VATICAN CITY, APRIL 8, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is acknowledging the importance of popular expressions of piety, but is encouraging the close unity of these with the Church's liturgy.
The Pope stated this today in an address to participants in the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.
Popular piety, he said, "cannot be considered as something secondary in Christian life."
The Pontiff affirmed that "this simple expression of faith has its roots in the very beginning of the evangelization" of Latin America.
"To carry out the new evangelization in Latin America, in a process that permeates the whole being and work of the Christian, the many demonstrations of popular piety cannot be put to one side," he affirmed.
"All of them, well channeled and duly supported, propitiate a fruitful encounter with God, an intense veneration of the Most Blessed Sacrament, a profound devotion to the Virgin Mary, a cultivation of affection for the Successor of Peter and an awareness of belonging to the Church," the Holy Father acknowledged.
He said that "faith must be the main source of popular piety, so that it will not be reduced to a simple cultural expression of a specific region."
"More than that," Benedict XVI added, "it must be in close relationship with the sacred liturgy, which cannot be substituted by any other religious expression."
Love for Christ
"Found in popular piety are many expressions of faith connected to the great celebrations of the liturgical year," he noted, "in which the simple peoples of Latin America reaffirm the love they feel for Jesus Christ, in whom they find the manifestation of God's closeness, of his compassion and mercy."
The Pope acknowledged, "It cannot be denied, however, that certain deviated forms exist of popular religiosity that, far from fomenting an active participation in the Church, create instead confusion and can foster a merely exterior religious practice detached from a well-rooted and interior living faith."
He encouraged giving "primacy to the Word of God so that it will be the permanent nourishment of Christian life and the pivot of all pastoral action."
"This encounter with the divine Word must lead to a profound change of life," the Pontiff encouraged, "to a radical identification with the Lord and his Gospel, to become fully aware that it is necessary to be solidly cemented in Christ."
In this regard, he affirmed, "I am pleased to know that in Latin America the practice of lectio divina has been growing in the parishes and in small ecclesial communities, as an ordinary way to nourish prayer and, in that way, give solidity to the spiritual life of the faithful."
Reflecting on the Lenten journey, the archbishop affirmed that it is precisely "Jesus' Easter, with the mystery of death and resurrection, that the key is given to begin again and also to understand and to accept these enormous sufferings, to find in them also a meaning linking them precisely to the mystery of Jesus' Easter."
"Hence," he said, "the wish I make for myself and for all Christians is that we find, precisely in faith in Christ dead and risen, the hope of which we are in need and which becomes strength to go forward, not only for us."
The prelate noted, "If we Christians have this strength in our hearts, we are able to infect others with a hope that becomes also concrete action for our city, for our rebirth."