Evangelization Comes First, Pope Tells Curia

Vatican, Dec. 21, 2007 (CWNews.com) – Pope Benedict XVI (bionews) emphasized the duty of all Christians to evangelize in his Christmas message to the Roman Curia.

“The disciple of Christ must also be a ‘missionary,’ a messenger of the Gospel,” the Holy Father said during his December 21 meeting with leaders of the Curia.

The Pope acknowledged that the duty to spread the Gospel is questioned today, with skeptics asking “whether it is still legitimate to evangelize today.” He expressed the position of the skeptics: “Should not all the religions and philosophies of the world coexist peacefully and together seek what is best for humanity, each in its own way?”

In his lengthy address, the Pope answered those questions in the context of a review of memorable events from the past year. He began by recalling his trip to Brazil. There, he said, he had been moved by “the profound communion which spontaneously arose” between the successor to Peter and the people of the world’s most heavily populated Catholic nation. The excitement of the crowd, he said, was not merely a passing emotion, but “a source of strength for accepting life in a new way.”

In Brazil, the Pope continued, the bishops of Latin America were meeting to discuss their role as missionaries and disciples of Christ. Turning to his main theme, he noted that some people felt that theme was “perhaps excessively concentrated on interior life at a time in which the great challenges of history” require a more active response.

But in fact, the Pope argued, the proper responses to historical crises require a commitment that can only come from interior life in Christ.

Pope Benedict said that all believers of all religions should learn to love and respect each other. Thus, he said, he was pleased to respond to the 138 Muslim leaders who called for greater inter-religious dialogue. However, he observed, those who truly love and respect their neighbors wish to share the Good News with them.

“Those who have recognized a great truth, those who have discovered a great joy, must pass it on, they cannot keep it to themselves,” the Pope said. “And this is what happens in the Christian mission.”

Returning to the connection between interior life and public activity, the Pope said that “the renewed into interior life.” This, he explained, “is because the renewed encounter with Jesus Christ and his Gospel– and only that – revives the forces that make us capable of giving the right response to the challenges of our time.”

Drawing the attention of his Vatican aides to one country where the task of evangelization is particularly difficult, the Pope mentioned his message to the Church in China. The Vatican, he says, wants to engage in “a serene and constructive dialogue with the civil authorities,” in an effort to expand the freedom of the Church to conduct her mission there.

Referring briefly to his short trips around Europe, Pope Benedict said that the Church must recognized the mounting power of secularism “and the pressure of ideological presumption.” The trend toward dismissing religion is a strong one, he said, and cannot be dismissed as a short-term phenomenon.

Still the Pope concluded his Christmas talk to the Curia by reminding the prelates that Christians should take heart in the message of the Gospel and the presence of the Lord. “We also know that the Lord maintains his promise,” he said: “Remember I am with you always, to the end of the age.”


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