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Papal Address to Rome Diocesan Congress

"Faith Is a Community Act and Attitude"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 24, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave June 5 when opening the ecclesial congress of the Diocese of Rome. The theme of the congress which was "The Joy of Faith and the Education of New Generations."

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am pleased to be with you once again to introduce with my reflection our diocesan convention, which is dedicated to a theme of great beauty and paramount pastoral importance: The joy that derives from faith and its relationship with the education of the new generations.

Thus, in a perspective that more directly concerns the young, we are returning to and further developing the subject we began discussing a year ago on the occasion of the previous diocesan convention.

We then focused on the role of the family and of the Christian community in the formation of the person and the transmission of faith.

I greet each one of you with affection, bishops, priests, deacons, men and women religious and lay people engaged in witnessing to our faith. In particular, I greet you young people who are planning to combine the process of your personal formation with taking on ecclesial and missionary responsibility for other young people and children.

I warmly thank the cardinal vicar for his words on behalf of you all.

With this convention and with the pastoral year that will be inspired by its content, the Diocese of Rome is journeying on through the long period that began 10 years ago now with the City Mission desired by Pope John Paul II, my beloved predecessor.

Actually, its goal is still the same: To revive the faith in our communities and seek to reawaken or inspire it in all the individuals and families of this great city, where the faith was preached and the Church already established by the first generation of Christians, and the Apostles Peter and Paul in particular.

In the past three years you have focused your attention especially on the family in order to consolidate this fundamental human reality with the Gospel truth -- today, unfortunately, seriously undermined and threatened -- and to help it carry out its indispensable mission in the Church and in society.

The priority we are now giving to the education in the faith of the new generations does not mean that we are abandoning our commitment to the family, which is primarily responsible for education.

Rather, we are responding to the widespread concern of many believing families, who fear, in today's social and cultural context, that they might not succeed in passing on to their children the precious heritage of the faith.

In fact, discovering the beauty and joy of faith is a path that every new generation must take on its own, for all that we have that is most our own and most intimate is staked on faith: our heart, our mind, our freedom, in a deeply personal relationship with the Lord at work within us.

Just as radically, however, faith is a community act and attitude; it is the "we believe" of the Church.

Thus, the joy of faith is a joy shared: as the Apostle John says: "That which we have seen and heard [the word of life] we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us. ... And we are writing this that our joy may be complete" (1 John 3:4).

Consequently, educating the new generations in the faith is an important and fundamental task that involves the entire Christian community.

Dear brothers and sisters, today you have experienced how various aspects of this educational task have become very difficult, but for this very reason it is even more important and especially urgent.

Indeed, it is possible to identify two basic lines of our current secularized society that are clearly interdependent. They impel people to move away from the Christian proclamation and cannot but have an effect on those whose inclinations and choices of life are developing.

One of these is agnosticism, which derives from the reduction of human intelligence to a mere practical mechanism that tends to stifle the religious sense engraved in the depths of our nature.

The other is the process of relativization and uprooting, which corrodes the most sacred bonds and most worthy affections of the human being, with the result that people are debilitated and our reciprocal relations rendered precarious and unstable.

It is in this very situation that all of us, and especially our children, adolescents and young people, need to live faith as joy and to savor that profound tranquility to which the encounter with the Lord gives rise.

In the encyclical "Deus Caritas Est," I wrote: "We have come to believe in God's love: In these words the Christian can express the fundamental decision of his life. ...

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