Pope Celebrates 60 Years as a Priest

Holy Father was ordained in 1951 on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. Reflections from ‘the most important moment of my life’ and how Americans are praying for his intentions and the priesthood in honor of the special anniversary.

The Pope launched the new site News.va June 28 on an iPad.
The Pope launched the new site News.va June 28 on an iPad. (photo: News.va Facebook via L'Osservatore Romano)

ROME (CNA/EWTN News) — Pope Benedict XVI celebrates the 60th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood at the Cathedral of Freising, Germany, June 29, the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul. He has called his ordination “the most important moment of my life.”

The Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano included in its June 29 edition an excerpt from the book Memoirs: 1927-1977, published in 1997 by then-Cardinal Ratzinger. In the book, he recounts the day of his priestly ordination.

“For at least the past two months,” Ratzinger wrote, “I was able to focus completely on preparing myself for the big step: priestly ordination, which we received at the Cathedral of Freising from the hands of Cardinal Faulhaber on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul in 1951.” (Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber, who was an expert in sacred Scripture and the writings of the Church Fathers, was one of the most courageous critics of the Nazi regime.)

“It was a splendid summer day which was unforgettable,” he continued, “and the most important moment of my life.

“Not to be superstitious, but the moment in which the elderly archbishop laid hands on me, a bird — perhaps a lark — flew up from the main altar in the cathedral and began chirping joyfully, which for me was like a voice from on high had said: This is okay, you are on the right path.

“The next four weeks of summer were like one long celebration,” the Pope continued. He recalled that the day of his first Mass (July 8 in Traunstein): The parish of St. Osvaldo “was splendidly illuminated” and filled with the joy of all in attendance.

“We were invited to bring the blessings of the first Mass to all of the homes, and we were welcomed everywhere, even by complete strangers, with a kindness which up until then I had never even imagined.

“Thus I directly experienced the great expectations that people have of priests, how much they await their blessing, which comes from the strength of the sacrament. It was not about me or about my brother. What could two young men like us mean to so many people we encountered?

“They saw us as persons to whom Christ had entrusted the task of making him present among men. No doubt because we were not the center of everything, friendly relationships soon began to form.”

The Congregation for the Clergy has encouraged Catholics around the world, especially priests, to hold 60 hours of Eucharistic adoration to pray for the Pope and priestly vocations, one hour for each year he has been a priest.

“This is an exceptional opportunity to give thanks for our Holy Father, to pray for all of our priests, and to ask the Lord for more vocations to the priesthood,” said Archbishop Robert Carlson, chairman for the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations.

He said Pope Benedict has been “an outstanding model of priestly ministry and service to the Church.”

Prayer in most dioceses will likely extend to July 1, the World Day of Prayer for Priests.

Dioceses are not obligated to participate, though many have shared their commemoration plans with the U.S. bishops’ committee.

The Archdiocese of Washington will have 92 parishes participating in “hundreds” of combined hours of prayer for vocations and for the Pope.

Staff at the Jeanne Jugan Residence in Pawtucket, R.I., have already spent over 71 hours this month praying for vocations.

A parish in Dallas has already completed over 60 hours of adoration in honor of the Pope, saying they send all prayers and good wishes to the Pope “on this occasion of great joy and happiness for the Church.”

Catholics in the Archdiocese of Denver have been adoring the Eucharist and praying for vocations for 60 hours since June 27 (through July 1) in the chapel of St. John Vianney Seminary.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, commended the call to prayer in a letter to bishops, saying prayer for vocations is “a worthy intention.”

“An increase in number and sanctity of the priests in service to our dioceses is a sign of health and vitality in the Church,” he said.

Archbishop Dolan added that prayer for vocations, in light of the Pope’s anniversary, shows gratitude for the Pope’s example and service.