5. Thanks be to God, in recent years the situation has considerably improved after the construction of new housing in Tor Bella Monaca and New Ostia. However pockets of poverty and loneliness remain; the lack of housing, unemployment, especially among young people, truancy, the scourge of drugs, petty crime and prostitution.
You do not remain indifferent to all this. I am well aware of your generous efforts to proclaim the message of Christ by acts of courageous solidarity. The Pope, who is in your midst today, wishes by his presence to support you in this difficult, but exalting missionary and apostolic mission. Look to Christ: he is the life which does not die. He gives this life to whoever turns to him with sincere faith. Be witnesses and promoters of this life, putting the values of the Gospel at the foundation of a more just and united society.
I am also here today to praise and encourage you. To encourage the priests and religious who dedicate their efforts here, the committed laity who here, as in many other outlying areas of Rome, have too often been left to themselves, but have given and continue to give a valuable witness of love and care towards human life in all its stages. I wish to encourage especially those who dedicate themselves with perseverance to transmitting the values of the faith to their brothers and sisters, in particular to the poor and marginalized.
6. “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing” (Revelations 5:12).
On this Third Sunday of Easter, we make our own the words of the heavenly liturgy recounted in Revelation. While we contemplate the glory of the Risen One, we ask the Lord that your community may be granted a future that is more serene and rich in hope.
May the Lord grant each of you a greater understanding of his mission in the service of the Gospel.
Dear brothers and sisters, may the risen Christ give you the courage of love; may he make you his witnesses! May he fill you with his Spirit so that, with the whole Church, supported by Mary's intercession, you may proclaim the song of glory of the redeemed: “To him who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honour and glory and might” (Revelations 5:13).
Acknowledgment: We thank the Vatican Publisher for allowing us to publish the Homily of Blessed Pope John Paul II, so that it could be accessed by more people all over the world; as a source of God’s encouragements to all of us.
PASTORAL VISIT TO VIGEVANO AND PAVIA (ITALY)
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
"Orti Borromaici" Esplanade, Pavia
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Yesterday afternoon, I met the diocesan Community of Vigevano and the heart of my Pastoral Visit was the Eucharistic concelebration in Piazza Ducale; today, I have the joy of visiting your Diocese and a culminating moment of our encounter is also here at Holy Mass.
I greet with affection my Brothers who are concelebrating with me: Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, Archbishop of Milan, Bishop Giovanni Giudici, Pastor of your Diocese, Bishop emeritus Giovanni Volta, the retired Pastor, and the other Prelates of Lombardy.
I am grateful to the Government Representatives and local Administrations for their presence. I address my cordial greeting to the priests, deacons, Religious, leaders of lay associations, the young people, the sick and all the faithful, and I extend my thoughts to the entire population of this ancient and noble City, and of the Diocese.
During the Easter Season, the Church presents to us, Sunday after Sunday, some passages from the preaching with which, after Easter, the Apostles, particularly Peter, invited Israel to have faith in Jesus Christ, the Risen One, thereby founding the Church.
In today's reading, the Apostles stand before the Sanhedrin - before that institution which, having sentenced Jesus to death, could not tolerate that this same Jesus was now beginning to be active again through the Apostles' preaching. They could not tolerate that his saving power was once more making itself felt and that his Name was attracting people who believed in him as the promised Redeemer.
They accused the Apostles. Their accusation is: "You want to make us responsible for that man's blood".
Peter, however, reacted to this accusation with a brief catechesis on the essence of Christian faith: "No, we do not want to make you responsible for his blood. The effect of the death and Resurrection of Jesus is quite different. God has exalted him as "Head and Saviour' of all, and of you, too, his People of Israel". And where will this "Head" lead us? What does this "Saviour" bring?
He leads us, St Peter tells us, to conversion - creates for us the leeway and opportunity to mend our ways and repent, begin again. And he offers us forgiveness for our sins: he introduces us into the proper relationship with God, hence, into the proper relationship of each individual with himself or herself and with others.
Peter's brief catechesis did not only apply to the Sanhedrin. It speaks to us all, for Jesus, the Risen One, is also alive today. And for all generations, for all men and women, he is the "Head" who shows us the way and the "Saviour" who straightens out our lives.
The two terms: "conversion" and "forgiveness of sins", which correspond to the titles of Christ "Head", archegňs in Greek, and "Saviour", are the key words of Peter's catechesis, words intended to move our hearts too, here and now. And what do they mean?
The path we must take - the path that Jesus points out to us - is called "conversion". But what is it? What must we do? In every life conversion has its own form, because every human being is something new and no one is merely a copy of another.
But in the course of history, the Lord has sent us models of conversion to whom we can look to find guidance. We could thus look at Peter himself to whom the Lord said at the Last Supper: "[When] you have turned again, strengthen your brethren" (Luke 22: 32).
We could look at Paul as a great convert. The City of Pavia speaks of one of the greatest converts in the history of the Church: St Aurelius Augustine. He died on 28 August in 430 in the port town of Hippo, in Africa, at that time surrounded and besieged by the Vandals.
After the considerable turmoil of a turbulent history, the King of the Longobards acquired Augustine's remains for the City of Pavia so that today they belong to this City in a special way, and, in it and from it, have something special to say to all of us, to humanity, but to all of us here in particular.
In his book, Confessions, Augustine touchingly described the development of his conversion which achieved its goal with Baptism, administered to him by Bishop Ambrose in the Cathedral of Milan. Readers of his Confessions can share in the journey that Augustine had to make in a long inner struggle to receive at last, at the baptismal font on the night before Easter 387, the Sacrament which marked the great turning point in his life.
A careful examination of the course of St Augustine's life enables one to perceive that his conversion was not an event of a single moment but, precisely, a journey. And one can see that this journey did not end at the baptismal font.
Just as prior to his baptism Augustine's life was a journey of conversion, after it too, although differently, his life continued to be a journey of conversion - until his last illness, when he had the penitential Psalms hung on the walls so that he might have them always before his eyes, and when he excluded himself from receiving the Eucharist in order to go back once again over the path of his repentance and receive salvation from Christ's hands as a gift of God's mercy.
Thus, we can rightly speak of Augustine's "conversions", which actually consisted of one important conversion in his quest for the Face of Christ and then in the journeying on with him.
I would like to mention briefly three important landmarks in this process of conversion, three "conversions".
The first fundamental conversion was the inner march towards Christianity, towards the "yes" of the faith and of Baptism. What was the essential aspect of this journey?
On the one hand, Augustine was a son of his time, deeply conditioned by the customs and passions prevalent then as well as by all the questions and problems that beset any young man. He lived like all the others, yet with a difference: he continued to be a person constantly seeking. He was never satisfied with life as it presented itself and as so many people lived it.
The question of the truth tormented him ceaselessly. He longed to discover truth. He wanted to succeed in knowing what man is; where we ourselves come from, where we are going and how we can find true life.
He desired to find the life that was right and not merely to live blindly, without meaning or purpose.
There is a further peculiarity: anything that did not bear Christ's Name did not suffice for him. Love for this Name, he tells us, he had tasted from his mother's milk (cf. Confessions, 3, 4, 8). And he always believed - sometimes rather vaguely, at other times, more clearly - that God exists and takes care of us (cf. Confessions, 6, 5, 8).
But to truly know this God and to become really familiar with this Jesus Christ and reach the point of saying "yes" to him with all its consequences - this was the great interior struggle of his youthful years.
St Augustine tells us that through Platonic philosophy he learned and recognized that "in the beginning was the Word" - the Logos, creative reason. But philosophy, which showed him that the beginning of all things was creative reason, did not show him any path on which to reach it; this Logos remained remote and intangible.
Only through faith in the Church did he later find the second essential truth: the Word, the Logos, was made flesh.
Thus, he touches us and we touch him. The humility of God's Incarnation - this is the important step - must be equalled by the humility of our faith, which lays down its self-important pride and bows upon entering the community of Christ's Body; which lives with the Church and through her alone can enter into concrete and bodily communion with the living God.
I do not have to say how deeply all this concerns us: to remain seekers; to refuse to be satisfied with what everyone else says and does; to keep our gaze fixed on the eternal God and on Jesus Christ; to learn the humility of faith in the corporeal Church of Jesus Christ, of the Logos Incarnate.
Augustine described his second conversion at the end of the 10th book of his Confessions with the words: "Terrified by my sins and the pile of my misery, I had racked my heart and had meditated, taking flight to live in solitude. But you forbade me and comforted me, saying: "That is why Christ died for all, so that those who live should not live for themselves, but for him who died for them' (II Corinthians 5: 15)"; Confessions, 10, 43, 70).
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