Brescia (AsiaNews) - The "question of the Church, its necessity in the plan of salvation and its relationship with the world" is "absolutely central," as Pope Paul VI wrote, it is in fact made even more "radical" today, due to developments of secularization and globalization, "in confronting forgetfulness of God, on the one hand, and non-Christian religions, on the other."
30 years after the death of Paul VI, Benedict XVI, visiting Brescia and Concesio, birthplace of the Montini Pope, who "devoted his entire life" to the Church, underlined the challenges of today’s world that the Church, in all of its components, is facing and the importance it has for the salvation of humanity. At the same time he also stressed the requirement that a relationship of mutual understanding and love be established between the Church and society. A Church that is "poor, and thus free" as the Montini Pope defined it, and that, then as now, must have, and search for "consciousness", "renewal" and "dialogue."
Almost 15 thousand people managed to find a space in a completely full Paul VI Square, despite the rain, (photo). During the Mass, Benedict XVI, among others, quoted some passages from the spiritual testament of the late Pope where he wrote: "And to the Church, to which I owe everything and that was mine, what will I say? The blessings of God be upon you: be aware of your nature and your mission; be aware of the real and profound needs of humanity; and walk poor, that is free, strong and loving toward Christ". "What can we add - continued Benedict XVI – to such elevated and intense words? Allow me to point to that vision of the 'poor and free' Church, which recalls the evangelical figure of the widow. This is how the Church community must be, to be able to speak to contemporary humanity". This was particularly dear to Pope Montini, who "devoted all his energies to a church as conformed to the Lord Jesus Christ as possible, so that meeting by encountering it, modern man can meet Him, because it has an absolute need of Him. This is the basic desire of Vatican II, which corresponds to the reflection of Pope Paul VI on the Church. "
"Dear friends - and I say this especially to you brothers in the episcopate and the priesthood – how can we not see that the question of the Church, its necessity in the plan of salvation and its relationship with the world, even today remains absolutely central? Indeed, the development of secularization and globalization have made it even more radical in confronting forgetfulness of God, on the one hand, and non-Christian religions, on the other? Paul VI’s reflection on the Church is even more valuable now than ever before as an example of his love for her, inseparable from that for Christ. " Benedict XVI then quoted the encyclical Ecclesiam suam "The mystery of the Church - we read - is not simply an object of theological knowledge, it is a fact to be lived in, in which even before it is clear notion, the faithful soul can have almost ingrained experience "(ibid., p 229, n. 178). This presupposes a strong inner life, which is "the great source of the Church's spirituality, its own way to receive the radiation of the Spirit of Christ, a radical, irreplaceable expression of its religious and social activities, inviolable defence and resurgent energy in its difficult contact with the secular world "(ibid., p. 231, n. 179).
"In this Year for Priests - he added - I would like to emphasize how this involves and interests priests in particular, for whom the Montini Pope reserved a special affection and concern." Speaking to priests and seminarians, Pope Benedict XVI, recalled what Montini wrote in his encyclical on priestly celibacy "the consecrated virginity of sacred ministers both expresses the virginal love of Christ for the Church and the virginal and supernatural fecundity of this marriage" (Sacerdotalis Caelibatus, 26)”. And again, citing a speech to students at the Lombard Major Seminary of 7 December 1968; “while the difficulties of post-conciliar period were increased by the ferment of youth, 'many - he said - expect dramatic gestures from the Pope, forceful and decisive action. The Pope does not believe that he must follow another line that is not one of confidence in Jesus Christ, for Whom the Church is more dear than anyone else. He will calm the storm ... It is not about waiting inertly but of watchful waiting in prayer. This is the condition that Jesus has chosen for us, so that he can operate fully. Even the Pope needs to be helped by prayer "(Teachings VI, , 1189).
To the laity, towards whom Paul VI devoted much of his teaching, Benedict XVI recalled that on can "always find valuable information to address the challenges of the present, which are, above all, the economic crisis, immigration, youth education”.
Finally, during the Angelus still dedicated to the figure of Paul VI, Benedict XVI emphasized his love for Mary. "As his ecclesial responsibilities increased - he said - he in fact developed an ever wider vision and organic relationship with the Blessed Virgin Mary and the mystery of the Church. In this perspective, his closing speech of the 3rd period of the Second Vatican Council, on 21 November 1964 remains memorable. In that session the Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium was promulgated, which - in the words of Paul VI - 'has as its summit and crowning a whole chapter devoted to the Virgin". "In that context, he proclaimed the Blessed Virgin Mary 'Mother of the Church', pointing out, with great ecumenical sensitivity, that 'devotion to Mary ... is an ordained means of guiding souls to Christ and thus join them with the Father, in the love of the Holy Spirit'”.