ROME, DEC. 10, 2006 (Zenit.org).- In a secularized society, “the parish is a beacon that radiates the light of faith,” said Benedict XVI when consecrating his first Roman church as Pope.
His pastoral visit to celebrate Mass and consecrate the church of the parish dedicated to Holy Mary Star of Evangelization, located in Torrino, a neighborhood in the southern sector of Rome, began at 9 a.m.
At the entrance of the church, the Pope greeted and expressed his affection to 150 young people of the Ardent Marian Youth, who held a night vigil in anticipation of their meeting with the Holy Father.
The parish church was inaugurated in Advent, the liturgical season which for the past 16 years the diocese has dedicated to sensitizing the public and collecting funds for the construction of new churches on the outskirts of the city.
This latest church to be inaugurated is added to a complex of some 50 parishes which have been built thanks to the financial effort of the Vicariate of Rome, the contributions of the faithful, and the attention of civil authorities.
“I ask all the faithful and citizens of good will to continue in this commitment with generosity, so that neighborhoods that are still deprived of parish premises, will be able to have them as soon as possible,” said the Bishop of Rome in his homily at the Mass. The Holy See published the homily.
“Above all in our highly secularized social context, the parish is a beacon that radiates the light of faith and meets the most profound and authentic desires of man’s heart, giving meaning and hope to the lives of individuals and families,” the Pontiff said.
Aware that the parish community he visited is young, and that the neighborhood has numerous families, children and young people, the Holy Father emphasized “the arduous and fascinating task of educating children in the life and joy of the faith.”
“I trust that together, in a spirit of sincere communion, you will be committed to preparation for the sacraments of Christian initiation and help your children […] to grow in love and faithfulness to the Lord,” he said.
Prior to the Liturgy of the Word, the Pope consecrated the altar of the new church by anointing it with oil.
The altar has relics of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, St. Francis Xavier, St. Caspar del Bufalo and St. Catherine Laboure, all figures that refer to evangelization.
The rite of dedication of the new church continued with the anointing of the walls to indicate the exclusive and permanent destiny of the building to Christian worship, and the incensing and lighting of the altar.
At the end of the ceremony, Benedict XVI greeted the faithful and, according to Vatican Radio, said: “The Lord has given us the joy of celebrating his house and his presence. We have felt this presence which unites us and we now pray that this joy will remain with us, and help us to collaborate for justice and peace in the world.”
The Holy Father then explained the meaning of Christmas to the children on hand.
“It is the day in which God gave us a great present, not just anything; his gift was to give himself,” the Pope said. “He gave us his Son, and this is how Christmas became the feast of presents.”
“We want to imitate God, not live just for ourselves, but to think of others, to give another a gift. The most beautiful gift is to be good to others, to show goodness, justice and love,” Benedict XVI told the children, who clapped with joy.