The Pope reflected in depth on this theme this morning, when consecrating -- for the first time as Bishop of Rome -- one of his parishes. He consecrated the Parish of Holy Mary Star of Evangelization, in the Torrino neighborhood.
The Holy Father spoke about the meaning of a sacred building as a house of God and house of men, and did so by referring to the rebuilding of the People of Israel, of the holy city of Jerusalem and the Temple after the return from exile.
An external reconstruction cannot progress "unless the people as such are reconstructed first, if there is no operative common criterion of justice that unites all," Benedict XVI explained.
"True justice cannot be invented by man; instead, it must be rediscovered," he said. "It must come from God, who is justice" and, it is "the holy Word of God … [that] indicates to people the path of justice."
"The Word of God is always force of renewal that gives meaning and order to our time," the Pope added.
From the above is also distilled the meaning of "church building": It exists "so that the Word of God can be heard, explained and understood among us; it exists so that the Word of God can work in us as force that creates justice and love," the Holy Father said.
"It exists, in particular, so that the celebration can begin in which God wills the whole of humanity to participate, not only at the end of time but beginning now," he added. "It exists to awaken in us knowledge of what is just and good, and there is no other source to know and strengthen this knowledge of the just and good other than the Word of God.
"The building exists, therefore, so that we will learn to live the joy of the Lord, who is our strength. And we pray to the Lord so that he will make us happy in his Word. … We pray to the Lord to make us happy in the faith so that this joy will renew us and the world!"
"Without the Word of God there is no community," the Pope said. "The Word of God is not just a discourse but leads to construction; it is a Word that builds."
He continued: "The Word of God is not just a word. In Jesus Christ it is present in our midst as Person," and the latter "is the most profound objective of this sacred building's existence: The church exists because in it we encounter Christ, the Son of the living God."
"God has a face, … a name," Benedict XVI affirmed. "In Christ, he has become flesh and gives himself to us in the mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist. The Word is flesh. He gives himself to us under the appearance of bread and is thus transformed into the Bread from which we live.
"We people live from the Truth. This Truth is a Person: He speaks to us and we speak to him. The church is the place of encounter with the Son of the living God and so the place of meeting among ourselves.
"This is the joy God gives us: that he became one of us, that we can almost touch him and that he lives with us. The joy of God is really our strength."
Finally, Benedict XVI turned to the figure of the Blessed Virgin: "Mary tells us the purpose of church buildings … so that within us room will be made for the Word of God; so that within us and through us the Word can also become flesh today."