Pope Coaches Priests on Evangelizing Parishioners

Encourages Parishes to Provide Places to Experience Faith

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 4, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is encouraging pastors to help people see that the faith is not something of the past, but can show them today how be fully alive.

The Pope affirmed this in a meeting last Thursday with parish priests of the Diocese of Rome, a Lenten tradition, in which he answered their questions and concerns.

He addressed the priestly desire to evangelize, to reach the "lost sheep," to "go to the man of today who lives without Christ, who has forgotten Christ, to proclaim the Gospel to him."

The Pontiff noted, "The community of the faithful is something precious that we must not underestimate -- even looking at the many who are far away -- the beautiful and positive reality that these faithful constitute, who say yes to the Lord in the Church, trying to live the faith, trying to follow in the footsteps of the Lord."

"It is very important," he emphasized, "that these faithful really find in their parish priest a pastor who loves them and helps them to listen today to the Word of God, to understand that it is a Word for them and not only for people of the past or the future, to help them even more, in the sacramental life, in the experience of prayer, in listening to the Word of God, and on the path of justice and charity, because Christians should be the leaven of our society with so many problems [...]."

The Holy Father explained that this will help the faithful to "play a missionary role without words," to "offer a testimony of how it is possible to live well on the paths indicated by the Lord."

Our society needs these communities, he added, "that are able to live justice today, not only for themselves but for others."

Gospel proclamation

Benedict XVI noted that both the Word and a witness are needed for the proclamation of the Gospel.

"As we know from the Lord himself," he explained, "the Word is necessary, which says what he has said to us, which makes the truth of God appear, the presence of God in Christ, the path that opens before us."

The witness of a community of believers is equally important, the Pope said, to translate "the words of the past into the world of our experience." This witness, he explained, gives "credibility to this Word," and makes it a reality, "a reality with which one can live, but not only this: a reality that makes one live."

He continued, "With the Word we must open venues of experience of the faith to those who are seeking God," as the "primitive Church did with the catechumens."

The Pontiff noted that it is important for the parish to provide a place where people can have this "progressive experience of the faith," of the Word carried out in their daily lives.

He added: "We must not be a circle enclosed in ourselves. We have our customs, but nevertheless we must open ourselves and try to create vestibules, that is, venues of closeness."

The Holy Father encouraged the pastors to "try to create, with the help of the Word, what the primitive Church created with the catechumens: venues in which to begin to live the Word, to follow the Word, to make it comprehensible and realistic, corresponding to real forms of experience."

It is important, he affirmed, "to unite the Word with the witness of a just life, of being for others, of being open to the poor, to the needy, but also to the rich, who need to be open in their hearts, to feel that their hearts are called."

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