My venerable and dear brothers,
1. Again this year, for Holy Thursday, I am writing a letter to all of you. This letter has an immediate connection with the one
which you received last year on the same occasion, together with the letter to the priests. I wish in the first place to thank you
cordially for having accepted my previous letters with that spirit of unity which the Lord established between us, and also for
having transmitted to your priests the thoughts that I desired to express at the beginning of my pontificate.
During the Eucharistic Liturgy of Holy Thursday, you renewed, together with your priests, the promises and commitments
undertaken at the moment of ordination. Many of you, venerable and dear brothers, told me about it later, also adding words of
personal thanks, and indeed often sending those expressed by your priests. Furthermore, many priests expressed their joy, both
because of the profound and solemn character of Holy Thursday as the annual "feast of priests" and also because of the
importance of the subjects dealt with in the letter addressed to them.
Those replies form a rich collection which once more indicates how dear to the vast majority of priests of the Catholic Church
is the path of the priestly life, the path along which this Church has been journeying for centuries: how much they love and
esteem it, and how much they desire to follow it for the future.
At this point I must add that only a certain number of matters were dealt with in the letter to priests, as was in fact emphasized
at the beginning of the document. Furthermore, the main stress was laid upon the pastoral character of the priestly ministry;
but this certainly does not mean that those groups of priests who are not engaged in direct pastoral activity were not also taken
into consideration. In this regard I would refer once more to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, and also to the
declarations of the 1971 Synod of Bishops.
The pastoral character of the priestly ministry does not cease to mark the life of every priest, even if the daily tasks that he
carries out are not explicitly directed to the pastoral administration of the sacraments. In this sense, the letter written to the
priests on Holy Thursday was addressed to them all, without any exception, even though, as I said above, it did not deal with
all the aspects of the life and activity of priests. I think this clarification is useful and opportune at the beginning of the present