March 31 - April 2, 2000
volume 11, no. 65
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    VATICAN ( -- In his annual letter to all of the world's Catholic priests, issued on Holy Thursday, Pope John Paul II will focus on his visit to the Cenacle in Jerusalem: the site of the Last Supper.

    The Pope's letter, made public on March 30, was actually signed on March 23, in Jerusalem, when John Paul celebrated Mass in the Cenacle chapel.

    In his letter, the Holy Father relates how as he prays in the chapel, "Jesus is present in my spirit, just as he was present to the apostles who were seated at the table with him." The Pope concentrates especially on the figure of St. Peter, his predecessor, and writes about the awe that St. Peter must have felt as Jesus instituted the Eucharist.

    "Nearly two thousands years have passed since that moment," the Pope observes. "How many priests have repeated the gesture!" He writes of the "exemplary disciples: saints, martyrs" among those priests, and emphasizes that there are many such saints and martyrs within the Church today. "At the Cenacle, I thank the Lord for their courage," he says.

    The Pope acknowledges that the history of the priesthood has been stained by the sins of the frail men who minister to the Church. And he adds that even at the Last Supper, while it was Judas who betrayed Jesus, Peter too would deny the Lord, and thus give the world an indication of human weakness. "Surely, as he chose men like the Twelve, Christ had no illusions," the Pope writes. Rather, he chose to make himself present through frail human instruments.

    "Let us always celebrate the Holy Eucharist with fervor," the Pope urges his fellow priests. "Let us stay, often and at length, in adoration before the Eucharistic Christ?" He observes that the priest's witness, and in particular his reverence for the Eucharist, will inspire the people.

    The Pope's letter to priests also emphasizes the importance of the International Eucharistic Congress, scheduled to take place in Rome on June 18-25, as "a central event of the great Jubilee."


March 31 - April 2, 2000
volume 11, no. 65

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