28 September 2019, 19:00
Ratzinger Circle of Alumni Speaks for Celibacy of Priests
„In these times of crisis and a painful cleansing of the church it is not first and foremost structural reforms that will bring healing and relief, but an authentically lived life of faith.“

Vatican (kath.net) "For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you" – Statement to the public symposium on "Current Challenges to the Ordained Ministry in the Church":

1. With the symposium on "Current Challenges to the Ordained Ministry in the Church," the Circle of Students, as well as the New Circle of Students of Joseph Ratzinger / Pope Benedict XVI, have, for the first time in many years, decided to bring this subject to a larger audience. This decision came about from the conviction that the time has come for the theological thought of the Pope Emeritus to be brought to the wider public. We aim to open up this unique “School of Thought” through presentations and discussions. We are glad and grateful that so many people have shown interest and followed our invitation, and we hope that this Symposium will set a good start for our future work.

2. The letter of Pope Francis to the priests on the occasion of the 160th death of the sainted Vicar of Ars - from the 4th of August 2019 - has only strengthened us in the previously taken decision, to devote this Symposium to the subject of the ordained ministry. In this "time of suffering", overshadowed by the scandal of clerical abuse, we set ourselves this challenge of searching "for words and paths of hope". Thus, after a certain time of purification, the ordained ministry can once again shine forth in all its beauty as a great gift from the Lord to His Church. Therefore, in our ponderings we decided to set the accent on the sacramental Priesthood and try to penetrate its mysteries with the light of the theology of Joseph Ratzinger / Pope Benedict XVI.


3. The statements to the ordained priesthood are inseparably joined to the nature of the church. The theology of Joseph Ratzinger relies heavily upon the 2nd Vatican Council for its sources and provides an authentic interpretation of the same. Pope John 23rd had already recognised this as he with general agreement accepted the document prepared by Professor Ratzinger for Cardinal Frings on "The Council and the Modern World of Thought". The last Council referred to the Church as the "universal sacrament of salvation" (LG 48). As such, it is "a sign and a tool for the most intimate union with God as well as for the unity of all humanity" (LG 1). In the Church, the risen Christ continues his work of salvation. In baptism being conformed to Christ and in the Church becoming a member of his body, the Christian receives a share of eternal life and is called to follow the way of holiness. To such a life of giving witness all those baptised into the common priesthood have been appointed. As is evident in Joseph Ratzinger's theology - those people who are called to live such a holy life will find themselves being drawn into the very centre of the Church. That is the aim of every Christian: becoming ever more like unto Jesus Christ himself. Thus, we are grateful for all Witnesses to this holiness in their lives, in marriage and the family, in the consecrated life and in other ways of life that can still be found in the Church today.

4. To understand the ordained ministry, one requires such a sacramental perspective, as was set out by the last council. Christ the Lord has given his Church various offices "which are organised for the well-being of the whole body" (LG 18). The vocation as well as the existence of the priest are solely dependent upon the will of Jesus Christ alone (see. Hebrews 5,1ff) and are not derived from either human considerations or Church regulations. In Him and with Him the Priest becomes the "proclaimer of the Word and the servant of joy".

5. The “being made like unto” Christ, which the priest receives in the sacrament of Holy Orders, differs not only in degree but in essence from that of the common or general priesthood received by all the baptised (see. LG 10). The priest acts "in the person of Christ, the Head of the Church" (agere in persona Christi capitis). He is not an official, but rather, in being united with Christ, he performs a mission that comes directly from God. This is especially evident in the holy power to absolve sinners, to turn bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, and to celebrate the other sacraments. The priest, in a sacramental way, represents Christ as the Good Shepherd (cf. Jn 10:10). In this personal relationship between Christ and the Church, between priests and faithful, is to be found, according to the teaching of Church, the crucial difference, because it is the essential foundation for the sacramental re-presentation of Christ in the priest. He does not represent Christ as an ambassador would his King or government, rather it is a real re-presentation, wherein the way of the cross, (Christ’s own via dolorosa) the key criterion is.

6. Therefore, one can deduce some fundamental statements regarding the priestly lifestyle, which must remain in harmony with the lifestyle of Christ himself. Only then will the “re-presentation of Christ” of the priest be believable. The presence of Christ should not be limited solely to the sacramental action either, but must be evident and at work in the daily life of the priest. This is the reason for the duty of the priest to obedience and the commitment to celibacy, as remaining single for the sake of the Kingdom; that is, a human as well as spiritual expression of the sacramental unity of the priest with Christ. Consequently, ordination to the priesthood implies an individual following of Christ, and thus, the sins of the present scandal reduces the believability of this position. As the priest only exists from his relationship with Christ, a participation in the lifestyle of Christ would seem to be appropriate (PO 5) for those who are to act his person. According to the constant tradition of the Latin Church, celibacy is seen as a clear witness to a belief-filled hope and generous love for Christ and his Church.

7. In these times of crisis and a painful cleansing of the church it is not first and foremost structural reforms that will bring healing and relief, but an authentically lived life of faith. Only when we all return united to our common understanding of Jesus Christ as true God and true man will the Church be able to be renewed.

8. The statement of St. Paul's "I have received from the Lord what I have delivered to you" (1 Cor 11:23) reflects the essential feature of the priest. The magnitude of this gift has been veiled by the scandals and its credibility has been shaken. A way out can only be found if we make clear what the essence of the Church's ordained ministry actually is, and priests show this clearly through their actual lives. The theology of Joseph Ratzinger / Pope Benedict, gives an answer to this dual challenge, pointing to a road that remains deeply rooted in Tradition, but also leads to those reforms that our lives will align with Christ and give them a new credibility.

9. We dedicate our study and prayers during this symposium to the intercession and assistance of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church.

Rome, on the 28th September, 2019
Circle of Students and New Circle of Student
Joseph Ratzinger / Pope Benedict XVI

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