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Monday, October 8, 2012


Vatican City, 7 October 2012 (VIS) - This morning in St. Peter's Square, Benedict XVI proclaimed St. John of Avila and St. Hildegard of Bingen as Doctors of the Universal Church. He then went on to preside at a Eucharistic celebration during which he inaugurated the thirteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, the theme of which is "The New Evangelisation for the Transmission of the Christian Faith". The Mass was concelebrated by the Synod of Fathers and by the presidents of the German and Spanish episcopal conferences.

"Evangelisation always has as its starting and finishing points Jesus Christ, the Son of God", said the Pope in his homily. "And the Crucified One is the supremely distinctive sign of he who announces the Gospel: a sign of love and peace, a call to conversion and reconciliation".

"The Church exists to evangelise", he went on. "Faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ’s command, His disciples went out to the whole world to announce the Good News, spreading Christian communities everywhere. With time, these became well organised Churches with many faithful. ... Even in our own times, the Holy Spirit has nurtured in the Church a new effort to announce the Good News, a pastoral and spiritual dynamism which found a more universal expression and its most authoritative impulse in the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. Such renewed evangelical dynamism produces a beneficent influence on the two specific 'branches' developed by it, that is, on the one hand the 'Missio ad Gentes' or announcement of the Gospel to those who do not yet know Jesus Christ and His message of salvation, and on the other the new evangelisation, directed principally at those who, though baptised, have drifted away from the Church and live without reference to Christian life.

"The Synodal Assembly which opens today is dedicated to this new evangelisation, to help these people encounter the Lord, Who alone fills existence with deep meaning and peace; and to favour the rediscovery of the faith, that source of grace which brings joy and hope to personal, family and social life".

The Holy Father then turned his attention to the theme of marriage, which was the subject of today's Gospel and first reading, noting that it "deserves special attention", because "it invites us to be more aware of a reality, already well known but not fully appreciated: that matrimony is a Gospel in itself, a Good News for the world of today, especially the de- Christianised world. The union of a man and a woman, their becoming 'one flesh' in charity, in fruitful and indissoluble love, is a sign that speaks of God with a force and an eloquence which in our days has become greater because unfortunately, for various reasons, marriage, in precisely the oldest regions evangelised, is going through a profound crisis. And it is not by chance. Marriage is linked to faith, but not in a general way. Marriage, as a union of faithful and indissoluble love, is based upon the grace that comes from the Triune God, Who in Christ loved us with a faithful love, even to the Cross. ... There is a clear link between the crisis in faith and the crisis in marriage. And, as the Church has said and witnessed for a long time now, marriage is called to be not only an object but a subject of the new evangelisation".

Before then going on to refer to the newly proclaimed Doctors of the Church, the Pope reminded the faithful that "one of the important ideas of the renewed impulse that Vatican Council II gave to evangelisation is that of the universal call to holiness, which in itself concerns all Christians. The saints are the true actors in evangelisation in all its expressions. ... Holiness is not confined by cultural, social, political or religious barriers. Its language, that of love and truth, is understandable to all people of good will and it draws them to Jesus Christ, the inexhaustible source of new life.

"At this point", he added, "let us pause for a moment to appreciate the two saints who today have been added to the elect number of Doctors of the Church. St. John of Avila lived in the sixteenth century. A profound expert on the Sacred Scriptures, he was gifted with an ardent missionary spirit. He knew how to penetrate in a uniquely profound way the mysteries of the redemption worked by Christ for humanity. A man of God, he united constant prayer to apostolic action. He dedicated himself to preaching and to the more frequent practice of the Sacraments, concentrating his commitment on improving the formation of candidates for the priesthood, of religious and of lay people, with a view to a fruitful reform of the Church.

"St. Hildegard of Bingen, an important female figure of the twelfth century, offered her precious contribution to the growth of the Church of her time, employing the gifts received from God and showing herself to be a woman of brilliant intelligence, deep sensitivity and recognised spiritual authority. The Lord granted her a prophetic spirit and fervent capacity to discern the signs of the times. Hildegard nurtured an evident love of creation, and was learned in medicine, poetry and music. Above all, she maintained a great and faithful love for Christ and the Church.

"This summary of the ideal in Christian life, expressed in the call to holiness, draws us to look with humility at the fragility, even sin, of many Christians, as individuals and communities, which is a great obstacle to evangelisation and to recognising the force of God that, in faith, meets human weakness. Thus, we cannot speak about the new evangelisation without a sincere desire for conversion".

Benedict XVI concluded by entrusting the work of the Synod "to God, sustained by the communion of saints, invoking in particular the intercession of great evangelisers, among whom, with much affection, we ought to number Blessed John Paul II, whose long pontificate was an example of the new evangelisation".

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