Pope: Consecrated Persons Key for Church

Some 945,000 Religious Serving in the World

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 5, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Consecrated men and women invite Christians toward an ever greater fidelity to the Gospel, says Benedict XVI.



The Pope affirmed this Saturday, after a Eucharistic celebration in St. Peter's Basilica for the feast of the Presentation of the Lord and the 12th Day of Consecrated Life, presided over by Cardinal Franc Rode, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

The Holy Father addressed the consecrated men and women present, telling them that "following Christ without compromise, as presented in the Gospel, has, over the centuries, constituted the ultimate and supreme norm of religious life."

L'Osservatore Romano reported today that there are 945,210 religious in the world, according to 2006 statistics, the latest figures available. (This does not count other forms of consecrated life, which are not strictly considered religious life). The number dropped 0.76% from the year before. There are 136,171 religious priests; 55,107 non-priest men religious; 532 religious permanent deacons and 753,400 women religious.

The mission of consecrated life, Benedict XVI told those gathered in St. Peter's, is "to recall that all Christians are invited by the Word to live from the Word and to remain under its authority."

He added: "It is, then, the particular duty of male and female religious 'to remind the baptized of the fundamental values of the Gospel.' In this way, their testimony gives the Church an incentive toward ever-greater fidelity to the Gospel.

"Indeed, we could say that theirs is an eloquent, albeit often silent, proclamation of the Gospel."

In this context, the Bishop of Rome recalled how in his two encyclicals, and on other occasions, he had "not failed to indicate the example of saints and blessed from institutes of consecrated life."

The Holy Father, referring to the theme of the Synod of Bishops on the word of God, encouraged the religious to fill their days "with prayer, meditation and listening to the word of God," and to help the faithful to appreciate the practice of "lectio divina."

He added: "You must know how to translate the indications of the word into daily witness, allowing yourselves to be formed by the word which, like seed sown in good soil, brings abundant fruit. Thus you will remain docile to the Spirit and grow in union with God, you will cultivate fraternal communion among yourselves and be ready to serve your brethren generously, especially those most in need.

"May mankind see your good works, the fruit of the word of God that lives within you, and so give glory to the heavenly Father."