The Congregation for the Clergy has announced the official program for a large international convention of priests. The meeting, to be held in Rome June 9-11, 2010, will conclude the Year for Priests that began June 19.

The event, punctuated by moments of prayer, celebrations, and conferences, will see the attendance of Pope Benedict XVI on the evening of Thursday, June 10, and on the morning of Friday, June 11.  The general theme of the meeting is to be the same as that of the Year for Priests: “Faithfulness of Christ, Faithfulness of Priests.”

The convention begins June 9 in St. Paul’s Basilica Outside the Walls. It will open in the morning with a prayer and a conference on the theme “Conversion and Mission.” During the morning, there will be exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, the opportunity for confession and then celebration of the Mass. The afternoon is left free.

The following day, the convention participants will move to St. Mary Major. The program remains the same, but the theme will be “The Cenacle: The Invocation of the Holy Spirit in Union With Mary and in Fraternal Communion.”

In the evening, participants will travel to St. Peter’s Square for a large prayer vigil in preparation for the final day. The program includes testimonies, a reflective period with sacred music, and will conclude with Eucharistic adoration. The Pope will attend and give a special greeting and address to those present.

Then on Friday, June 11, on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus — a world day of prayer for the sanctification of priests — the convention will draw to a close. “With Peter, in Ecclesial Communion” will be the day’s theme, and the focus will be a closing Mass celebrated by the Holy Father in St. Peter’s Basilica. The Mass will also close the Year for Priests, held to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the death of St. John Vianney, the Curé d’Ars.

The convention, sponsored by the Congregation for the Clergy (with logistics carried out by L’Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi, the Vicariate of Rome’s pilgrimage office) will be consistent with previous meetings of the clergy that have taken place between 1996 and 2004 in Fatima, Portugal; in Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast; in Guadalupe, Mexico; in Nazareth, Bethlehem and Jerusalem in the Holy Land; in Rome during the great Jubilee Year of 2000; and in Malta.

In his latest letter to priests, dated Aug. 1, Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, called them to rediscover the urgency of their evangelical mission.

Wrote Cardinal Hummes, “My dear priests, we, shepherds, are called urgently today to the mission both ‘ad gentes’ and in the regions of the Christian lands, where many of the baptized have distanced themselves from participation in our communities or, indeed, have lost the faith entirely.”

The cardinal acknowledged that in today’s secularized societies “the number of priestly vocations there has dropped, as also has the number of priests, due to the lack of vocations and due to the influence of the cultural ambiance in which they live.” But he warned against “a discouraged pessimism which condemns the world of today and could lead us to retreat to a defensive position in the trenches of resistance.”

Cardinal Hummes appealed to priests not to be “afraid or remain subdued within our home,” but instead to “go out in the open field in our society, beginning with the poor and arriving at all levels and institutions of society.”

“We will go to visit families, every person, above all the baptized and those who are distanced,” he wrote in closing. “Our people want to feel the nearness of the Church. We will do so, going out to our contemporary society with joy and enthusiasm, certain of the presence of the Lord with us on the mission, and certain that he will knock on the door of the hearts of those to whom we will announce him.”

The Congregation for the Clergy has a helpful website dedicated to the Year for Priests, which can be found here: