On June 13 at 7.30 p.m. in the Roman Basilica of St. John Lateran Benedict XVI inaugurated an ecclesial congress marking the close of the pastoral year of the diocese of Rome. The congress, which will run from 13 to 15 June, has as its theme: “The joy of engendering the faith in the Church of Rome”.
Commenting on the choice of theme, the Pope affirmed that “the faith cannot endure by itself in the world, it is not automatically transmitted to men’s hearts but always has to be announced. And the announcement of the faith, in order to be effective, must come from a heart that believes, that hopes, that loves, a heart that adores Christ and believes in the power of the Holy Spirit. … The response of faith arises when, by God’s grace, man discovers that believing means finding true life, the ‘full life'”.
The Holy Father highlighted the fact that “the Church, each one of us, must bring the world the good news that Jesus is Lord, the One in Whom God’s closeness and love for each man and woman became flesh. This announcement must resound anew in regions of ancient Christian tradition”. In this context the Pope recalled words he had pronounced at World Youth Day
“If mankind forgets God”, he added, “this is also because Jesus is often reduced to the status of a wise man, and His divinity is diminished if not denied outright. This way of thinking makes it impossible to comprehend the radical novelty of Christianity, because if Jesus is not the only Son of the Father, then God did not enter into the history of mankind. The truth is that the incarnation is at the very heart of the Gospel. May we, then, show increasing commitment to renewing evangelization, which is a task not just for the few but for all the members of the Church”.
“Should we too not share the beauty and reason of the faith, and carry the light of God to the men and women of our time with courage, conviction and joy?” Pope Benedict asked. “Many are the people who have not yet met the Lord; they must be given our special pastoral attention. … Today this is more urgent than ever and requires us to commit ourselves trustingly, upheld by the certainty that the grace of God always works on the heart of man”.
The Pope went on to explain that the messengers of the good news of the Gospel are the baptised, especially parents “whose job it is to seek Baptism for their children. … Children need God from an early age. They have the capacity to perceive His greatness; they know how to appreciate the value of prayer and ritual, and to discern the difference between good and evil. Thus they must be guided in the faith from earliest infancy”.
As for subsequent stages of the journey of faith, the Holy Father recalled how “the Christian community has always accompanied the formation of children and young people, helping them not only to understand the truths of faith with the intellect, but also to live the experience of prayer, charity and fraternity. The word of faith risks being muted if it does not find a community that puts it into practice, giving it life and making it attractive”, he said.
Benedict XVI also spoke of “adolescents who begin the journey of Christian initiation”, whom he encouraged “to follow this path, which leads to discovery of the Gospel not as a utopia but as a way to live life to the full”. He also invited them to rediscover the Sacrament of Confirmation, “that the gift of the Holy Spirit may confirm the joy of having been generated as children of God”.
“In order for this to be effective and fruitful, it is important that knowledge of Jesus grow and extend beyond the celebration of the Sacraments. This is the task of catechesis. … Catechesis is ecclesial activity and therefore catechists must teach and bear witness to the faith of the Church, and not some interpretation of their own. This is why the Catechism of the Catholic Church was written”.
The Pope concluded by emphasising the need “for education in silence and interior life. I trust that the paths of Christian initiation followed in the parishes of