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You are here: Rubrics & Law > Ceremonies > On Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priest  Back one page.

Table of Contents
Table of ContentsPart I. Theological PrinciplesPart I-II. Unity and Diversity of Ministerial FunctionsEndnotes

Part I-I. The Common Priesthood of the Faithful and the Ministerial Priesthood

Jesus Christ, the Eternal High Priest, wished that his one and indivisible priesthood be transmitted to his Church. This Church is the people of the New Covenant who, "through Baptism and the anointing of the Holy Spirit are reborn and consecrated as a spiritual temple and a holy priesthood. By living the Christian life, they offer up spiritual sacrifices and proclaim the prodigious deeds of Him who called them from darkness into his own wonderful light (cf. 1 Pt 2, 4-10)".[19] "There is but one chosen People of God: 'one Lord, one faith, one Baptism' (Eph 4, 5): there is a common dignity of members deriving from their rebirth in Christ, a common grace of filial adoption, a common vocation to perfection".[20] There exists "a true equality between all with regard to the dignity and to the activity which is common to all the faithful in the building up of the Body of Christ". By the will of Christ some are constituted "teachers, dispensers of the mysteries and pastors".[21] The common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood "though they differ essentially and not only in degree... are none the less ordered one to another; [since] each in its own proper way shares in the one priesthood of Christ".[22] Between both there is an effective unity since the Holy Spirit makes the Church one in communion, in service and in the outpouring of the diverse hierarchical and charismatic gifts.[23]

Thus the essential difference between the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial priesthood is not found in the priesthood of Christ, which remains forever one and indivisible, nor in the sanctity to which all of the faithful are called: "Indeed the ministerial priesthood does not of itself signify a greater degree of holiness with regard to the common priesthood of the faithful; through it, Christ gives to priests, in the Spirit, a particular gift so that they can help the People of God to exercise faithfully and fully the common priesthood which it has received".[24] For the building up of the Church, the Body of Christ, there is a diversity of members and functions but only one Spirit who, for the good of the Church, distributes his various gifts with munificence proportionate to his riches and the needs of service, (cf. 1 Cor 12, 1-11).[25]

This diversity exists at the mode of participation in the priesthood of Christ and is essential in the sense that "while the common priesthood of the faithful is exercised by the unfolding of baptismal grace, - a life of faith, hope and charity, a life according to the Spirit - the ministerial priesthood is at the service of the common priesthood... and directed at the unfolding of the baptismal grace of all Christians".[26] Consequently, the ministerial priesthood "differs in essence from the common priesthood of the faithful because it confers a sacred power for the service of the faithful"[27]. For this reason the priest is exhorted "...to grow in awareness of the deep communion uniting him to the People of God" in order to "awaken and deepen co-responsibility in the one common mission of salvation, with a prompt and heartfelt esteem for all the charisms and tasks which the Spirit gives believers for the building up of the Church".[28]

The characteristics which differentiate the ministerial priesthood of Bishops and Priests from the common priesthood of the faithful and consequently delineate the extent to which other members of the faithful cooperate with this ministry, may be summarized in the following fashion:

a. the ministerial priesthood is rooted in the Apostolic Succession, and vested with "potestas sacra"[29] consisting of the faculty and the responsibility of acting in the person of Christ the Head and the Shepherd.[30]

b. it is a priesthood which renders its sacred ministers servants of Christ and of the Church by means of authoritative proclamation of the Word of God, the administration of the sacraments and the pastoral direction of the faithful.[31]

To base the foundations of the ordained ministry on Apostolic Succession, because this ministry continues the mission received by the Apostles from Christ, is an essential point of Catholic ecclesiological doctrine.[32]

The ordained ministry, therefore, is established on the foundation of the Apostles for the upbuilding of the Church: [33] "and is completely at the service of the Church".[34] "Intrinsically linked to the sacramental nature of ecclesial ministry is its character of service. Entirely dependent on Christ who gives mission and authority, ministers are truly 'servants of Christ' (Rom 1, 1) in the image of him who freely took for us 'the form of a slave' (Phil 2,7). Because the word and grace of which they are ministers are not their own, but are given to them by Christ for the sake of others, they must freely become the slaves of all".[35]

Table of ContentsPart I. Theological PrinciplesPart I-II. Unity and Diversity of Ministerial FunctionsEndnotes

You are here: Rubrics & Law > Ceremonies > On Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priest  Back one page.

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You are here: Rubrics & Law > Ceremonies > On Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priest  Back one page.

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All contents © copyright, 1998-2014
The Catholic Liturgical Library
http://www.catholicliturgy.com