A short video report from Romereport:
SEEK NEW PATHS OF EVANGELISATION FOR CHURCH AND SOCIETY
VATICAN CITY, 24 SEP 2011 (VIS) – At 6.1.5 p.m. today in the main hall of the Seminary of Freiburg im Breisgau the Holy Father met with council members of the Central Committee for German Catholics. The committee was founded in 1952 to support the apostolic work of the Catholic Church.
The Holy Father focused on the “exposure programmes” promoted by the committee whereby, for a certain period, experts in various sectors share the daily lives of poor people in developing countries “in order to see the world through their eyes and hence to learn how to practise solidarity. … Let us imagine”, the Pope said, “that an exposure programme of this kind were to take place here in Germany. Experts from a far country would … find much to admire here, for example the prosperity, the order and the efficiency. But looking on with unprejudiced eyes, they would also see plenty of poverty: poverty in human relations and poverty in the religious sphere.
“We live at a time that is broadly characterised by a subliminal relativism that penetrates every area of life”, he added. “Sometimes this relativism becomes aggressive, when it opposes those who claim to know where the truth or meaning of life is to be found. And we observe that this relativism exerts more and more influence on human relationships and on society. … Many no longer seem capable of any form of self-denial or of making a sacrifice for others. Even the altruistic commitment to the common good, in the social and cultural sphere or on behalf of the needy, is in decline. Others are now quite incapable of committing themselves unreservedly to a single partner”.
“We see that in our affluent western world much is lacking. Many people lack experience of God’s goodness. They no longer find any point of contact with the mainstream Churches and their traditional structures. But why is this? I think this is a question on which we must reflect very seriously. Addressing it is the principal task of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelisation. But naturally it is something that concerns us all”.
In this context the Holy Father noted that “the Church in Germany is superbly organised”. However, he asked, “behind the structures, is there also a corresponding spiritual strength, the strength of faith in a living God? We must honestly admit that we have more than enough by way of structure but not enough by way of Spirit. I would add: the real crisis facing the Church in the western world is a crisis of faith. If we do not find a way of genuinely renewing our faith, all structural reform will remain ineffective”.
“We are called to seek new paths of evangelisation. Small communities could be one such path, where friendships are lived and deepened in regular communal adoration before God”, Benedict XVI suggested. “There we find people who speak of these small faith experiences at their workplace and within their circle of family and friends, and in so doing bear witness to a new closeness between Church and society”.
POPE TO YOUNG PEOPLE: HAVE THE COURAGE TO BE SAINTS
VATICAN CITY, 24 SEP 2011 (VIS) – Following his meeting with members of the Central Committee for German Catholics at the Seminary of Freiburg im Breisgau, Benedict XVI travelled to the city fairgrounds where he presided at a prayer vigil with young people. Extracts from the Holy Father’s address are given below.
He began by referring to the candle-lighting ceremony, which was part of the vigil. In an imitation of the Easter rite of lighting the Paschal candle, the Pope lit candles borne by a number of young people who, in their turn, lit candles carried by others. “This wonderful liturgical rite “, he said, “reveals to us in signs more eloquent than words the mystery of our Christian faith. Jesus who says of Himself: ‘I am the light of the world’, causes our lives to shine brightly, so that what we have just heard in the Gospel comes true: ‘You are the light of the world’.
“It is not our human efforts or the technical progress of our era that brings light into this world”, the Holy Father added. “Again and again we have to experience how our striving to bring about a better and more just world hits against its limits. Innocent suffering and the ultimate fact of death awaiting every single person are an impenetrable darkness. … While all around us there may be darkness and gloom, yet we see a light: … Christ, risen from the dead, shines in this world and He does so most brightly in those places where, in human terms, everything is sombre and hopeless”.
“To be sure, those who believe in Jesus do not lead lives of perpetual sunshine, as though they could be spared suffering and hardship, but there is always a bright glimmer there, lighting up the path that leads to fullness of life. The eyes of those who believe in Christ see light even amid the darkest night and they already see the dawning of a new day.
“Light does not remain alone. All around, other lights are flaring up. In their gleam, space acquires contours, so that we can find our bearings. We do not live alone in this world. And it is for the important things of life that we have to rely on other people. Particularly in our faith, then, we do not stand alone, we are links in the great chain of believers. Nobody can believe unless he is supported by the faith of others, and conversely, through my faith, I help to strengthen others in their faith”.
The idea of sainthood has often been distorted
“We increasingly experience the failure of our efforts and our personal shortcomings, despite our best intentions. In the final analysis, the world in which we live, in spite of its technical progress, does not seem to be getting any better. There is still war and terror, hunger and disease, bitter poverty and merciless oppression. And even those figures in our history who saw themselves as ‘bringers of light’ – without being fired by Christ, the one true light – did not manage to create an earthly paradise, but set up dictatorships and totalitarian systems, in which even the smallest spark of true humanity was choked”.
“At this point we cannot remain silent about the existence of evil. We see it in so many places in this world; but we also see it – and this scares us – in our own lives. Truly, within our hearts there is a tendency towards evil, there is selfishness, envy, aggression. Perhaps with a certain self-discipline all this can to some degree be controlled. But it becomes more difficult with faults that are somewhat hidden, that can engulf us like a thick fog, such as sloth, or laziness in willing and doing good. Again and again in history, keen observers have pointed out that damage to the Church comes not from her opponents, but from uncommitted Christians”.
“Dear friends, again and again the very notion of saints has been caricatured and distorted, as if to be holy meant to be remote from the world, naive and joyless. Often it is thought that a saint has to be someone with great ascetic and moral achievements, who might well be revered, but could never be imitated in our own lives. How false and discouraging this opinion is! There is no saint, apart from the Blessed Virgin Mary, who has not also known sin, who has never fallen. Dear friends, Christ is not so much interested in how often in your lives you stumble and fall, as in how often you pick yourselves up again. He does not demand glittering achievements, but He wants His light to shine in you. He does not call you because you are good and perfect, but because He is good and He wants to make you His friends. Yes, you are the light of the world because Jesus is your light. You are Christians – not because you do special and extraordinary things, but because Christ is your life. You are holy because His grace is at work in you”.
“This gathering shines in more ways than one – in the glow of innumerable lights, in the radiance of so many young people who believe in Christ. A candle can only give light if it lets itself be consumed by the flame. It would remain useless if its wax failed to nourish the fire. Allow Christ to burn in you, even at the cost of sacrifice and renunciation. Do not be afraid that you might lose something and, so to speak, emerge empty-handed at the end. Have the courage to apply your talents and gifts for God’s kingdom and to give yourselves – like candle wax – so that the Lord can light up the darkness through you. Dare to be glowing saints, in whose eyes and hearts the love of Christ beams and who thus bring light to the world. I am confident that you and many other young people here in Germany are lamps of hope that do not remain hidden. ‘You are the light of the world'”.
Following the meeting, the Holy Father moved on to the fairgrounds of Freiburg im Breisgau to preside at a prayer vigil with young people.