"Yes, God continues to be present even in our cities that are frantic and distracted!"
Pope Francis made this reflection when addressing the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Laity Saturday in the Vatican.
Reflecting on the assembly's chosen theme of "Encountering God in the Heart of the City," the Holy Father said this topic follows the invitation within the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium to enter into the “challenge of the urban cultures.”
Noting that more than half the world's men and women live in cities, the Pope said that the “phenomenon of urbanization has now assumed a global dimension,” which largely impacts the mentalities, cultures, lifestyles, interpersonal relations, and religiosity of people.
The cities present great opportunities and great risks, the Pontiff said, stressing they can be "magnificent spaces of freedom and human fulfillment, but terrible spaces of dehumanization and of unhappiness."
"It seems that every city, even ones that appear more prosperous and ordered, have the capacity of generating within itself a dark 'anti-city,'" in which people seem invisible, aren’t given attention, and don’t have meaningful relationships.
In front of this sad scenario, he urged, "we should always remind ourselves that God has not abandoned the city," and that it is possible to meet God in the heart of the city.
“God continues to be present even in our cities that are frantic and distracted!”
Given this, the Holy Father continued, “It is necessary to never abandon one’s self to pessimism and defeatism, but to have a gaze of faith on the cities, a contemplative gaze which sees God dwelling in their homes, in their streets and squares.”
God is never absent from the city, he stressed, because He is never “absent from the heart of man” and His presence "accompanies the sincere efforts of individuals and groups to find encouragement and meaning in their lives.”
The Church, the Pope said, wants to be at the service of this sincere search that is in so many hearts and that makes them open to God.
“The lay faithful, above all, are called to go out without fear to meet the men and women in the city: in daily activities, at work, as single people or as families, together with the parish or in ecclesial movements they belong to, and break the wall of anonymity and indifference that often reigns in the city.”
By becoming joyful announcers of the Gospel to their fellow citizens, Francis added, “the lay faithful discovers that there are many hearts that the Holy Spirit has already prepared to receive their witness, their closeness and their attention.”
Pope Francis concluded, entrusting their work and projects to the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary, imparting his Apostolic Blessing, and asking them to pray for him.
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