VATICAN CITY (VIS) - A prayer vigil was held yesterday evening in St. Peter's Square for the close of the Year for Priests. The event was attended by some fifteen thousand priests from ninety-seven countries.
During the first part of the vigil, live television linkups enabled those present in St. Peter's Square to share the witness and experiences of a German family with six children, a deacon, an Argentinean priest who works in a poor neighbourhood, a pastor from Hollywood, U.S.A., and a cloistered nun.
The second part of the vigil began with the Pope's arrival in St. Peter's Square by popemobile. Cardinal Claudio Hummes O.F.M., prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, greeted the Holy Father noting how this Year for Priests has served "to promote commitment to interior renewal among all clergy, for an evangelical witness that is more powerful and incisive in the modern world".
Cardinal Hummes continued his remarks: "We would like the Year for Priests never to end; that is, we would like our striving towards sanctity, each in his own identity, never to end, and that on this journey (which must begin in the seminary and last all our earthly lives as a single formative process) we may always be comforted and supported, as we have been in this Year, by the ceaseless prayer of the Church, by the warmth and spiritual support of all the faithful".
Cardinal Hummes thanked the Pope "for everything you have done, are doing and will continue to do for all priests, even those who have lost their way. We know that Your Holiness has already forgiven and will always forgive the suffering some of them have caused you".
A passage from the Gospel was then read out, after which the Pope responded to questions put to him by five priests, representing the five continents.
After praying the Lord's Prayer, the Blessed Sacrament was borne in procession from the Bronze Door to the altar positioned in front of the Vatican Basilica. Following a moment of silent adoration, the Pope read out the prayer of the Year for Priests.
The vigil came to an end at 11.15 p.m. with the Eucharistic blessing and the singing of the "Salve Regina".