Pope's Address to Pontifical Council for the Laity

“God Is Known Through Men and Women Who Know Him”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 29, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Friday to the Pontifical Council for the Laity during its 35th plenary assembly.

* * *

Lord Cardinals,

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and Priesthood,

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

I am happy to meet with you, members and advisers of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, gathered for the 35th plenary assembly. I greet in a particular way Cardinal Stanisław Ryłko and Monsignor Josef Clemens, the secretary, and I thank Cardinal Ryłko for the courteous words that he has addressed to me. A cordial welcome to all of you, especially the laymen and women, who make up the dicastery. Since the last plenary assembly you have been engaged in various initiatives which His Eminence has already mentioned. I too would like to recall the congress for the laypeople of Asia, and World Youth Day in Madrid. They were very intense moments of faith and ecclesial life and they are also important in view of the great ecclesial events that we will be celebrating next year: the 13th ordinary general assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization and the opening of the Year of Faith.

The congress for the laypeople of Asia was organized last year in Seoul, with the help of the Church in Korea, on the theme “Proclaiming Jesus Christ in Asia Today.” The vast Asian continent contains different peoples, cultures and religions of ancient origin, but the Christian proclamation has so far only reached a small minority, which often — as you yourself said Your Eminence — live their faith in difficult circumstances, sometimes even real persecution. The meeting provided the occasion for the laity, the associations, the movements and the new communities that have been established in Asia to strengthen their commitment to and their courage in their mission. These brothers of ours admirably bear witness to their following of Christ, giving us a glimpse how their faith is opening up large areas for evangelization in Asia. I know that the Pontifical Council for the Laity is organizing a similar congress in Cameroon for the laypeople of Africa next year. These continental meetings are invaluable for giving impetus to the work of evangelization, to strengthen unity and to reinforce the bonds between particular Churches and the universal Church.

I would also like to draw attention to the last World Youth Day in Madrid. The theme of the gathering, as we know, was faith: “Rooted and Built up in Jesus Christ, Firm in the Faith” (cf. Colossians 2:7). And I truly was able to contemplate an incredible number of young people, enthusiastically gathered together from all over the world to encounter the Lord and experience universal brotherhood. An extraordinary flood of light illuminated Madrid, and not only Madrid, but old Europe too and the whole world, re-proposing the pertinence of the search for God in a clear way. No one was able to remain indifferent, no one was able to think that the question of God is irrelevant for man today. The young people of the whole world anxiously await the celebration of these special gatherings dedicated to them, and I know that you are already working on the next one in Rio de Janeiro in 2013.

In this respect it seems to me to be particularly important that there was a wish to treat the topic of God in this year’s general assembly, whose theme was “The Question of God Today.” We must never tire of re-proposing this question, to “begin again from God,” to give back to man the totality of his dimensions, his complete dignity. In fact, a mentality that is widespread in our time that rejects every reference to the transcendent, has shown itself to be incapable of preserving the human. The spread of this mentality has generated the crisis that we are experiencing today, which is a crisis of meaning and of values before it is an economic and social crisis. Those who try to live in a positivistic way, in the calculable and the measurable, become suffocated in the end. In this context the question of God is, in a sense, “the question of all questions.” It brings us back to man’s most basic questions, to the aspirations for truth, happiness and freedom that are native to his heart, that seek a realization. The man who reawakens the question about God in himself becomes open to hope, to a trustworthy hope, for which it is worthwhile to face the toil of the journey in the present (cf. “Spe salvi,” 1).

But how do we reawaken the question of God so that it becomes the fundamental question? Dear friends, if it is true that at the beginning “[b]eing Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person” (“Deus caritas est,” 1), the question of God is reawakened in meeting those who have the gift of faith, with those who have a living relationship with the Lord. God is known through men and women who know him: the way to him passes, in a concrete way, through those who have met him. Here your role as laypeople is particularly important. As “Christifideles laici” observes, this is your specific vocation. In the Church “a particular place falls to the lay faithful, by reason of their ‘secular character,’ obliging them, in their proper and irreplaceable way, to work towards the Christian animation of the temporal order” (36). You are called to bear a transparent witness to the relevance of the question of God in every sphere of thought and action. In the family, in the workplace and in politics and the economy, contemporary man needs to see with his own eyes and touch how it is that with God or without God everything changes.

But the challenge posed by a mentality closed to transcendence obliges Christians themselves to return in a more decisive way to the centrality of God. Now and then there is an effort to make the presence of Christians more incisive in society, politics or the economy, and perhaps there has not been a corresponding concern for the solidity of their faith, almost as if it were something acquired once and for all. In reality Christians do not inhabit a distant planet that is immune to the “diseases” of the world, rather they share the anxieties, the disorientation and the difficulties of their time. Thus, it is not less urgent to re-propose the question of God even in the ecclesial sphere. How often, despite calling themselves Christians, do the faithful not in fact make God the central point of reference in their way of thinking and acting, in their fundamental decisions in life? The first response to the great challenge of our time is then the profound conversion of our heart, so that the Baptism that made us the light of the world and the salt of the earth might truly transform us.

Dear friends, the Church’s mission needs contribution of each and every one of her members, especially the laity. In the stations of life to which the Lord has called you, be courageous witnesses of the God of Jesus Christ, living your Baptism. In this I entrust you to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of all peoples, and from my heart I impart to you and your loved ones the apostolic blessing. Thank you.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]
Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry


Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation