BY CINDY WOODEN IN ROME
IN A WORLD that does not seem interested in hearing about God effective communication of the faith requires a group effort, Pope Benedict XVI has said.
When many people seem unable or unwilling to recognise the presence of God, “it is important that a pastor not be a ‘soloist’, but be surrounded by believers who, along with him, are bearers of the seed of the word [of God] and help it live and grow,” the Pope said during a visit on Sunday to a Rome parish.
In addition to celebrating Mass at the Holy Face of Jesus Parish, the Pope met members of the parish council and children preparing for their First Communion before he returned to the Vatican for the midday recitation of the Angelus prayer.
The Pope told parish leaders: “The council is a gift of the Holy Spirit, and the pastor – and even more a pope – needs advice, needs help in making decisions. And so these [parish] councils are also a work of the Holy Spirit and a witness to the Spirit’s presence in the Church.” Arriving at the parish Pope Benedict noted that the sun was hidden from view by storm clouds but everyone knew it was still there. In the same way, he said: “Even though he is hidden, we know that God exists, he is near to us, he helps us and accompanies us.
“Let us go toward Easter knowing that suffering and difficulty are part of our lives, but knowing also that the sun of divine goodness” is always behind the clouds, he said.
Praising the parish Caritas programme and the work of parishioners involved in the Community of Sant’Egidio, the Pope said that especially at a time of social and economic crisis Catholics must make greater efforts to care for the poor and needy.
Returning to the Vatican for the midday recitation of the Angelus the Pope was greeted by hundreds of African students studying at the pontifical universities in Rome who wanted to thank him for his March 17-23 visit to Africa.
Thanking the students for their support, Pope Benedict said he was especially struck by “the visible joy in the faces of the people, the joy of feeling part of the one family of God” and by the “strong sense of the sacred that one breathed during the liturgical celebrations” in Cameroon and Angola.
The following day the Pope addressed the issue of vocations, saying in a message for the May 3 day of prayer that a religious life was principally about trusting God so much that one can answer his call without hesitation.
In his message for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, he said: “What is asked of those who are called, for their part, is careful listening and prudent discernment, a generous and willing adherence to the divine plan, and a serious study of the reality that is proper to the priestly and religious vocations, so as to be able to respond responsibly and with conviction.” In his message, Pope Benedict said it was God who chose some to follow his Son, Jesus, more closely and to put themselves fully at the service of the Church.