Drop in Mass Attendance Dims Light of Christian Witness, Says Pope

Liturgy Is Occasion to Transmit Hope, He Tells New Zealand’s Bishops

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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 13, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II says the best way to communicate the hope that animates the Catholic community is in joyful participation in Sunday Mass.

“Sunday Mass, beyond the fulfillment of a solemn obligation, is a glorious epiphany of the Church in which the holy People of God, actively and fully sharing in the same liturgical celebration, testify to the supreme day of faith, an indispensable day, the day of Christian hope,” the Pope said.

The Holy Father spoke on this point to the bishops of New Zealand when he met them today at the conclusion of their five-yearly visit to Rome.

“All the faithful of Aotearoa, through their baptismal vocation, are called to share in your witness to the hope that the Church holds,” the Pope said, using an indigenous Maori language name for the South Pacific island nation. “There is no better way to do this than through joyful participation in worship.”

“The weakening in Sunday Mass observance, of which each of you has spoken with profound concern, dims the light of witness to Christ’s presence in your country,” he said.

“When Sunday becomes subordinate to a popular concept of ‘weekend’ and is unduly dominated by entertainment and sport, rather than being truly sanctified and revitalized, people remain trapped in a relentless and often meaningless pursuit of novelty and fail to experience the freshness of Christ’s ‘living water,'” John Paul II added.

“I join you in urging the laity of New Zealand — and in a special way the young people — to remain faithful to the celebration of Sunday Mass: ‘hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, … not neglecting to meet together … but encouraging one another,'” he said, quoting a passage from Hebrews 10:23-25.

“From her sacred liturgy, the Church draws strength and inspiration for her mission to evangelize,” the Holy Father said. “This was expressed with great clarity during the Synod for Oceania: the ‘purpose of being with Jesus is to go forth from Jesus, in his power and with his grace.'”

He added: “This dynamic, articulated during the prayer after Communion and the concluding rite of every Mass, directs every Christian to the task of the evangelization of culture. It is a duty that no single believer can ignore.”

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