Catholic priests serve primarily as mediators between God and man, linking the human and divine realms through the person of Christ. They are, in the words of St. Paul, ministers of Christ and the dispensers of the mysteries of God, taken from among men yet appointed for men in the things that pertain to God. Priests thus form an indispensible bond uniting heaven and earth.
This priestly mediation operates primarily through the sacraments, prayer, and preaching. Such work demands a great holiness on the part of every priest, for he is the intimate servant of God. The priesthood also requires a great knowledge of moral and religious truths, detachment from the things of this world, generous obedience to the divine will, and a desire to be sacrificed for the good of others. Ultimately, the priest is “another Christ,” God’s chosen instrument of salvation.
The Catholic priesthood was instituted directly by God as the primary and ordinary means of saving and sanctifying every soul. Jesus Christ, immediately before He suffered on the Cross in order to redeem the fallen human race, ordained his twelve apostles to this priesthood, commanding them to offer the sacrifice of the Mass on his behalf and, after his resurrection, granting them the power to forgive sins. Before ascending gloriously into heaven, He ordered them to spread the good news of Christianity throughout the entire world.