Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Bishop of Rome at One of His Parishes

Some of the least covered events (outside of Italy) in the life of the Holy Father are the visits he makes to the parishes of the Diocese of Rome, usually on Sundays. During Pope John Paul's twenty-six year, five month, and seventeen day pontificate, he was able to visit 301 of the 333 parishes of the diocese which he was Bishop. Then in 2002, as his mobility became an issue, another 16 parishes came to the Vatican to meet with him, bringing the total to 317. Though he hasn't continued every tradition begun by his predecessor (allowing people to attend Mass in his private chapel, for one), Pope Benedict has continued the tradition of visiting Roman parishes.

On Sunday, March 25, Pope Benedict made a pastoral visit to the parish of St. Felicity and her children, Martyrs. There, he spoke to the parish's Pastoral Council. Thanks to Zenit News Service, an English translation of the talk is available. I've highlighted some parts of it I think are key, because I believe questions like, "What is a parish?", "What is its role within a diocese?", and, "What determines a 'successful' parish?" will have to be answered in the next few years. Anyway, here's Pope Benedict:

"...I would only like to thank the adult lay people who are building a living parish.

Here you have the Vocationist Fathers. The word "Vocationist" is reminiscent of "vocation". We can examine two dimensions of this word. First of all, we think immediately of the vocation to the priesthood. But the word has a far broader, more general dimension.

Every person carries within himself a project of God, a personal vocation, a personal idea of God on what he is required to do in history to build his Church, a living Temple of his presence. And the priest's role is above all to reawaken this awareness, to help the individual discover his personal vocation, God's task for each one of us. I see that many here have discovered the project that concerns them, both with regard to professional life in the formation of today's society -- where the presence of Christian consciences is fundamental -- and also with regard to the call to contribute to the Church's growth and life. Both these things are equally important.

A society where Christian conscience is no longer alive loses its bearings; it no longer knows where to go, what it can do, what it cannot do, and ends up in emptiness, it fails. Only if a living awareness of the faith illumines our hearts can we also build a just society. It is not the Magisterium that imposes doctrine. It is the Magisterium that helps enable the conscience itself to hear God's voice, to know what is good, what is the Lord's will. It is only an aid so that personal responsibility, nourished by a lively conscience, may function well and thus contribute to ensuring that justice is truly present in our society: justice within ourselves and universal justice for all our brothers and sisters in the world today.

Today, globalization is not only economic: there is also a globalization of responsibilities, this universality, which is why we are all responsible for everyone. The Church offers us the encounter with Christ, with the living God, with the "Logos" who is Truth and Light, who does not coerce consciences, does not impose a partial doctrine but helps us ourselves to be men and women who are completely fulfilled and thus to live in personal responsibility and in deeper communion with one another, a communion born from communion with God, with the Lord. I see here this living community. I am grateful to the priests, I am grateful to all of you, their collaborators. And I hope that the Lord will help you and enlighten you always."

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