10,000 join pope at vigil for Year for Priests

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Meeting with nearly 10,000 priests from around the world, Pope Benedict XVI expressed the church’s gratitude for their ministry and encouraged them to resist secularizing influences.

At a vigil in St. Peter’s Square June 10 at the end of the Year for Priests, the pope said the clergy shortage cannot be solved by turning the priesthood into merely “a normal profession, a job,” and added that today’s priests need to be on fire with love for Christ.

While he did not explicitly speak of clerical sex abuse cases, he appeared to refer to the crisis when he defended priestly celibacy. He said celibacy was a scandal for the world because it anticipates eternal life with God, a reality rejected by many people today. The role of the faith, he said, is to announce this “great scandal” of God’s place in their lives, a task that is made more difficult by the “secondary scandals of our own inadequacies and sins.”

He asked for prayers that God would free the church from such sins.

The evening encounter featured testimonials from priests working around the world, including Latin America, France and Hollywood, Calif. When the pope arrived and rode his popemobile through the vast crowd, he was greeted with a standing ovation.

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