Sacerdotii Nostri Primordia - Encyclical on the Priesthood - Pope John XXIII - Part 5

The Use of Possessions

17. It is very important for these words to sink deep into the mind of every priest. If someone owns things that are rightfully his, let him be careful not to hang on to them greedily. Instead he should remember that the prescriptions of the Code of Canon Law dealing with church benefices make it clear that he has a serious obligation "to use superfluous income for the poor or for pious causes."(25) May God grant that no one of Us ever lets that terrible sentence that the parish priest of Ars once used in rebuking his flock fall on him: "There are many people keeping their money hidden away while many others are dying of hunger."(26)

18. We know very well that at the present time there are many priests living in great need themselves. When they stop to realize that heavenly honors have been paid to one of their own who voluntarily gave up all he had and asked for nothing more than to be the poorest of all in his parish,(27) they have a wonderful source of inspiration for devoting themselves carefully and constantly to fostering evangelical poverty. And if Our paternal interest can offer any consolation, We want them to know that We are very happy that they are serving Christ and the Church so generously with no thought of their own interests.

Unbecoming Indigence

19. However, even though We praise and extol this wonderful virtue of poverty so much, no one should conclude that We have any intention of giving Our approval to the unbecoming indigence and misery in which the ministers of the Lord are sometimes forced to live, both in cities and in remote rural areas. In this regard, when St. Bede the Venerable explained and commented on the words of the Lord on detachment from earthly things, he excluded possible incorrect interpretations of this passage with these words: "You must not think that this command was given with the intention of having the saints keep no money at all for their own use or for that of the poor (for we read that the Lord himself... had money-boxes in forming his Church...) but rather the idea was that this should not be the motive for serving God nor should justice be abandoned out of fear of suffering want."(28) Besides, the laborer is worthy of his hire,(29) and We share the feelings of Our immediate predecessor in urging the faithful to respond quickly and generously to the appeals of their pastors; We also join him in praising these shepherds for their efforts to see to it that those who help them in the sacred ministry do not lack the necessities of life.(30)

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