Following is a translation of the Pope’s address to those present.
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Dear Brother Bishops and Priests,
Brothers and Sisters!
It is a joy for me to meet with the Pontifical Council for the Laity gathered in Plenary Assembly. As Blessed John Paul II loved to recall, with the Council “the hour of the laity struck,” and the abundant apostolic fruits give it ever more confirmation. I thank the Cardinal for the words he addressed to me.
Among the recent initiatives of the Dicastery I would like to recall the Pan-African Congress of September 2012, dedicated to the formation of the laity in Africa, as well as the seminar of study on the topic “God Entrusts the Human Being to Woman,” on the 25th anniversary of the Apostolic Letter Mulieris dignitatem. And we must reflect further on this point. In the cultural crisis of our time, woman finds herself on the front line in the battle for safeguarding what is human. And finally with you I thank the Lord for the World Youth Day of Rio de Janeiro: a real celebration of the faith. It was a real celebration. The Cariocas were happy and made us all happy. The topic of the Day: “Go and Make Disciples of all Nations,” put in evidence the missionary dimension of the Christian life, the need to come out towards those who await the living water of the Gospel, towards the poorest and the excluded. We saw concretely how the mission springs from the infectious joy of the encounter with the Lord, which is transformed into hope for all.
For this Plenary you chose a very timely topic: “To Proclaim Christ in the Digital Age.” It is a privileged field for the action of young people, for whom the “net” is, so to speak, innate. The Internet is a widespread reality, complex and in constant evolution, and its development proposes again the always timely question of the relation between faith and culture. Already during the first centuries of the Christian era, the Church wished to measure herself with the extraordinary heritage of the Greek culture. In face of philosophies of great profundity and of an educational method of exceptional value, permeated however with pagan elements, the Fathers did not close themselves to the to the confrontation nor on the other hand did they yield to compromise with some ideas in opposition to the faith. Instead, they were able to recognize and assimilate the more elevated concepts, transforming them from within in the light of the Word of God. They acted on what Saint Paul requested: “test everything; hold fast to what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Among the opportunities and dangers of the net, it is also necessary to ”test everything,” aware that we will certainly find false coins, dangerous illusions and traps to avoid. However, guided by the Holy Spirit, we will also discover precious opportunities to lead men to the Lord’s luminous face.
Among the possibilities offered by digital communication, the most important concerns the proclamation of the Gospel. Although important, it certainly is not sufficient to acquire technological competencies. It is first of all about encountering real women and men, often wounded or lost, to offer them true reasons for hope. The proclamation requires genuine and direct human relations to lead to a personal encounter with the Lord. Therefore, the Internet is not enough; technology is not sufficient. However, this does not mean that the Church’s presence on the net is useless; on the contrary, it is indispensable to be present, always with an evangelical style, in that which for many, especially young people, has become a sort of environment of life, to reawaken the insuppressible questions of the heart on the meaning of existence, and to indicate the way that leads to Him who is the answer, Divine Mercy made flesh, the Lord Jesus.
Dear friends, the Church is always on a journey, seeking new ways to proclaim the Gospel. The contribution and the testimony of the lay faithful are demonstrated to be more indispensable every day Therefore I entrust the Pontifical Council for the Laity to the solicitous and maternal intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, while blessing you with all my heart. Thank you.[Translation by ZENIT]