Vatican City (AsiaNews) - "Saint Peter's Square presents itself today almost as an open-air 'cenacle', crowded with faithful, many of them members of Italian Catholic Action": this is how Benedict XVI greeted the 100,000 members of the most widespread ecclesial association in Italy, in his reflection before the Regina Caeli today. The young and adults of Catholic Action (AC) were gathered in the square to celebrate the 140th anniversary of their foundation with a Mass presided over by Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, president of the Italian bishops' conference.
The pope gave an address to them after the Marian prayer.
Before the Regina Caeli, the pontiff emphasised the value of today's feast, the Ascension of Christ to heaven and his "return to the Father" with his and our humanity. "He", the pope explains, "in fact came to the world to bring men back to God, not on the level of ideas - like a philosopher or master of wisdom - but really, as a shepherd who wants to lead his sheep back to the fold . . . It is for us that he came down from Heaven, and it is for us that he ascended there after making himself like men in all things, humiliated to the point of death on the cross, and after touching the abyss of the greatest separation from God".
"God in man - man in God" are "not a theoretical truth, but a real one", an anchor for the life of all men. "And what does man need more in every age if not this: a solid anchoring for his existence?".
"After the Ascension", the pope further recalled, "the first disciples remained gathered together in the Cenacle around the Mother of Jesus, in fervent expectation of the gift of the Holy Spirit, promised by Jesus (cf. Acts 1:14)". From this arises the invitation "to remain united together in prayer, to invoke the gift of the Holy Spirit. In fact, only to those who 'are born again from above', meaning from the Holy Spirit, is opened the entrance to the Kingdom of heaven (cf. Jn. 3:3-5), and the first one 'born again from above' is precisely the Virgin Mary".
After the Marian prayer, the pope addressed a greeting in various languages to the faithful present. Among others, he greeted a group of the Neocatechumenal Way from Mumbai. The should have been in the square, but they were refused the entry visa in Italy and they are still in Mumbai.
To the members of the AC, the pope recalled the ample "ecclesial dimension" of the association, not a "sign of an uncertain or outdated identity", but "rather a great responsibility of our lay vocation".
He then urged all to mission in society: "In a missionary Church, placed before an educational emergency like the one found in Italy today, you who love and serve it should be tireless announcers and prepared, generous educators; in a Church called to trials of faithfulness that are sometimes very demanding, and tempted to adaptation, you must be courageous and prophetic witnesses of the radical nature of the Gospel; in a Church that faces the relativistic, hedonistic, and consumerist mentality on a daily basis, you must be able to make more room for rationality under the banner of a faith that is the friend of intelligence, both in the area of popular mass culture, and in that of more elaborate and reflective research; in a Church that calls to the heroism of sanctity, respond without fear, always trusting in the mercy of God".