Monday, December 17, 2007

"Spiritual Temples" Need Constructing Too, Says Pope

Dedicates New Church in Rome

ROME, DEC. 16, 2007 ( Christians need to put as much effort into building up their faith as they do in constructing and caring for places of worship, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope affirmed this today when he visited the parish of Santa Maria del Rosario ai Martiri Portuensi in Magliana, in the western part of the Diocese of Rome.

Pope John Paul II visited the parish nine years ago. Since then, an increasing number of faithful in the area required the construction of a bigger church. Benedict XVI blessed the new structure.

Referring to today as Gaudete Sunday, the Pope said, "In truth, all of Advent is an invitation to rejoice because 'the Lord is coming,' because he is coming to save us. [...] The Advent liturgy constantly repeats that we must wake up from the slumber of habit and mediocrity, we must abandon sadness and discouragement; we must refresh our hearts for 'the Lord is near.'"

The Holy Father continued: "Today, there is another reason for us to rejoice. [...] It is the dedication of the new parish church which is built on the same site where my beloved predecessor, the Servant of God John Paul II, celebrated Holy Mass on the occasion of his pastoral visit on Nov. 8, 1998."

The Pontiff reflected on the readings from the Mass, the first "taken from the book of Nehemiah, a book that narrates the recomposition of the Hebrew community after the exile. [...] It is therefore the book about the origins of a community and it is full of hope. [...] The text describes the solemn moment when, after the dispersion, the little Hebrew community is reconstituted; it is the moment of the public re-proclamation of the law, and everything unfolds in a climate of simplicity and poverty. [...] Some begin to cry for the joy of being able again, after the tragedy of the destruction of Jerusalem, to hear the word of God in freedom."

He added: "Does not this reading move you too, dear faithful? In this moment how many memories crowd into your mind! What toil to build up the community year after year! How many dreams, how many projects, how many difficulties! Now, however, we are given the opportunity to proclaim and listen to the word of God in a beautiful church, which favors recollection and awakens joy; a church that wishes to be constantly a recall to a solid faith and a commitment to grow as a united community. Let us give thanks to God for his gifts and let us thank everyone who has worked at the construction of this church."

Benedict XVI drew from the second reading, from Revelation, to remind the faithful "that the living community is more sacred than the material temple that we consecrate. And to construct this living, spiritual temple -- that you are -- many prayers are necessary, it is necessary to value every opportunity offered by the liturgy, catechesis, the multiple pastoral, charitable, missionary and cultural activities that keep your promising community 'young.' May the care that we show for the material edifice -- sprinkling it with holy water, anointing it with oil, incensing it -- be a sign and stimulus of a more intense care in defending and promoting the temple of persons, formed by you, dear parishioners."

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