Pope to the Bishops of France

Strong words on Summorum Pontificum

It is never too often said that the priesthood is indispensable to the Church, in the very own interest of the lay faithful. Priests are a gift from God to the Church. Priests must never delegate to the faithful [those] functions which are related to their own mission.Dear Brothers in the episcopacy, I ask you to remain desirous to help your priests live in intimate union with Christ. Their spiritual life is the foundation of their apostolic life. You shall exhort them gently to daily prayer and to a dignified celebration of the Sacraments, particularly of the Eucharist and of Reconciliation, as Saint Francis de Sales did with his priests. Every priest should be able to feel glad to serve the Church. At the school of the Curé d’Ars, son of your land and patron of all priests of the world, do not cease to repeat that a man can do no greater deed than to give the Body and the Blood of Christ to the faithful, and to forgive sins.

Liturgical worship is the supreme expression of priestly and episcopal life, and also of catechetical teaching. Your mission of sanctification of the faithful people, dear Brothers, is indispensable for the growth of the Church. I was prompted to detail, in the Motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, the conditions for the accomplishment of this mission, in that which relates to the possibility of using both the missal of Blessed John XXIII (1962) and that of Pope Paul VI (1970). The fruits of these new dispositions have already seen [the light of] day, and I hope that the indispensable pacification of the spirits is being accomplished, thank God.

I comprehend your difficulties, but I do not doubt that you will be able to reach, within reasonable time, solutions which are satisfactory to all, so that the seamless robe of Christ is not torn anymore. No one is excessive within the Church. Everyone, without exception, must be able to feel at home, and never rejected. God, who loves all men and wills that no one be lost, entrusts us with this mission of Pastors, making us Shepherds of His sheep. We can only give Him thanks for the honor and the confidence He places upon us. Let us endeavor to always be servants of unity.

Benedict XVI
Meeting with the Cardinals and Bishops of France,
Hémicycle Saint Bernadette, Lourdes
September 14, 2008

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