ADDRESS OF JOHN PAUL II
TO THE PRIESTS OF THE DIOCESE OF ROME FOR THEIR
ANNUAL LENTEN MEETING
Thursday, 26 February 2004
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Priests of Rome,
1. I am delighted with this meeting that is once
again taking place at the beginning of Lent,
giving me an opportunity to see you, listen to
you and share your hopes and pastoral concerns.
I offer an affectionate greeting to each one of
you, thanking you for your service to the Church
of Rome. I greet and thank the Cardinal Vicar,
the Vicegerent, the Auxiliary Bishops and those
of you who have addressed me.
We are meeting at a time when I am about to
resume my encounters with the parishes of Rome
in which most of you carry out your daily
ministry. I have very much been looking forward
to this direct contact with the parish
communities I have not yet been able to visit,
because this is part of my task as Bishop of
this beloved Church of Rome.
2. The Cardinal Vicar's words and subsequently
your addresses have shed light on the various
aspects of the pastoral program centered on the
family to which our Diocese is committed this
year and the next, within the framework of that
“ongoing mission” which, after the Great Jubilee
and the positive experience of the “City
Mission”, constitutes the backbone of our
Dear Priests, putting the family at the centre,
or rather, recognizing the centrality of the
family in God's design for humanity and thus in
the life of the Church and society, is an
indispensable task that has motivated these 25
years of my Pontificate, and even earlier, my
ministry as a Priest and Bishop and also my
commitment as a scholar and university lecturer.
I therefore rejoice at sharing with you your
concern for the families of our beloved Diocese
of Rome on this happy occasion.
3. If it is to be authentic and fruitful, our
service to families must always lead to the
source, that is, to God who is love and who
lives in himself a mystery of personal communion
of love. In creating humanity in his image out
of love, God has inscribed a vocation in the
hearts of men and women, and hence, the capacity
for love and communion and for bearing the
responsibility they carry. This vocation can be
fulfilled in two specific ways: through marriage
and through virginity or celibacy. Both,
therefore, are an actuation, each in its own
way, of the most profound truth of man and of
his being created in the image of God (cf.
Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, n.
Marriage and the family thus cannot be
considered a mere product of historical
circumstances or a superstructure imposed from
outside on human love. On the contrary, they are
an inner need of this love to fulfill itself in
its own truth and in the fullness of the
reciprocal gift of self. Even those features of
spousal union that today are all too often
misunderstood or rejected, such as unity,
indissolubility and openness to life, are
instead requests for the authenticity of the
covenant of love. It is in this very way that
the bond which unites the man and the woman
becomes an image and symbol of the covenant
between God and his People, which finds its
definitive fulfillment in Jesus Christ.
Therefore, among the baptized marriage is a
sacrament, an effective sign of grace and
4. Dear Priests of Rome, let us never tire of
proposing, proclaiming and witnessing to this
great truth about love and Christian marriage.
Our vocation, of course, is not that of
marriage, but the priesthood and virginity for
the sake of the Kingdom of God. However, it is
precisely in celibacy, joyfully welcomed and
protected, that we in turn are called to live
the truth about love in a way that is different
though just as full, giving ourselves totally
with Christ to God, to the Church, and to our
brothers and sisters in humanity.
Thus, our virginity “keeps alive in the Church a
consciousness of the mystery of marriage and
defends it from any reduction and
impoverishment” (Familiaris Consortio, n. 16).
5. I have very often stressed the fundamental
and indispensable role of the family, both in
the life of the Church and in civil society. But
precisely in order to sustain Christian families
in their demanding tasks, the pastoral
solicitude of us priests is essential.
In the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris
Consortio, I therefore recalled that the Bishop
is “the person principally responsible in the
diocese for the pastoral care of the family” (n.
73). Likewise, dear Priests, your responsibility
to families “extends not only to moral and
liturgical matters but to personal and social
matters as well” (ibid.). You are called in
particular to “support the family in its
difficulties and sufferings” (ibid.), caring for
its members and helping them to live their lives
as husbands and wives, parents and children in
the light of the Gospel.
6. In fulfilling this important mission, many of
us will be able to draw very valid help from the
experience we have lived in our own families,
from the witness of faith and trust in God, of
love and dedication, of the capacity for
sacrifice and forgiveness that we received from
our own parents and relatives. The daily contact
with Christian families entrusted to our
ministry, however, offers us constantly renewed
examples of life in accordance with the Gospel
and thus stimulates and comforts us in turn to
live our own specific vocation with fidelity and
Therefore, dear Priests, we must consider our
apostolate with families a source of grace, a
gift that the Lord offers us even before we see
it as a specific pastoral duty.
So do not be afraid to spend yourselves for
families, to dedicate to them your time, energy
and the spiritual gifts the Lord has given you.
Be caring and trustworthy friends to them as
well as pastors and teachers. Accompany them and
sustain them in prayer; suggest to them the
Gospel of marriage and the family with truth and
love, without reservations or arbitrary
interpretations. Be spiritually close to them in
the trials life often holds in store, helping
them to understand that the Church is always
mother for them as well as teacher. Also teach
the young to understand and appreciate the true
meaning of love and thus to prepare themselves
for forming authentic Christian families.
7. The erroneous and frequently aberrant forms
of behavior that are publicly proposed, flaunted
and exalted, and likewise the daily contact with
the difficulties and crises that many families
experience can also give rise in us to the
temptation of distrust and resignation.
Dear Priests of Rome, it is exactly this
temptation that we must overcome with God's
help, first of all within us, in our hearts and
in our minds. In fact, the plan of God who
inscribed in man and woman the vocation to love
and to the family is still the same today. The
action of the Holy Spirit, the gift of the dead
and risen Christ, is just as powerful. No error,
no sin, no ideology and no human deceit can
demolish the profound structure of our being,
which needs to be loved and is in turn capable
of true love.
Thus, however great the difficulties, our
confidence in the present and future of the
family is all the stronger and our service to
families as priests must be all the more
generous and zealous.
Dear Priests, thank you for this meeting. With
this trust and with these hopes, I entrust each
one of you and every family in Rome to the Holy
Family of Nazareth, and I wholeheartedly bless
you and your communities.
At the end of the meeting, the Holy Father spoke
“Est tempus concludendi”, especially looking at
those of our brothers who have had to remain
standing throughout because there was no seat
for them, not one more seat: we are numerous.
I would like to thank the Cardinal Vicar and the
Episcopal College of Rome for organizing this
meeting. I would now like to sum it up.
In the first place, Rome: what does Rome mean?
The Petrine City and every parish is Petrine.
There are 340 parishes in Rome. I have visited
300 of them but still have 40 left to visit.
However, we will begin this Saturday to complete
the number of visits. Let us hope everything
will go well.
Next, Rome is not only parishes: it is
seminaries, universities and different
institutions. At this meeting, we have spoken
directly or indirectly of all these
The theme is the family. Family means: “male and
female he created them”; it means love and
responsibility. From these two words spring all
the consequences. We have heard a lot said of
these consequences with regard to marriage, the
family, parents, children, school.
I am deeply grateful to all of you because you
have described these consequences, this reality.
This concern certainly belongs to the parish. I
learned long ago, when I was in Krakow, to live
beside couples and families. I also followed
closely the process that leads two people, a man
and a woman, to create a family, and with
marriage, to become spouses, parents, with all
the consequences that we know.
Thank you for focusing your pastoral concern on
families and for seeking to solve all those
problems that the family can bring with it. I
hope you will proceed in this most important
area, because the future of the Church and of
the world passes through the family. I hope you
will be able to prepare this good future for
Rome, for your Homeland of Italy and for the
world. Many, many good wishes!
Here is the text that I had prepared, but I laid
it aside! You will find it in L’Osservatore
Here are some phrases written in Romanesco [the
Roman dialect]: “Dàmose da fà!” (let us keep
busy), “Volèmose bene!” (let us love one
another), “Semo Romani!” (we are Romans). I
never learned Romanesco: does that mean that I
am not a good Bishop of Rome?
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