Sacerdotii Nostri Primordia - Encyclical on the Priesthood - Pope John XXIII - Part 19

Necessity of Personal Holiness

97. As this Encyclical of Ours draws to a close, We want to assure you, Venerable Brethren, of the high hopes We have that these centenary celebrations will, with the help of God, lead to a deeper desire and more intensive efforts on the part of all priests to carry out their sacred ministry with more ardent zeal and especially to work to fulfill "the first duty of priests, that is, the duty of becoming holy themselves.'' (100)

98. When We gaze from this height of the Supreme Pontificate to which We have been raised by the secret counsels of Divine Providence and turn Our mind to what souls are hoping for and expecting, or to the many areas of the earth that have not yet been brightened by the light of the Gospel, or last of all to the many needs of the Christian people, the figure of the priest is always before Our eyes.

99. If there were no priests or if they were not doing their daily work, what use would all these apostolic undertakings be, even those which seem best suited to the present age? Of what use would be the laymen who work so zealously and generously to help in the activities of the apostolate?

100. And so We do not hesitate to speak to all of these sacred ministers, whom We love so much and in whom the Church rests such great hopes—these priests—and urge them in the name of Jesus Christ from the depths of a father's heart to be faithful in doing and giving all that the seriousness of their ecclesiastical dignity requires of them.

101. This appeal of Ours draws added force from the wise and prudent words of St. Pius X: "Nothing is needed more to promote the kingdom of Jesus Christ in the world than the holiness of churchmen, who should stand out above the faithful by their example, their words and their teaching.'' (101)

102. And this fits in perfectly with the words that St. John M. Vianney addressed to his bishop: "If you want the whole diocese to be converted to God, then all of the Cures must become holy."

Help From Bishops

103. And We especially want to commend these most beloved sons to you, Venerable Brethren, who bear the chief responsibility for the holiness of your clergy, so that you will be careful to go to them and help them in the difficulties— sometimes serious ones—that they face in their own lives or in carrying out their duties.

104. What is there that cannot be accomplished by a bishop who loves the clergy entrusted to his direction, who is close to them, really knows them, takes great care of them and directs them in a firm but fatherly way?

105. It is true that your pastoral care is supposed to extend to the whole diocese, but you should still take very special care of those who are in sacred orders, for they are your closest helpers in your work and are bound to you by many sacred ties.

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