Dearest priests, deacons and seminarians,
I am pleased to address my cordial greeting to all of you gathered in this beautiful Cathedral, reopened for worship after its restoration last November. I thank
Archbishop Rocco Talucci for the warm welcome he has addressed to me in your name and for all his gifts. I greet the priests to whom I wish to express my satisfaction at the immense and structured pastoral work they
carry out. I greet the deacons, the seminarians and everyone present and express my joy at being surrounded by a large crowd of souls consecrated for the advent of the Kingdom of God. Here in the Cathedral, which is
the heart of the Diocese, we all feel at home, united by the bond of Christ's love. Let us commemorate here with gratitude those who spread Christianity in these regions: Brindisi was the first city of the West to
welcome the Gospel, which reached it on the Roman consular roads. Among the evangelizing Saints I think of Bishop St Leucius, of St Oronzo, St Theodore of Amasea and St Lawrence of Brindisi, proclaimed a Doctor of
the Church by John XXIII. Their presence lives on in the hearts of the people and is witnessed to by many of the city’s monuments.
Dear brothers, in seeing you gathered in this Church, in which many of you received your diaconal and presbyteral ordination, I remember the words that St
Ignatius of Antioch wrote to the Christians of Ephesus: “Your excellent presbyters, who are a credit to God, are as suited to the Bishop as strings to a harp. So in your harmony
of mind and heart the song you sing is Jesus Christ”. And the holy Bishop added: “Every one of you should form a choir, so that, in harmony of sound through harmony of
hearts, and in unity taking the note from God, you may sing with one voice through Jesus Christ to the Father. If you do this, he will listen to you” (Letter to the Ephesians, 4). Persevere, dear priests, in seeking this unity of intention and reciprocal help, so that fraternal charity and unity in pastoral work are an example and incentive for your communities. This, above all, was the goal of the pastoral visits your Archbishop made to your parishes which ended last March. Due, precisely, to your generous collaboration, it was not merely a juridical exercise but an extraordinary event of ecclesial and formative value. I am certain that it will be fruitful since the Lord will make the seed sown with love grow abundantly in the hearts of the faithful.
I would like to encourage you with my presence today to place yourselves with ever growing openness at the service of the Gospel and of the Church. I know that you
already work with zeal and intelligence, sparing no energy in spreading the joyful Gospel proclamation. Christ, to whom you have consecrated your lives, is with you! In him we all believe, to him alone we entrust
our lives, it is he whom we desire to proclaim to the world. May Christ who is the Way, the Truth and the Life (cf. Jn 14: 6), be the object of our thought, the topic of our words, the reason for our life.
Dear brother priests, if your faith is to be strong and vigorous, as you well know, it must be nourished with assiduous prayer. Thus be models of prayer, become
masters of prayer. May your days be marked by times of prayer, during which, after Jesus’ example, you engage in a regenerating conversation with the Father. I know it is not easy to stay faithful to this daily
appointment with the Lord, especially today when the pace of life is frenetic and worries absorb us more and more. Yet we must convince ourselves: the time he spends in prayer is the most important time in a
priest's life, in which divine grace acts with greater effectiveness, making his ministry fruitful. The first service to render to the community is prayer. And therefore, time for prayer must be given a true
priority in our life. I know that there are many urgent things: as regards myself, an audience, a document to study, a meeting or something else. But if we are not interiorly in communion with God we cannot even
give anything to others. Therefore, God is the first priority. We must always reserve the time necessary to be in communion of prayer with our Lord.