Rome, December 21th 2008. -- Cardinal Angelo Sodano ordained 49 Legionaries of Christ to the priesthood in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.
Among the concelebrants were Cardinal Giovanni Coppa, apostolic nuncio; Bishop Brian Farrell, LC, secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity; and Bishop Marc Alliet, bishop of Bayonne (France).
Cardinal Angelo Sodano expressed his joy at laying his hands on the new Legionary priests in the name of the Church, and thus bringing them into the great family of the priests of Christ.
He centered his homily around three key words that sum up the life of a priest: vocation, ordination, and mission. Speaking of the vocation he said, “The Lord has chosen us from our mother’s womb and destined us to enter his service to announce his message of salvation to the world, and to bring his gifts of grace to mankind.”
Describing the main traits of ordination he said, “Our priesthood is derived from a gift that we have received from Christ through his holy Church…In persona Christi the new priest will have the power to teach the Word of God, celebrate the Holy Eucharist and the other Sacraments, and lead the people of God on the right path. These are the three offices that flow from priestly ordination: to be a teacher of the truth, a minister of grace, and a guide of Christians.”
In reference to the mission he said, “The priest doesn’t receive the gift of the priesthood for his own personal gain, but he receives it to serve others. Thus every priest is called to be a missionary wherever he finds himself and in whatever task he has been assigned.” Addressing the 49 new priests he added, “Beloved Legionaries of Christ, you too have been chosen by Christ to go and bear fruit, just as so many of your brother Legionaries of Christ have done, so many generous priests that you have met along your way.
“In reality what St. Joseph Cafasso, the confessor of St. John Bosco and a holy priest from my homeland in Piamonte, once said still holds true: A whole eternity wouldn’t suffice to thank God for having called us to his service.
The new priests are the Christmas gift that the Legion of Christ traditionally offers to the Christ Child and his Church as a symbol of the Legion’s fidelity to and love for the Pope and all the Church’s shepherds.
The new priests are between 29 and 37 years old, and all of them have gone through 10 to 14 years of preparation that includes the study of philosophy and theology, as well as pastoral service to the Church. With these 49 ordinations, the number of the congregation’s priests around the world has reached 800.
Also attending the event were Bishop Luigi De Magistris and Fr Alvaro Corcuera, LC, the general director of the Legionaries of Christ, who commented at the end of the celebration, “In this basilica, we have asked St Paul at the side of his tomb for his intercession on behalf of these 49 new priests, that they live till the end of their lives just as he did, serving Christ and his Church, holding on tight to Our Blessed Mother’s hand.”
The new priests come from 13 countries: 23 Mexicans, 6 Spaniards, 4 Americans, 3 Germans, 3 Brazilians, 1 Argentinean, 2 Columbians, 1 Canadian, 2 Italians, 1 from Chile, 1 from France, 1 from Ireland, and one from Venezuela.
On Sunday December 21st at noon, 700 Legionaries including the new priests and their families and friends were added to the pilgrims who accompanied Pope Benedict XVI in praying the Angelus in St. Peter’s Square. The Holy Father greeted 49 newly ordained priests of the Legionaries of Christ, encouraging them to let the love of Christ invigorate their ministry. "Dear friends," the Pope said, speaking in Italian from the window of his study, "may the love of Christ, that moved St. Paul in his mission, always animate your ministry. I bless you and your loved ones from my heart!"
The 49 priests who were just ordained open their hearts in a first person narrative of the story of their vocations in a book that was published today and is entitled “Living for Christ” that as well can be read in a special section on the Internet webpage.
We thank God for these new priests who have placed themselves at the service of the Church and we invite you to pray for them, for their perseverance and sanctification in the service of others.