The cathedral of "da Se" in Sao Paulo was the stage for Benedict XVI's meeting with 430 bishops of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil. The monumental neo-Gothic building, dedicated to Our Lady of the Annunciation, is one of the largest in the world and can accommodate up to 8,000 people. It stands exactly upon the Tropic of Capricorn on the same site as the old cathedral of 1745. The Holy Father expressing his joy at meeting such "a prestigious episcopate, which presides over one of the largest Catholic populations of the world." "The mission entrusted to us as masters of the faith," he said in his homily, "consists in recalling that our Saviour 'desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.' ... From here comes the commandment to evangelize, ... the obligation to preach the truth of faith, the importance of sacramental life, the promise of Christ's continual help for His Church." Benedict XVI then went on to consider some of the difficulties currently facing the Brazilian Church, "Social life," he said, "is going through periods of worrying disorientation." The Pope said there were increasing stresses on marriage and family life. "Certain crimes against life are being justified in the name of the right to individual freedom" he said, adding that, when some within the church were questioning the value of priestly commitment as total dedication to God through apostolic celibacy and as complete willingness to serve souls - then the structure of total consecration to God begins to lose its most profound meaning." The Pope then raised the issue of many Catholics in Brazil who have turned to evangelical sects. "The people most vulnerable to the aggressive proselytism of sects ... are, in general, the baptized who have not been sufficiently evangelized, easily influenced because they have a fragile and, at times, confused faith, vacillating and ingenuous, even if they do conserve an inborn religiosity." Quoting his Encyclical "Deus caritas est," the Holy Father said: "Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction." It is therefore necessary, for the Church in Brazil "to undertake apostolic activity as a true mission, ... promoting methodical and capillary evangelization with a view to encouraging individual and community adherence to Christ." "In this evangelizing effort, the ecclesial community must promote pastoral initiatives, sending lay and religious missionaries above all to the city outskirts and to the interior, seeking to establish dialogue with everyone in a spirit of understanding and thoughtful charity. ... If people are living in situations of poverty, it is necessary to help them as the first Christian communities did, practicing solidarity so that they truly feel they are loved. The poor need to feel the Church is near them in terms of assistance for their most pressing needs, defence of their rights and the promotion of a society founded on justice and peace." The Pope then spoke of the importance of sacramental life, referring specifically to the Sacrament of Penance and calling on the bishops to ensure "that the confession and absolution of sins remains, normally, individual, just as sin itself is a profoundly personal act." Bishops, he went on, "are primarily responsible for diocesan catechesis," and must "surround themselves with competent and trustworthy collaborators. ... Faith is a journey led by the Holy Spirit that can be summed up in two words: conversion and discipleship." "Faith in Christ entails a way of living founded on the twofold commandment to love God and neighbour," these two words also "express the social dimension of life." "Precisely because faith, life, and the celebration of the sacred liturgy are inseparable, there is need for a more correct implementation of the liturgical principles indicated by Vatican Council II so as to restore to the liturgy its sacred character.: The Pope reminded the bishops of their task to be "faithful servants of the Word... It is not enough to look at reality solely from the viewpoint of personal faith; we must work with the Gospel in our hands and anchor ourselves in the authentic heritage of the Apostolic Tradition, free from any interpretations motivated by rationalistic ideologies. ... The duty to preserve the deposit of faith and safeguard its unity calls for strict vigilance so that faith may be 'preserved and handed down with fidelity and so that particular insights are clearly integrated into the one Gospel of Christ'." He added: "Ecumenism has become in our time an increasingly urgent task for the Catholic Church. ... The greatest area of common ground for collaboration should be the defence of fundamental moral values -transmitted by the biblical tradition - against the relativistic and consumerist cultural forces that seek to destroy them. Another such area is faith in God the Creator and in Jesus Christ His incarnate Son." In closing, Benedict XVI mentioned "the vast cross-section of Brazilians living in need and the great inequalities in income, even at the highest levels of society. ... A vision of the economy and social problems from the perspective of the Church's social teaching should always bring us to consider things from the viewpoint of human dignity, which transcends the simple interplay of economic factors." "There is a need to form a genuine spirit of truthfulness and honesty among the political and commercial classes. Those who take on leadership roles in society must try to foresee the social consequences .... of their own decisions, always acting according to the criteria that will maximize the common good, rather than merely seeking personal profit." Source: VIS
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