“ONLY in the Philippines can these things happen, so many priests in one gathering.”

This was how Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher to the Papal Household, described the Second National Congress of the Clergy held from January 25 to 29 at the World Trade Center, Pasay City.

With the theme “Faithfulness of Christ, Faithfulness of Priests,” the event drew almost 6,000 priests and bishops from different dioceses nationwide, including Filipino priests based abroad, to celebrate the Year of the Priests of the Catholic Church, which opened last June 19.

Spearheaded by the Episcopal Commission on the Clergy of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines headed by Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, the congregation even surpassed the 1,500 attendees of an international gathering of priests in Ars, France last August.

As preacher of the Papal Household, an honorific title assigned by tradition to a Franciscan, Cantalamessa is the official preacher of Papal Benedict XVI.

He said the Supreme Pontiff supported the congress so as to foster an “internal renewal for the sake of a more forceful and incisive witness to the Gospel in today’ world” for priests.

Cantalamessa, who was assigned as the retreat master of the congress, emphasized the preaching of the Holy Spirit and how it serves its role to the Christian community.

“The Holy Spirit has achieved a radical conversion in the hearts of the people,” Cantalamessa said in his homily on January 28. “That is the most important change in the life of the priest.”

He added that the anointing a priest receives in ordination can become active, turning him into a “paraclete” or someone who mirrors the personality of the Holy Spirit—“a person, consoler, defender, someone who can peak, testify and suffer.”

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The papal preacher led the priests in the meditation of the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the vow of priestly celibacy. He stressed that celibacy should not seen as a burden, but rather as a gift or charisma given to priests.

At the end of the congress, Cardinal Rosales echoed what Cantalamessa said, adding that the priests are one with the Holy Spirit.

“The priest is a creature of the Holy Spirit by virtue of his anointing,” Rosales said. “Annointed by the Holy Spirit, he is claimed in that Spirit, to belong completely to God.” Robin G. Padilla

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