05/24/2007, 00.00

Pope: to counter rising relativism, the Church must renew its missionary vocation

In his speech to Italy’s bishops, Benedict XVI underscores the separation of what is God’s and what is Cesar’s, but maintains that the Church works for mankind’s wellbeing, such as safeguarding the family.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – In modern society, where the tide of relativism and nihilism is rising, the Church cannot renege on announcing the Gospel, neither can it “reduce or weaken its missionary vocation” or above all give up on formation especially of the young, “perhaps the most difficult task, but certainly its most important”.  At the same time, the Church cannot falter in standing up for “the good of mankind”, such as safeguarding the family –the Church appreciates and encourages the State to work in its favour – and the “daily service to the many poor, old and new, visible and invisible”. The Churches actions in favour of mankind, from both the spiritual and material point of view, were at the heart of Benedict XVI’s speech to the Italian bishops, who were gathered today in the Vatican for their 57th general assembly.

 “We note on a daily basis” revealed the Pope, “the weight of a culture that is imbued with moral relativism, lacking in certainties but rich in unjustified re-vindications”.  As result “there is a need to strengthen our Christian formation” which according to the Pope’s address is first among the Churches priorities, presupposed by the spreading of the Gospel.  Continuing on from this, the Pope affirmed that  “Esteem and respect toward other religions and cultures, with the seeds of truth and goodness that are present in them and which represent a preparation for the Gospel, are particularly necessary today in a world that is growing closer". At the same time however, this “respect for others cannot diminish awareness of the originality, fullness and uniqueness of the revelation of the true God definitively given in Christ":

An added responsibility for the bishops is their duty to towards the nation.  “Dear friends – he said – you have a precise responsibility not only to the Church but also towards the entire nation”.  A responsibility, “which fully respects the distinction between the Church and politics, between what be long’s to Cesar and what belongs to God, we cannot help concerning ourselves with that which is good" for the person, created in the image of God; in short for Italian society".

On examining the concrete aspects of the Churches active life, Benedict XVI had words of praise for Family Day, the demonstration in support of the family promoted by Catholic associations, “but also shared by many non Catholics”, which he described as “an extraordinary popular celebration which shows how the family is deeply rooted in the hearts and lives of Italians”. He noted how it “helped make plain for all to see that role which the family has in society and which today really needs to be understood and recognised, in the face of a culture that deceives itself that it is promoting people's happiness by insisting unilaterally on the freedom of individuals”.

This is why the Pope maintains that “all initiatives undertaken by the State in favour of the family must be appreciated and encouraged”, just as the Bishops stance against the Dico, or de facto couple, bill.

 “A similar attention to the real needs of the people – he said – is seen in the daily acts of charity towards the many poor, old and new, visible and invisible”.  After recalling the pastoral activities of the parishes, diocese and Caritas and having urged the bishops to “promote and animate this service”, Benedict XVI highlighted the non separation of the Church of the Samaritan and the Church which is custodian of moral law”.  “There can be no separation – he said – between the churches which custodies the moral law, written by God in man’s heart and the Church which invites the faithful to become good Samaritans, recognising their brethren in those who suffer”.

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