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Pope encourages strong witness of Gospel, commitment to charity
September 9th, 2009
By Catholic News Service

VITERBO, Italy – Pope Benedict XVI encouraged Italian Catholics to strengthen the witness of the Gospel in all areas of life, from personal charity to politics.

The pope made the remarks Sept. 6 during a visit to Viterbo, a city near Rome where cardinals instituted the first papal conclave more than 700 years ago.

At an outdoor Mass at a sports complex, the pope told a crowd of some 20,000 people that announcing and witnessing the faith remains a task for every era of history. It begins with the responsibility to listen to God’s word and discern his signs, he said.

“The most immediate sign of God is certainly attention to one’s neighbor,” he said. The charitable activity of the church and its members is an essential expression of faith and an important service to modern society, he said.

The pope said lay Catholics, in addition to doing volunteer and charity work, should also witness the faith in other areas, including service to political action.

“The seasons of history go by, the social contexts change, but what doesn’t change and disappear is the vocation of Christians to live the Gospel in solidarity with the human family, in step with the times,” he said.

The pope said the desert, popular in the Bible as a place of spiritual drama and difficulty, has relevance in contemporary times.

“The most profound desert is the human heart, when it loses the capacity to listen, to speak and communicate with God and with other people. Then one becomes blind because, unable to see reality, ears are closed against those who cry for help, and the heart is hardened in indifference and selfishness,” he said.

While in Viterbo the pope visited a Marian sanctuary and met with the cloistered nuns who reside there. They prayed together to Mary for the special intention of modern families that are “divided and in crisis.”

Later the same day, he traveled to the nearby town of Bagnoregio, where he venerated the relics of St. Bonaventure, a 13th-century Franciscan theologian and a doctor of the church.

Addressing townspeople in the square outside the cathedral, the pope underlined St. Bonaventure’s incessant search for God and his ability to see and praise the beauty of creation. The saint understood God as the source of such beauty, he added.

“How useful it would be if today, too, people discover the beauty and value of the created world in the light of divine goodness and beauty!” he said.


From September 11, 2009 issue of Catholic San Francisco.


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