Pope encourages vocations, calls for protection of flock

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI called for prayer and encouragement to nourish new vocations within the church, and reminded priests that it is their job to vigorously defend their flocks from evil.

Pope Benedict marked the World Day of Prayer for Vocations by telling the faithful in St. Peter’s Square April 25 that vocations are born primarily through prayer, and that they can be nourished by the prayers of parents and ordained clergy.

Before reciting the “Regina Coeli,” Pope Benedict said that “the most important form of witness in inspiring vocations is prayer,” and he invited parents “to pray so that the hearts of your children open to listen to the Good Shepherd.

The pope emphasized the role of the priest in protecting the people they are chosen to lead and steering them to God. Quoting the Gospel of St. John, the pope said, “Only the Good Shepherd, with immense tenderness, guards his flock and defends it from evil, and only in him can the faithful put their absolute faith.”

Pope Benedict reminded priests and bishops of their responsibility to “adhere totally to their vocation and mission through a severe self-discipline” of abstinence and meditation. They should be ready to listen and forgive the faithful in their care, and should also cultivate priestly fraternity, he said.

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