To the Reverend Father Marcial Maciel Degollado
Superior General of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ
1. I am pleased to unite myself spiritually to the joy and to the thanksgiving that from you, Reverend Father, and from the hearts of all the members of this religious family rise up to God, source of all good, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the priestly ordination that was conferred upon you November 26, 1944, in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico City. On that day was completed the journey of formation for the priesthood, initiated by you at 16 with the dream of giving rise to priests totally dedicated to the proclamation of the Gospel and the moral and social uplifting of the poorest and most marginalized brothers. This project of love of Christ, fidelity to the Church, and service to man was able to be realized with the birth in Mexico City on January 3, 1941, of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ, whose Constitutions were, later, approved definitively by me in the year 1983.
2. Your 60 years of priestly life, Reverend Father, have been characterized by significant spiritual and missionary fecundity with different apostolic works and activities such as the Regnum Christi Movement, the network of schools called ‘Mano Amiga’ [Helping Hand], the numerous educational and charitable institutions — present today in 16 countries of the five continents — whose objective is to promote the values of the family and the human person, [and] university centers of study and formation. And, what to say, moreover, of the apostolate of the priests Legionaries of Christ as well as the commitment of the whole congregation in favor of the integral formation of future diocesan priests, particularly through the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum, and the two Mater Ecclesiae international seminaries of Rome and Sao Paulo in Brazil?
I cannot, of course, forget the service that you have rendered in these years to the Holy See, which has made use — on several occasions and in different ways — of your generous and competent collaboration, whether on the occasion of some of my apostolic trips, or in the activity of organizations of the Roman Curia.
3. The profound inspiration which has guided your educational, cultural and pastoral action — an inspiration that you have transmitted as a precious treasure to the religious family you founded — has been the constant concern for an integral promotion of the person, and especially as regards the human formation that, as I had the opportunity to write in the postsynodal apostolic exhortation “Pastores Dabo Vobis,” “when it is carried out in the context of an anthropology which is open to the full truth regarding the human person, leads to and finds its completion in spiritual formation” (No. 45).
Reverend Father, the joyful recollection of your 60th anniversary of priestly ordination falls during the Year of the Eucharist. This providential coincidence constitutes an invitation to meditate upon the centrality of the Eucharist in the life of the Christian community and especially in the formation of future priests and in their subsequent dedication to ordained ministry. This is what I underlined in the previously cited document, recalling “the essential importance of the Eucharist for the priest’s life and ministry and, as a result, in the spiritual formation of candidates for the priesthood” (No. 48).
4. For all these reasons I am happy to join in with the canticle of praise and of thanksgiving to the Lord that rises up from many hearts for the “great things” (cf. Luke 1:49) that the grace of God has accomplished in these 60 years of your intense, generous and fruitful priestly ministry.
As I invoke a renewed outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit so that your priesthood may continue to bear abundant good fruits, I entrust you, dear Father Maciel, to the heavenly protection of the Virgin Mary, Mother of priests, and I send you affectionately a special apostolic blessing, which I willingly extend to all the Legionaries of Christ, to the members of the Regnum Christi Movement, and to all who participate in the jubilee celebration.
From the Vatican, November 24, 2004
Joannes Paulus II