic celebration.
â€śPriests have a specific obligation to the live the word of God. Jesus sent us out into the world and we make a commitment by giving up our lives to serve Him. TheMissionof the Church depends on the holiness of Her priests. Priests are called to be holy because they answer a specific call and to be holy you only have to look to the Word of God to guide you.â€ť
Holiness cannot be sought in a separate state, Cardinal Cordes said, it is realized through a mission of serving God.
The Cardinal also spoke about he continued importance of having a celibate priesthood, noting that celibacy helps priests to dedicate 100 percent of their time to others. But he adds, this â€śchallengeâ€ť is also an â€śobligationâ€ť and the only way to tackle difficulties is by â€ślooking to Godâ€ť and noted this is the only way to understand its meaning even if others never will.
â€śCelibacy is for the sake of theKingdomofHeaven. For all of us, it is an important truth of the faith. The mystery is only dispelled in a new horizon of understandingâ€¦ Recognize this and you will lose your fear of happiness sought in the here and now because whoever lives this will be witness to the truth of eternal life. A priest can only assume such a path in the knowledge that God is supporting him.â€ť
Cardinal Cordes was ordained a priest in 1961. He was consecrated Auxiliary Bishop of Paderbornin 1976. He was then named vice-president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity in 1980 until he was named president of Cor Unum in 1995 and served in that position until 2010. He was elevated to Cardinal in 2007. The Pontifical Council serves as the charitable arm of the Holy See, whose mission is the care of the Catholic Church for the needy, thereby encouraging human fellowship and making manifest the charity of Christ. Cardinal Cordes remains on the board of the following Congregations: for the Causes of Saints; for the Evangelization of Peoples; for the Clergy; for Bishops; and the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
Following his talk, Cardinal Cordes opened the gathering to questions. He shared his ideas on the role of priests in the Church today, saying that they are an important key to opening up the faithful to God.
â€śA priest in a parish is close to the people. It is his obligation to communicate the Word of God to the people, but to also be an example of that Word to others. It is the special duty of priests to be holy because they represent the Church. They are in persona Christi, the person of Christ to the world.â€ť