New York: Pope calls Church to communicate the joy of faith

 In New York City, on Saturday morning, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass in the city's neo-Gothic St.Patrick's Cathedral. As he arrived, the Holy Father was greeted by Cardinal Edward Egan, archbishop of New York, Mgr Robert T Ritchie, rector of the cathedral, and Michael Bloomberg, New York's mayor. The celebration of Mass for the Universal Church, which coincided with the third anniversary of Benedict XVI's election to the pontifical throne, was dedicated to clergy and religious of US east coast dioceses, where New York is located. In his homily, the Holy Father said: "In this country the Church's mission has always involved drawing people 'from every nation under heaven' into spiritual unity, and enriching the Body of Christ by the variety of their gifts. As we give thanks for past blessings, and look to the challenges of the future, let us implore from God the grace of a new Pentecost for the Church in America". The Church, he went on, "is called to proclaim the gift of life, to serve life, and to promote a culture of life. ... The proclamation of life, life in abundance, must be the heart of the new evangelisation. For true life - our salvation - can only be found in the reconciliation, freedom and love which are God's gracious gift. "This is the message of hope we are called to proclaim and embody in a world where self-centredness, greed, violence, and cynicism so often seem to choke the fragile growth of grace in people's hearts. ... Perhaps we have lost sight of this: in a society where the Church seems legalistic and 'institutional' to many people, our most urgent challenge is to communicate the joy born of faith and the experience of God's love". Benedict XVI then dwelt on some features of the cathedral building itself, associating them with the mission of priests and religious within the Church. "The first has to do with the stained glass windows. ... From the outside, those windows are dark, heavy, even dreary. But once one enters the church, they suddenly come alive; reflecting the light passing through them, they reveal all their splendour. ... It follows", he explained, "that we, who live the life of grace within the Church's communion, are called to draw all people into this mystery of light. "This is no easy task in a world which can tend to look at the Church, like those stained glass windows, 'from the outside': a world which deeply senses a need for spirituality, yet finds it difficult to 'enter into' the mystery of the Church. Even for those of us within, the light of faith can be dimmed by routine, and the splendour of the Church obscured by the sins and weaknesses of her members. It can be dimmed too, by the obstacles encountered in a society which sometimes seems to have forgotten God and to resent even the most elementary demands of Christian morality". "Yet the word of God reminds us that, in faith, we see the heavens opened, and the grace of the Holy Spirit lighting up the Church and bringing sure hope to our world". The second feature the Pope considered was the architecture of the cathedral, "like all Gothic cathedrals, a highly complex structure, whose exact and harmonious proportions symbolise the unity of God's creation. ... Does this not bring to mind our need to see all things with the eyes of faith, and thus to grasp them in their truest perspective, in the unity of God's eternal plan? This requires, as we know, constant conversion, and a commitment to acquiring 'a fresh, spiritual way of thinking'. ... Is not this ongoing 'intellectual' conversion", he asked, "as necessary as 'moral' conversion for our own growth in faith, our discernment of the signs of the times, and our personal contribution to the Church's life and mission?". In this context, Pope Benedict expressed the view that "one of the great disappointments which followed Vatican Council II, with its call for a greater engagement in the Church's mission to the world, has been the experience of division between different groups, different generations, different members of the same religious family. We can only move forward if we turn our gaze together to Christ! In the light of faith, we will then discover the wisdom and strength needed to open ourselves to points of view which may not necessarily conform to our own ideas or assumptions. ... In this way, we will move together towards that true spiritual renewal desired by the Council, a renewal which can only strengthen the Church in that holiness and unity indispensable for the effective proclamation of the Gospel in today's world". "Here, within the context of our need for the perspective given by faith, and for unity and co-operation in the work of building up the Church, I would like say a word about the sexual abuse that has caused so much suffering. I have already had occasion to speak of this, and of the resulting damage to the community of the faithful. Here I simply wish to assure you, dear priests and religious, of my spiritual closeness as you strive to respond with Christian hope to the continuing challenges that this situation presents. I join you in praying that this will be a time of purification for each and every particular Church and religious community, and a time for healing". "The unity of a Gothic cathedral, we know, is not the static unity of a classical temple, but a unity born of the dynamic tension of diverse forces which impel the architecture upward, pointing it to heaven. Here too, we can see a symbol of the Church's unity, which is the unity ... of a living body composed of many different members, each with its own role and purpose". "Certainly within the Church's divinely-willed structure there is a distinction to be made between hierarchical and charismatic gifts. Yet the very variety and richness of the graces bestowed by the Spirit invite us constantly to discern how these gifts are to be rightly ordered in the service of the Church's mission". "In the finest traditions of the Church in this country", the Pope concluded, addressing the priests and religious, "may you also be the first friend of the poor, the homeless, the stranger, the sick and all who suffer. Act as beacons of hope, casting the light of Christ upon the world, and encouraging young people to discover the beauty of a life given completely to the Lord and His Church". At the conclusion of Mass the Holy Father made some off-the-cuff remarks concerning his Petrine ministry: "At this moment I can only thank you for your love of the Church and Our Lord, and for the love which you show to the poor Successor of St. Peter. I will try to do all that is possible to be a worthy successor of the great Apostle, who also was a man with faults and sins, but remained in the end the rock for the Church. And so I too, with all my spiritual poverty, can be for this time, in virtue of the Lord's grace, the Successor of Peter. It is also your prayers and your love which give me the certainty that the Lord will help me in this my ministry. I am therefore deeply grateful for your love and for your prayers. My response now for all that you have given to me during this visit is my blessing, which I impart to you at the conclusion of this beautiful celebration". Source: VIS

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