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Pope Calls Filipino Priests to Holiness

MANILA, Jan. 23, 2010- Pope Benedict XVI called on Filipino bishops to work for the sanctification of priests, so that they may be able to fulfill their mission in the church and in modern world.

In a letter to the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, the pontiff said that bishops have a major role to play on how priests would exercise their pastoral functions.

He said a bishop's role is to sanctify, and in order to do this one must first tend to his own holiness of life.

"By preaching the Word, offering Eucharistic sacrifice, and administering the sacraments to God's people, the clergy in your respective dioceses ...may grow in holiness," Benedict XVI said.

The letter was read by Saturday CBCP President Bishop Nereo Odchimar during the bishops' 100th plenary assembly at the Pope Pius XII Catholic Center in Manila.

The pope's message was relayed by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican's Secretary of State, to the CBCP.

Bertone said the pope is urging Filipino prelates to continue acting their role as the chief catechists of their respective pastoral jurisdictions.

This means, he said, that bishops must be willing always and everywhere to stand up and teach those in need of instruction and for them to "manifest ever more clearly the spirit of God at work in the world."

In parting, Cardinal Bertone assured the bishops of the pontiff's "apostolic blessing" while commending their works for the Catholic Church.

Around 90 bishops are currently in attendance on the plenary meeting which will end on Sunday.

The CBCP has a total of 130 prelates, 32 of them are retired.

The Plenary Assembly is the CBCP's highest decision-making body which meets in regular session twice a year-in January and July.

The pope's message to the clergy also came in time for the 2nd National Congress of the Clergy which will be held at the World Trade Center in Pasay City on Jan. 25-29.

Around 5,000 priests are expected to attend the gathering with the theme "Faithfulness of Christ, Faithfulness of Priests," which the pope has chosen as the official slogan for the celebration of the "Year for Priests" (2009-2010).

The CBCP through its Commission on the Clergy is organizing the retreat-style national congress which will be facilitated by Preacher to the Papal Household, Capuchin Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa. (Roy Lagarde)