The Celebration of the Christian Mystery
and leads his Church. For this reason it is transmitted by its own
sacrament, the sacrament of Holy Orders.
In the person of Christ the Head . . .
In the ecclesial service of the ordained minister, it is Christ
himself who is present to his Church as Head of his Body, Shepherd
of his flock, high priest of the redemptive sacrifice, Teacher of Truth.
This is what the Church means by saying that the priest, by virtue of
the sacrament of Holy Orders, acts
in persona Christi Capitis:
It is the same priest, Christ Jesus, whose sacred person his
minister truly represents. Now the minister, by reason of the
sacerdotal consecration which he has received, is truly made
like to the high priest and possesses the authority to act in
the power and place of the person of Christ himself (
ac persona ipsius Christi
Christ is the source of all priesthood: the priest of the old law
was a figure of Christ, and the priest of the new law acts in
the person of Christ.
Through the ordained ministry, especially that of bishops
and priests, the presence of Christ as head of the Church is made
visible in themidst of the community of believers.
In the beautiful
expression of St. Ignatius of Antioch, the bishop is
typos tou Patros:
he is like the living image of God the Father.
ThispresenceofChrist in theminister is not tobeunderstood
as if the latter were preserved from all human weaknesses, the spirit
of domination, error, even sin. The power of the Holy Spirit does not
guarantee all acts of ministers in the same way. While this guarantee
extends to the sacraments, so that even the minister’s sin cannot
impede the fruit of grace, in many other acts the minister leaves
human traces that are not always signs of fidelity to the Gospel and
consequently can harm the apostolic fruitfulness of the Church.
This priesthood is ministerial. “That office . . . which the
Lord committed to the pastors of his people, is in the strict sense of
the term a
It is entirely related to Christ and to men. It
24 Pius XII, encyclical,
: AAS, 39 (1947) 548.
25 St. Thomas Aquinas,
III, 22, 4c.
27 St. Ignatius of Antioch,
3,1: SCh. 10, 96; cf.
6,1: SCh 10,