Mestre (AsiaNews) - "Christian conversion is. ...above all a source of joy, hope and love" and supports the missionary proclamation, which is "to give account of Christian hope for modern man, often overwhelmed by vast and disturbing problems that places in crisis the very foundations of his being and his acting". This is what Benedict XVI proposed in his homily to the churches of North-east Italy, gathered in San Giuliano Park in Mestre, a few kilometers from Venice. In front of tens of thousands of faithful from the Tre Venezie, from Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary (all churches born of the Mother Church of Aquileia), the pope explained the meaning and value of the Sunday Gospel story, which tells of the Risen Jesus’ encounter with the disciples of Emmaus (Luke 24: 13-35).
"This episode - said the pope - shows the consequences that the Risen Jesus operates on the two disciples: conversion from despair to hope; conversion from sadness to joy, and even conversion to community life. Sometimes, when we speak of conversion, we only think of it in terms of fatigue, detachment and renunciation. Instead, Christian conversion is above all a source of joy, hope and love. It is always the work of the Risen Christ, Lord of life, who obtained this grace for us through his passion and who communicates it to us through the power of his resurrection. "
Benedict XVI recalled "the energy of missionary proclamation" that has always characterized the churches born of Aquileia, and added: "As in the past, when those churches were known for apostolic zeal and pastoral dynamism, so today we need to promote and defend the truth with courage and unity of the faith. We must give an account of Christian hope for modern man, often overwhelmed by vast and disturbing problems that put in crisis the very foundations of his being and his actions. "
The Pope underscored a risk present in the Church today: "This being of Christ risks being emptied of its truth and its most profound contents, it risks becoming a horizon that only superficially - and in its more social and cultural aspects - embraces life; it risks being reduced to a Christianity in which the experience of faith in the Crucified and Risen Jesus does not illuminate the path of our existence". And again: "The problem of evil, pain and suffering, the problem of injustice and oppression, fear of others, the foreigners and those from afar who come into our land and seem to attack what we are, lead Christians today to say with sadness: we were hoping that the Lord would deliver us from evil, pain, suffering, fear, injustice. "
The present situation of these churches is therefore similar to that of the disciples of Emmaus who were "returning home, immersed in doubt, sadness and disappointment."
From the episode of Emmaus, the pope draws some indications for a conversion to being saints: we must "allow ourselves be taught by Jesus. ... Listening to and loving the Word of God," we must "sit at the table with the Lord in the Eucharist;" staying with Jesus, who was with us, to assimilate his style of life gifted for us, he choose the logic of communion between us, of solidarity and sharing ".
"There is a great effort to be made - said the pope – so that all Christians, here in the Northeast, just as in any other part of the world, become witnesses, ready to proclaim with vigour and joy the event of the death and the resurrection of Christ ... .. I encourage you to never give in to the constant temptations to which the hedonistic culture of consumerism and materialism call".
And then recalling the tradition of the sanctity of these lands, Benedict XVI urged the faithful: "Be holy! Put Christ at the center of your life! Build your lives upon Him. In Jesus you will find the strength to open up to others to make yourself, following his example, a gift to all humanity. " In particular, the pope urged "the Churches generated from Aquileia" to unite "people of different languages and cultures" - in front of the contemporary phenomenon of immigration - supported "by faith in Christ and the civilization inspired by the teaching of the Gospel, the civilization of 'Love. "
At the conclusion of the Mass, which was attended by over 150 thousand people, Benedict XVI addressed a few words after the singing of the Regina Caeli. Recalling the many churches and chapels dedicated to the Virgin Mary in Venice and the territory, the pope said: "In her face we see reflected the light of Christ. If we follow her with docility, the Virgin brings us to Him in these days of Eastertide, let us be conquered by the risen Christ. In Him begins a new world of love and peace which is the deep desire of every human heart. "
"We pray - he added - to the Blessed Virgin Mary, who supported the first witnesses of Her Son in preaching the Good News, to sustain the apostolic labors of the priests, made fruitful by the testimony of men and women religious, to animate the daily work of parents in the first transmission of faith to their children, to enlighten the way of young people so they may walk confidently on the path traced by the faith of their fathers, to fill with hope once more the hearts of the elderly; to comfort with her closeness all the sick and suffering, and enhance the efforts of the numerous lay people who work actively in the new evangelization. "The pontiff thanked in particular of the Catholic laity, the Focolare movement, Communion and Liberation, the Neocatechumenal Way. "I encourage everyone - he concluded - to work in communion with the true spirit of this great vineyard in which the Lord has called us to operate. Mary, Mother of the Risen Christ and the Church, pray for us. "