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Pope's May 22 Address to Religious Superiors

6/9/2006 - 6:00 AM PST

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"Service of Authority Demands a Persevering Presence"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 9, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave May 22 in Paul VI Hall to superiors general of institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life.

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Your Eminence,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

It is a great joy for me to meet with you, superiors general, representatives and those responsible for consecrated life. I address my cordial greeting to all.

With fraternal affection I greet in particular Cardinal Franc Rodé, and I thank him for interpreting -- together with your other representatives -- your sentiments. I greet the secretary and collaborators of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, grateful for the service that this dicastery offers to the Church in the important sector of consecrated life.

In this moment, my thought goes with lively gratitude to all of the men and women religious, consecrated persons and members of the societies of apostolic life who spread in the Church and the world the "bonus odor Christi" (cf. 2 Corinthians 2:15).

I ask that you, major superiors, transmit a word of special kindness to those who are in difficulty, the elderly and sick, to those who are living moments of crisis and solitude, to those who suffer and feel lost, and also to the young men and women who still today are knocking at the door of your houses, asking to be able to give themselves to Jesus Christ in the radicalness of the Gospel.

I wish that this moment of meeting and of profound communion with the Pope may be for each of you one of encouragement and comfort in the fulfillment of a duty that is evermore demanding and at times opposed.

The service of authority demands a persevering presence, able to enliven and take initiative, to recall the raison d'être of consecrated life, to help the persons entrusted to you to correspond with ever-renewed fidelity to the call of the Spirit.

Your duty is often accompanied by the cross and sometimes by a solitude that requires a profound sense of responsibility, a generosity that does not falter, and continual self-denial. You are called to sustain and to guide your brothers and sisters in a difficult epoch, one marked by numerous temptations.

Consecrated men and women of today have the duty to be witnesses of the transfiguring presence of God in a world that is evermore disoriented and confused, a world where toning down has substituted sharp and distinctive colors.

The ability to look at our time with the gaze of faith means to be able to look at men and women, the world and history in the light of the crucified and risen Christ, the only One able to direct "men and women as they strive to make their way amid the pressures of an immanentist habit of mind and the constrictions of a technocratic logic" (encyclical letter "Fides et Ratio," No. 15).

In these last years, consecrated life has been re-examined with a more evangelical, ecclesial and apostolic spirit; but we cannot ignore that some concrete choices have not offered to the world the authentic and vivifying face of Christ.

In fact, the secularized culture has penetrated the mind and heart of not a few consecrated persons, who understand it as a way to enter modernity and a modality of approach to the contemporary world.

As a result, in addition to an undoubted thrust of generosity capable of witness and of total giving, consecrated life today knows the temptation of mediocrity, of middle-class ways and of a consumeristic mentality.

In the Gospel, Jesus warned us that there are two ways: One is the narrow way that leads to life, the other is wide that leads to destruction (cf. Matthew 7:13-14). The true alternative is, and will always be, the acceptance of the living God through obedient, faithful service, or the rejection of him.

One priority condition to the following of Christ, therefore, is abnegation, detachment from all that is not him. The Lord wants men and women who are free, not bound, able to give up everything to follow him and to find in him alone their very all.

Courageous choices must be made, both at the personal and communal levels, which give a new discipline to the life of consecrated persons and bring them to rediscover the all-encompassing dimension of the "sequela Christi."

Belonging to the Lord means to be on fire with his incandescent love, to be transformed into the splendor of his beauty: Our littleness is offered to him as a sacrifice of sweet fragrance so that it becomes a witness of the greatness of his presence for our epoch, which has great need to be inebriated by the richness of his grace.

Belonging to the Lord: This is ...

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