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Pope lauds priests despite ‘weaknesses’

Associated Press / July 5, 2010

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SULMONA, Italy — Pope Benedict XVI said yesterday that despite their weaknesses, priests have an important role in the world.

Benedict did not directly mention the clergy abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic church for months. But during a daylong visit to a central Italian town, he received a round of applause and words of support by local youths greeting him “in this time of harsh attacks and media provocation.’’

Minutes later, Benedict told the youths that “for all our weaknesses, still priests are a precious presence in life.’’

The trip to Sulmona was dedicated to honoring Celestine V, the 13th-century hermit who resigned the papacy saying that he was not up to the task.

Benedict said Celestine’s simple and humble lifestyle can serve as an example for modern men and women. The pontiff praised the hermit for his detachment from material things.

“We, too, who live in an epoch of greater comfort and possibilities, are called upon to appreciate a sober lifestyle,’’ the pope said.

Celestine V resigned just months after becoming pope in 1294 at age 85. He was later put under guard for fear he would become the rallying point for a schism.

Celestine died in 1296 and was declared a saint in 1313.

Benedict, at times wiping his forehead, conducted an open-air Mass in hot weather before thousands of faithful in one of Sulmona’s main squares.

In modern society, Benedict told them, “it seems that every space, every moment must be filled with initiatives, activities, sounds.

Often there isn’t even the time to listen.’’

“Let’s not fear the silence inside and outside of us, if we want to be able to perceive not just the voice of God but also [the voices] of those who are next to us,’’ he said.

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