Since the end of Vatican II, in 1965, more active involvement of the laity has led many people to wonder about the priest’s place in the Church.
In this masterful work, theologian Jean Galot, S.J., clarifies the nature of the priesthood. He explains how the Jewish priesthood, the perfect priestly ministry of Jesus, and the role of the Twelve help us understand the ministerial priesthood. He considers how the “priesthood of the faithful” and the ministerial priesthood relate to each other, and how the latter is, by God’s design, necessary for the former.
Theology of the Priesthood carefully examines the priest’s role as minister of sacrifice and the sacraments, prophet of the Word, and leader of the Church. These and other aspects are summed up, according to Galot, in the priest’s ministry as shepherd. This ministery is itself a sharing in Jesus’ role as Shepherd:
“The priest does not draw the inspiration for his pastoral zeal from his own feelings, from his own personal resolve to create a better world”, Fr. Galot writes. “He is shepherd on the strength of God’s pastoral intention and represents specifically Christ the shepherd. Consequently, he is called upon to fulfill his pastoral mission not according to ideas of his own and his own personal ambitions, but in keeping with God’s own dispensation and the design of salvation devised by the Father and carried out by Christ. Like Jesus himself, the priest is at the service of the Father.”
The book also explores the spiritual life of priests, including the role of celibacy. It concludes with a discussion demonstrating that the male character of the ministerial priesthood is based on the will of Jesus and is not contrary to women’s dignity on their role in the Church.
Jean Galot, S.J. is professor emeritus of Christology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He is internationally known for his biblical and theological scholarship, particularly in the area of Christology. He is a frequent contributor to L'Osservatore Romano.