VATICAN CITY, JUNE 17, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation
of the third of five questions from the question-and-answer session
Benedict XVI held with priests Friday evening at the prayer
vigil in St. Peter´s Square. The session was part of
the International Meeting of Priests that marked the end of
the Year for Priests.
* * *
Holy Father, I am Karol Mikloski and I come from
Europe, specifically from Slovakia, and I am a missionary in
Russia. When I celebrate the Holy Mass, I find myself,
and I understand that I find my identity there and
the root and energy of my ministry. The sacrifice of
the cross reveals to me the Good Shepherd who gives
everything for the flock, for each sheep, and when I
say: "This is by Body ... this is my Blood"
given and shed in sacrifice for you, then I understand
the beauty of celibacy and of obedience, which I freely
promised at the moment of ordination.
Although with the natural
difficulties, celibacy seems obvious to me, looking at Christ, but
I find myself bewildered in reading so many worldly criticisms
of this gift. I ask you humbly, Holy Father, to
share with us your reflections on the profundity and authentic
meaning of ecclesiastical celibacy.
Benedict XVI: Thank you for
the two parts of your question: for the first, where
you touch upon the permanent and vital foundation of our
celibacy, and for the second, which demonstrates the difficulties in
which we find ourselves in these times.
The first part
is important as the daily celebration of the Holy Eucharist
should truly be at the center of our lives. Central
here are the words of the consecration -- "This is
my Body, this is my Blood" -- in that we
speak "in persona Christi." Christ allows us to use his
"I" -- we speak with the "I" of Christ --
Christ "draws us into himself" and allows us to unite
ourselves, he unites us with his "I." And thus, through
this action, this fact that he "draws" us into himself,
so that our "I" becomes united to his, realizes the
permanence, the oneness of his priesthood. Thus Christ is truly
and always the only priest, and yet very present in
the world, because he "draws" us into himself and thus
renders present the priestly mission.
This means that we are "drawn"
into the God of Christ: It is this union with
his "I" that is realized in the words of consecration.
Also in the "I absolve you" -- because none of
us could absolve from sins -- it is the "I"
of Christ, of God, which alone can absolve. This unification
of his "I" with ours implies that we are "drawn"
also into his reality of the Risen One, we go
forward toward the full life of the resurrection, of which
Jesus speaks to the Sadducees in Matthew 22: it is
a "new" life, in which we are already beyond marriage
(cf. Matthew 22:23-32).
It is important that we always allow
ourselves to be penetrated again by this identification of the
"I" of Christ with us, by this being "drawn outside"
toward the world of the Resurrection. In this sense, celibacy
is an anticipation. We transcend this time and go forward,
and thus we "draw" ourselves and our time toward the
world of the Resurrection, toward the novelty of Christ, toward
the new and true life. Hence, celibacy is an anticipation
made possible by the grace of the Lord who "draws"
us to himself toward the world of the resurrection; he
invites us always anew to transcend ourselves, this present, toward
the true present of the future, which becomes present today.
And here we are at a very important point. A
great problem of Christianity in today´s world is that thought
is no longer given to the future of God: the
present of this world seems to be enough. We only
want to have this world, to live only in this
world. Thus we close the doors to the true grandeur
of our existence. The meaning of celibacy as anticipation of
the future is precisely to open these doors, to render
the world greater, to show the reality of the future
that is already lived by us as present. To live
thus is a witness to the faith: We really believe
that God is, that God enters my life, that I
can base my life on Christ, on the future life.
And we now know the worldly criticisms of which you
have spoken. It is true that for the agnostic world,
the world in which God is not considered, celibacy is
a great scandal, because it shows precisely that God is
considered and lived as reality. With the eschatological life of
celibacy, the future world of God enters in the reality
of our time. And this should disappear! In a certain
sense, this permanent criticism against celibacy can surprise, at a
time when it is ever more fashionable not to marry.
However, this not marrying is something totally, fundamentally different from
celibacy, because not marrying is based on the will to
live alone for oneself, not to accept a definitive bond,
to have life at every moment in full autonomy, to
decide at every moment what to do, what to take
from life; and hence, a "no" to the bond, a
"no" to definitiveness, a having life only for oneself. Whereas
celibacy is precisely the opposite: it is a definitive "yes,"
it is letting oneself be taken by God by the
hand, giving oneself into the hands of the Lord, into
his "I," and hence it is an act of fidelity
and trust, an act that implies also the fidelity of
marriage; it is in fact the opposite of this "no,"
of this autonomy which does not wish to oblige itself,
which does not want to enter a bond; it is
in fact the definitive "yes" that implies, that confirms the
definitive "yes" of marriage.
And this marriage is the biblical form,
the natural form of being man and woman, foundation of
the great Christian culture, of the great cultures of the
world. And if this disappears, the root of our culture
will be destroyed. That is why celibacy confirms the "yes"
of marriage with its "yes" to the future world, and
thus we wish to go forward and render present this
scandal of a faith that places the whole of existence
on God. We know that next to this great scandal,
which the world does not wish to see, there are
also the secondary scandals of our insufficiency, of our sins,
which obscure the true and great scandal, and make one
think: "But, they don´t really live on the foundation of
However, there is so much fidelity! Celibacy, the criticisms in
fact show it, is a great sign of faith, of
God´s presence in the world. Let us pray to the
Lord to help us to be free of the secondary
scandals, to render present the great scandal of our faith:
trust, the strength of our life, founded on God and
on Christ Jesus!
[Translation by ZENIT]