Being Christian Today Means to Go "Against the Current," Pope Says

In His Address to General Assembly of Italian Episcopal Conference

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 20, 2003 ( The challenge facing the Church today is to transmit the faith to future generations in an environment where to be a Christian means to go «against the current», John Paul II said today.

The general assembly of the Italian episcopal conference meeting in the Vatican from May 19-23, is focusing on the topic «Christian Initiation.»

When addressing the Italian bishops, the Pope said that «the formation of a Christian and the transmission of the faith to new generations are of decisive importance, even more important in the present social and cultural context,» he stressed.

In this reality, «many factors make more difficult — against the current, so to speak –, the commitment to become genuine disciples of the Lord, while the speed and depth of changes make the distance grow between generations, at times to the point of non-communication,» the Pope added.

John Paul II offered fundamental advice to proclaim the faith to new generations: create means of «Christian initiation» that give «ample space to the proclamation of the faith,» by offering «the fundamental motivations in a manner proportionate to the age and preparation of people.»

In this task, «it is of utmost importance to begin very early the Christian education of children, so that it will be vitally assimilated from their first years.»

«No baptized child should be deprived of the nourishment that makes the seed grow which Baptism has placed in him,» he said.

«For their part, priests, catechists, and formators are called to cultivate personal dialogue with children, adolescents, and youths, without concealing the grandeur of God’s call and the demanding commitment of the response,» he added.

To achieve this objective, it is necessary to support the indispensable role of the family, as well as to promote the teaching of religion in schools.

In this connection, the Holy Father lamented that there is still not «adequate recognition» of the role of Catholic schools in Italy, which virtually do not enjoy State aid, for which reason the Pope asked that «effective equality» be guaranteed between public and private schools.

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