Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
May 3, 2010
Priest's job is to protect flock: pope
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE
VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict 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. The prayers of parents and ordained clergy can then nourish them, he said.
"The most important form of witness in inspiring vocations is prayer," the pope said, inviting 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.
The pope reiterated the priest's role of protector by quoting St. Gregory of Nazianzus, a fourth-century doctor of the Church, who wrote, "Teach us your love for the sheep . . . your understanding and your watchfulness . . . the battles in defence of the flock."
The pope's call to priests and bishops about their roles and duties came as the Church was working to address a widening scandal regarding the abuse of minors by priests and other church personnel.
After the prayer, the pope made a special greeting to representatives of Meter, an Italian Catholic association that promotes the protection of children from violence, exploitation and sexual abuse.
Father Fortunato Di Noto, the founder of Meter, told Vatican Radio April 25 in Italy alone about 20,000 new cases of pedophilia are reported each year, an increase of 10.8 per cent in the past five years.
Meter has alerted authorities of about 200,000 pornographic websites featuring minors, he said.
"It's astonishing that no newspaper has reported these statistics and no one decries the scandal," he said.
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