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Why priests are elders

By Vision Reporter

Added 9th August 2012 08:18 PM

During the second half of the year many Catholic dioceses in Uganda get newly ordained priests, amidst jubilations. In the spirit of interfaith dialogue I intend to share with readers some significant insights into Catholic priesthood. The word “priest” comes from Greek “presbuteros”, for elder.

During the second half of the year many Catholic dioceses in Uganda get newly ordained priests, amidst jubilations. In the spirit of interfaith dialogue I intend to share with readers some significant insights into Catholic priesthood. The word “priest” comes from Greek “presbuteros”, for elder.

Msgr John Wynand Katende
 
During the second half of the year many Catholic dioceses in Uganda get newly ordained priests, amidst jubilations. In the spirit of interfaith dialogue I intend to share with readers some significant insights into Catholic priesthood. The word “priest” comes from Greek “presbuteros”, for elder. 
 
Although all Christians share in the royal priesthood of Christ, as per 1 Peter 2:9, Catholics also recognise a ministerial priesthood. This priesthood commits one to a full-time service of God and his Church. Aaron, the Levites, Melchizedek, Jesus and the apostles are good examples. Catholic priesthood is in three stages: deacon, priest and bishop. Only a bishop may ordain.
 
The New Testament priesthood is called sacramental because one gets it by the sacrament of ordination and because it administers sacraments. Sacraments are outward, physical means by which the living Jesus continues to communicate God’s saving grace to us. 
 
In Numbers 11:16-30 the 70 elders of Israel received the Holy Spirit at their ordination. Paul urged Timothy, the young bishop, to stir up the gift that had been given him through the laying on of the Apostle’s hands and instructed him to ordain candidates whose character had been proven worthy.
 
Catholics appreciate the Church as a family of God and call the priest “Father”, because he represents the father figure of God, after Christ. This does not contradict Jesus’ teaching to apply the title to God alone (Matthew 23:9). The teaching refers to the humble attitude a minister of God ought to exhibit, through teaching and example. The apostles often referred to themselves this title. 
 
In 1 Corinthians 4.15, Paul states that he is the father of the Corinthians through the gospel. Peter refers to Mark as “my son.” (1 Peter 5:13). Catholic priests must, therefore, be male just as Jesus was and just as biological fathers are.
Priests have an inalienable duty of preaching the gospel. “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel”, says St. Paul (1 Corinthians 9:16). They also have God’s power to forgive sins (John 20:23).
 
Ordained priests preside over the sacrifice of Jesus (Mass) as well as other sacraments (Mark 14:23, Luke 22:19 and 1 Corinthians 11:24). By telling the apostles to offer his memorial sacrifice, Jesus clearly ordained them as his priests. “Do this in remembrance of me,” may also be translated, “Offer this as my memorial sacrifice”.
 
It is not a mere commemoration of a loved one, but a living memorial offering of the resurrected Jesus to God, that God may remember what Jesus did on the cross and bestow upon us the graces of salvation. Catholics do not need to invent any other sacrifices to God, but to offer the one that has already been offered by Jesus. This is indeed a great mystery of faith.
 
While marriage is good, the Latin rite of the Catholic Church has a celibate priesthood, because it allows a person uninterrupted devotion to the Lord (1 Cor. 7:32-34, 38). 
 
This tradition goes back to Jesus and the apostles. Jesus acknowledges it as a special gift to the Church and to the priest (Matthew 19:11). Paul, himself a celibate, tells Timothy not raise a family because he is a soldier of Christ (2 Timothy 2:4). But there are exceptions to this rule. 
 
The Eastern Rites of the Roman Catholic Church and ministers from other denominations who get ordained Catholic priests, even though they are already married. Given human weakness and the lures of this world, priests may, however, sin. We need to appreciate and support them in this high calling.
 
The writer is the Episcopal Vicar for public relations, Kampala Archdiocese 

Why priests are elders

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