Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Although at times God is forced to punish those who reject him and proclaim themselves "gods," Jesus' promise of salvation remains always valid. The evangelical parable of the keepers of the vineyard who throw out and kill the "servants" of the owner, and even his son, was applied today by Benedict XVI to the once "flourishing" "communities" that today "are losing their identity, under the harmful and destructive influence of a certain modern culture" and to those who "having decided that 'God is dead', declare themselves 'gods', believing themselves the sole creators of their own destiny, the absolute owners of the world." With the results that we see before our eyes, with the risk of "the expansion of arbitrary power, egoistic interests, injustice and exploitation, violence in all of its expressions."
The pope opened the 12th general ordinary assembly of the synod of bishops today at the Basilica of St. Paul's Outside the Walls. The location is unusual - is the first time that the opening of such an assembly has not been held at St. Peter's - and signifies the connection with the Pauline Year, during which the synod is taking place, under the theme of "The Word of God and the life and mission of the Church," of which the apostle to the Gentiles was one of the leading missionaries. Benedict XVI then illustrated during the Angelus the work of the 253 "Synod fathers."
Looking at the Gospel parable, Benedict XVI noted that "this page of the Gospel applies to our own way of thinking and acting; it applies especially to those peoples who have received the proclamation of the Gospel. If we look at history, we are forced to recognize that it is not rare for inconsistent Christians to be cold and rebellious. As a result of this, although God never fails his promise of salvation, he has often had to resort to punishment. It is spontaneous to think, in this context, of the first proclamation of the Gospel, which gave rise to Christian communities that at first were flourishing, but later disappeared and are now remembered only in the history books. Could not the same thing happen in our time? Nations that at one time were rich in faith and vocations are now losing their identity, under the harmful and destructive influence of a certain modern culture. There are those who, having decided that 'God is dead', declare themselves 'gods', believing themselves the sole creators of their own destiny and the absolute owners of the world. In casting off God and not awaiting salvation from him, man believes that he can do whatever he likes and set himself up as the sole measure of himself and his action. But when man eliminates God from his horizon, is he truly more happy? Does he truly become more free? When men proclaim themselves the absolute owners of themselves, and the sole masters of creation, can they truly build a society in which freedom, justice, and peace reign? Does it not instead happen - as daily events abundantly demonstrate - that there is the expansion of arbitrary power, egoistic interest, injustice and exploitation, violence in all of its expressions? The result, in the end, is that man finds himself more alone, and society is more divided and confused."
But "there is a promise in the words of Jesus: the vineyard will not be destroyed. Although he leaves the unfaithful keepers of the vineyard to their fate, the owner does not abandon his vineyard, and he entrusts it to other servants, who are faithful. This indicates that, if in some regions faith becomes weak to the point of disappearing, there will always be other peoples ready to accept it."
"The message of consolation that we take from these biblical texts," the pope concluded, "is the certainty that evil and death do not have the last word, but it is Christ who overcomes in the end. Always! The Church does not tire of proclaiming this Good News, as is taking place now, in this basilica dedicated to the apostle of the Gentiles, who was the first to spread the Gospel in the vast regions of Asia Minor and Europe. Let us renew in a significant way this proclamation during all of the 12th general ordinary assembly of the synod." "May the Lord help us to examine ourselves over the next weeks of the synodal work, asking ourselves how we can make the proclamation of the Gospel increasingly effective in our time."
Benedict XVI also made the synod the focus of the words that he addressed to the 20,000 faithful present in St. Peter's Square for the recitation of the Angelus. It is, he said, "an assembly of the bishops chosen to represent the entire episcopate, and called together to assist the successor of Peter, demonstrating and at the same time reinforcing ecclesial communion. This is an important body, instituted in September of 1965 by my venerable predecessor, the servant of God Paul VI," the purpose of which is to "foster close union and collaboration between the pope and the bishops of the entire world; to provide direct and precise information on the situation and problems of the Church; to foster agreement on doctrine and pastoral actions; to address topics of great importance and relevance."
"For the ordinary synod assembly, which begins today," he continued, "I have selected, after consultation, the topic of the Word of God as the subject to be explored, In a pastoral perspective, in the life and mission of the Church." "Dear brothers and sisters," he concluded, "I invite all to support the work of the synod with your prayers, invoking in a special way the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, the perfect Disciple of the Divine Word."