Benedict XVI today celebrated the 65th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood in a special ceremony attended by Pope Francis.
During the ceremony, celebrated at the Sala Clementina within the Apostolic Palace, German Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller presented Benedict XVI with a book entitled 'Teaching and Learning the Love of God', a collection of Joseph Ratzinger’s homilies on the priesthood. More than 30 cardinals were present, as well as a number of other invited guests.
Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger was ordained a priest on 29 June 1951 on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, in the cathedral of Freising by the then-Cardinal Archbishop of Munich, Michael von Faulhaber. In his memoirs, written in 2005, Benedict describes the day as the most important of his life.
He explains there were 40 candidates for ordination, and that “when we were called we responded: ‘Here I am.’” Cautioning the reader not to be superstitious, Benedict recounts how when the elderly archbishop laid his hands on the future Pope’s head, “a small bird – perhaps a lark – rose up from the high altar of the cathedral and sang a joyful little song”.
“For me it was as if a voice from on high were telling me: it’s ok, you’re on the right path,” he writes. Benedict’s older brother, Georg, was ordained a priest alongside him.
Pope Francis said that Benedict continues to serve the Church, “not ceasing to truly contribute to her growth with strength and wisdom”.
“And you do this,” Francis said, “from that little Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican, that is shown in that way to be anything but that forgotten little corner to which today’s culture of waste tends to relegate people when, with age, their strength diminishes.”
According to Vatican Radio Francis also spoke about the Franciscan dimension of the monastery, which recalls the Portiuncula, the “little portion” where St Francis founded his order, and laid down his life.
Divine Providence, he said, “has willed that you, dear Brother, should reach a place one could truly call ‘Franciscan’, from which emanates a tranquillity, a peace, a strength, a confidence, a maturity, a faith, a dedication, and a fidelity that does so much good for me, and gives strength to me and to the whole Church”.
PICTURE: Georg (left) and Joseph Ratzinger at their ordination on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul in the cathedral of Freising, Bavaria, in 1951