MASS IN ESPLANADE DES INVALIDES
BY JOHN THAviS. CNS POPE BENEDICT XVI urged Catholics to rediscover the power of the Eucharist and reject the modem idols of power and money during a Mass in the centre of Paris on Saturday. About 250,000 people filled the sunny Esplanade des Invalides for the liturgy, which was broadcast live on French national television. It was an unusual public display of faith in a country that prides itself on its secularism.
As the Pontiff arrived in his popemobile he was greeted by cheers and fluttering yellow flags. Many young people had spent the night in the square after praying at a candlelit vigil. The Pope smiled as he gazed over the crowd from a wooden altar platform. In his sermon he recalled the preaching of St Paul against the temptation of idolatry in the early Christian era and said the issue was still relevant today.
"Has not our modern world created its own idols? Has it not imitated, perhaps inadvertently, the pagans of antiquity?" he asked.
He cited St Paul's condemnation of greed and the love of money, sins that lead people away from faith in God. "Have not money, the thirst for possessions, for power and even knowledge, diverted man from his true destiny?" the Pope asked.
He emphasised that the Church's condemnation of idolatry, including its modern forms, is not a condemnation of individuals caught up in its attraction. "In our judgments, we must never confuse the sin, which is unacceptable, with the sinner, the state of whose conscience we cannot judge and who, in any case, is always capable of conversion and forgiveness," he said.
The Pope said the path to God is not always easy today, but he held up the Mass as the best way for Catholics to share in the revelation that comes from Christ.
The Mass, he said, is "the sacrifice of thanksgiving par excellence". By participating in the Eucharist, he said, the faithful come to understand that only God "teaches us to shun idols, the illusions of our minds".
The Pope also addressed the 'dwindling number of priestly vocations. The number of diocesan priests in France has fallen by almost 50 per cent in the last 25 years, and the priestly vocations rate is one of the lowest in the world. In remarks aimed in particular at the young people present the Pope.said he was appealing to their generosity: "Do not be afraid to give your life to Christ.
He underlined that the figure of the priest is not optional for the Church. "Nothing will ever replace the ministry of priests at the heart of the Church. Nothing will ever replace a Mass for the salvation of the world," he said.