VATICAN CITY, 29 JAN 2011 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican Benedict XVI received priests and seminarians of the Pontifical Ethiopian College in a meeting to mark the 150th anniversary of the death of St. Justin de Jacobis (1800-1860), patron of that institution.

St. Justin "was a worthy son of St. Vincent de Paul who put the principle of 'being everything for everyone' into exemplary practice, especially in his service to the people of Abyssinia. At the age of thirty-eight he was sent by Cardinal Franzoni, then prefect of the Propaganda Fide, as a missionary to Ethiopia, ... where he founded a seminary called the "College of Mary Immaculate".

"He learned the local language, championed the centuries-old liturgical tradition of the rites of those communities, as well as working effectively towards ecumenism", said the Pope. "His particular passion for education, especially the formation of priests, means that he can justly be considered as the patron of your college. Indeed, this worthy institution still welcomes priests and candidates to the priesthood, supporting them in their theological, spiritual and pastoral preparations".

The Holy Father called on the priests, when returning to their communities of origin or assisting their compatriots abroad, "to arouse in everyone a love for God and the Church, following the example of St. Justin de Jacobis. He crowned his fruitful contribution to the religious and civil life of the Abyssinian peoples with the gift of his own life, silently restored to God after much suffering and persecution. He was beatified by Venerable Pius XII on 25 June 1939 and canonised by Servant of God Paul VI on 26 October 1975.

"The way of sanctity also lies open to you, dear priests and seminarians", Pope Benedict added. "Sanctity lies at the very heart of the ecclesial mystery; it is the vocation to which we are all called. Saints are not some exterior ornamentation of the Church; rather, they are like the flowers of a tree which testify to the endless vitality of the lymph flowing through it. It is good to see the Church like this, in ascension towards the fullness of the 'Vir perfectus'; in continual, demanding, progressive maturation; dynamically driven towards complete fulfilment in Christ".

Benedict XVI concluded by encouraging the members of the Pontifical Ethiopian College "to live this important period of your formation, in the shadow of the dome of St. Peter's, with joy and dedication. Walk resolutely along the path of sanctity. You are a sign of hope, especially for the Church in your countries of origin. I am certain that the experience of communion you have experienced here in Rome will also help you to make a precious contribution to growth and peaceful coexistence in your own beloved nations".

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