Pontiff Urges Christians to Defend Hope

Says This Is a Proclamation of the Faith

AURONZO DI CADORE, Italy, JULY 26, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI says that evangelization in today’s world implies following the example of the first Christians and combining proclamation with dialogue.

The Pope said this Tuesday during a question-and-answer session with 400 priests of the dioceses of Belluno-Feltre and Treviso, in the Church of St. Justina Martyr in Auronzo di Cadore, near Lorenzago di Cadore, where he is nearing the end of his vacation.

One of the priests mentioned northern Italy, explaining that it is home for many immigrants and, therefore, a place of “respectful dialogue with other religions.” The priest asked how to evangelize in this context.

The Holy Father recalled similar questions that arise in meetings with bishops from other parts of the planet, because “a homogeneous world no longer exists.”

Mustard seed

“We live in a state of perpetual meeting, similar to that of the early Church, where the first Christians experienced the same situation,” Benedict XVI said. “Christians were a very small minority, a mustard seed that began to grow, surrounded by different religions and living conditions.

“Therefore, we must learn from the experience of the first Christians. St. Peter in his first letter, in the third chapter, said: ‘Always be ready to give an account of the hope that is within you.’

“In this way, he formulated for the average person at that time, for the normal Christian, the necessity to combine proclamation and dialogue.

“He did not say formally: ‘Proclaim the Gospel to everyone.’ He said: ‘You must be able, ready, to give an account of the hope that is within you.'”

The Pope called this the “necessary synthesis” between dialogue and proclamation.

“In the first place we must have within us the reason for our hope,” he affirmed. “We must be people who live faith and think about faith and know it interiorly. In this way faith becomes reason; it becomes reasonable.

“Meditation on the Gospel and its proclamation, the homily, catechesis, rendering others capable of understanding the faith, these are all fundamental elements in this relationship between dialogue and proclamation.”

Neighbors

The Holy Father further emphasized the necessity of recognizing all people as neighbors. He urged living “love of our neighbor as an expression of our faith.”

“I think,” he explained, “that this is already in itself a strong witness and a form of proclamation — to live with others this love of neighbor, recognizing in them our neighbor, so that they can see: This ‘love of neighbor’ is for me.”

“If this happens, we can more easily show them the root of our behavior, which is that this love of neighbor is an expression of our faith,” the Pontiff said. “In dialogue we cannot move immediately to the great mysteries of the faith.

“Something practical and realizable, necessary, is above all to look for understanding about life’s values, expressed in the Ten Commandments, summarized in love of God and neighbor, and therefore understandable in other areas of life.”

The key, he concluded, is a “humble and patient proclamation, that waits, but that incarnates living our lives according to a conscience illuminated by God.”

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