After almost twenty-seven years of his pontificate, what was John Paul II’s legacy regarding the ministerial priesthood? What answers did he give to the questions still surrounding this reality today? Nilson Leal de Sá, CB, examines the pontiff’s twenty-seven letters of Holy Thursday addressed annually to the priests. Unlike some papal documents, which are drafted by many hands, these letters to priests were born of a personal initiative, wherein the pope spoke ab imo pectore (from the depths of his heart), giving a little of himself and his thought. Cardinal Georges-Marie Cottier, theologian emeritus of the Pontifical House and a connoisseur of the texts of the Holy Father, has confirmed that "the Letters of Holy Thursday were written by John Paul II himself."
Leal de Sá has sought in the diversity of the letters of Holy Thursday the major points of the thought of John Paul II on this important topic. The first chapter dwells on the sources of his teaching and emphasizes his use of the Word of God, Tradition, and the conciliar Magisterium. These foundations are the basis of the second chapter, which highlights the priestly identity in the life of the Church. Finally, the third chapter elucidates the specific mission of the priest.
The Priesthood, Mystery of Faith presents itself as a real and stimulating synthesis of John Paul II’s thought about the ministerial priesthood in a systematic way. It renews us in the appreciation of the inestimable gift that God makes to the whole Church through the sacrament of the Holy Orders.
" The Priesthood, Mystery of Faith is an invitation to welcome the heritage of a holy pope, an icon of the Good Shepherd, who renews us in our knowledge and our love of the gift of God through the priesthood. St. John Paul II bequeathed to the Church rich teachings on ordained ministry. As a relentless interpreter of the Second Vatican Council, he never ceased, from his personal experience and his intimacy with Christ and the Church’s Tradition, to encourage his brother priests in a simple and prayerful style to be ‘servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God’ (1 Cor 4:1) for the life of the whole Church. From the ‘Letter to Priests for Holy Thursday,’ Nilson Leal de Sá presents this treasure in a systematic way for priests, seminarians, and all the baptized."~Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts
"A welcome contribution. Many authors have systematized John Paul’s theology of the body, but there is so much more to his thought much of which has not received sufficient attention. John Paul’s writings on the priesthood are copious and arguably deserve as much attention as his anthropology. I am happy to see in this brief volume a deep introduction to some of the most important themes in John Paul’s understanding of the priesthood."~Christian Raab, OSB, author of Understanding the Religious Priesthood (CUA Press)
"The thoughts of the Saint Pope John Paul II about the priestly ministry, which were expressed in the letters to priests written every Holy Thursday during his long pontificate, remain an invaluable treasure for the Church. Thanks to Father Nilson Leal de Sá, CB; in his book he invites us to return to this treasure by highlighting many essential points of the priestly ministry. His work is a wonderful contribution to the purification and renewal of the priesthood, which is so necessary today."~Father Jacques Philippe, author of Priestly Fatherhood: Treasure in Earthen Vessels