Sunday, March 01, 2009

The Testimony of the Faithful of the Reality of the Word is Indispensible

Remarks of Pope Benedict XVI, Bishop of Rome
Question and Answer Session with the Priests of Rome

February 26, 2009

2. Don Fabio Rosini, parish priest of Santa Francesca Romana all'Ardeatino:
. . . Many of us Roman priests, with different approaches, have sought to respond to the objective urgency to re-establish the faith, or sometimes, even to establish it outright. . . . What should be the indispensable criteria for urgent evangelization? In your opinion, what are the elements which will guarantee that all these pastoral efforts to announce the Gospel to a new generation will not be in vain?

I humbly ask you to show us, in your prudent discernment, the parameters to respect and to value to be able to say we are fulfilling the work of evangelization that is genuinely Catholic and which can bear fruit for the faith.

Pope Benedict:
. . . The community of faithful is a precious thing, and we should not underestimate the positive and beautiful reality that these faithful constitute, including the many who are now distant: They have said Yes to the Lord in the Church, they seek to live the faith, they seek to walk in the footsteps of the Lord.

We should help this faithful . . . to see the presence of the faith, to see it is not a thing of the past, but that even today, it shows the way, it teaches us to live as humans.

It is very important that they find in their own parish priest a pastor who loves them and who helps them to listen to the Word of God today, to understand that it is a Word for them and not only for persons of the past or of the future; to help them as well in the sacramental life, in the experience of prayer, in listening to the Word of God, and in a life of justice and charity - so that Christians may be a ferment in a society with so many problems and so many dangers and even so much corruption.

In this way, I think that they can also carry out a missionary role 'without words', because they are persons who truly live a just life. And so they offer a testimonial of how it is possible to live well along the road indicated by the Lord.

Our society has particular need of communities like these who are able to live in justice not only for themselves but for others. Persons who know how to live life, as we heard in the First Reading today.

This Reading says at the start: "Choose life." It is easy to say Yes. But then it continues: "Your life is God." (Deut. 30:19-20) Therefore, to choose life is to choose one's option for life, and this option is God. If there are persons or communities who make this complete choice for life and make visible the fact that the life they have chosen is truly life, then they render testimony which is of great value.

I come here to a second reflection. To announce Christ, we need to elements: the Word and testimony. As we know from the Lord himself, the Word tells us what he has said, it discloses the truth of God, the presence of Christ in God, the road that opens up before us.

It is about an announcement in the present, as you said, which translates the words of the past to the world of our experience. And it is absolutely indispensable, fundamental, to give credibility to these words through testimony, so that they do not appear to be nothing more than a beautiful philosophy, or a beautiful utopia, but reality.

A reality with which one can live, but also a reality which makes us live. In this sense, I think that the testimonial of the community of the faithful, as the underpinning of the Word, of the announcement, is of the greatest importance.

With the Word, we must open new places for experience of the faith to those who are in search of God. That is what the early Church did with the Catechumenate, which was not simply a catechesis, a doctrinal thing, but a place for progressive experience in the life of faith, in which the Word can be disclosed, which becomes understandable only if interpreted in life, realized in living.

I think it is important that, together with the Word, to have a hospitality center for the faith, a place where one can have a progressive experience of the faith. I see here one of the tasks for the parish: hospitality to those who do not know the life that is typical of the parochial community. We should not be a circle closed in on ourselves.

We have our habits, but nonetheless we should open ourselves up and seek to create vestibules, or spaces for getting together. Someone who comes in from afar cannot immediately enter into the established life of a parish which already has its set practices. For the newcomer, all of it is very surprising, very remote from his own life.

And so, we should try to create with the help of the Word, that which the early Church created with the catechumenates: spaces where to begin living the Word, to follow the Word, to make it comprehensible and realistic, corresponding to forms of real experience.

And so, in this sense, what you referred to can be really important - the need to link the testimony of a just life, of being there for others, of opening oneself to the poor and the needy, but even to the rich who need their hearts to be opened up, to hear the knocking at their hearts. And these will be diverse spaces, according to the situation.

I think that little can be said in theory, but concrete experience will show the way to follow. And naturally, a criterion that is always important to follow, one must be within the great communion of the Church, even from a space which is still distant - and that means in communion with the bishop, with the Pope, and thus with the great past and the great future of the Church.

To be in the Catholic Church, in fact, does not mean being only on the great road that lies before us, but with the perspective of a great opening to the future.

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