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Pope's Address to Bishops of Ontario

9/9/2006 - 7:00 AM PST

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"Make God Visible in the Human Face of Jesus"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 9, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today in English and French to the bishops of Ontario, Canada, on the occasion of their five-yearly visit to Rome.

* * *

Your Eminence,

Dear Brother Bishops,

1. "God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him" (1 John 4:16).

With fraternal affection I cordially welcome you, the bishops of Ontario, and I thank Bishop Smith for the kind sentiments expressed on your behalf. I warmly reciprocate them and assure you, and those entrusted to your pastoral care, of my prayers and solicitude.

Your visit "ad limina apostolorum," and to the Successor of Peter, is an occasion to affirm your commitment to make Christ increasingly more visible within the Church and society, through joyful witness to the Gospel that is Jesus Christ himself.

The Evangelist John's numerous exhortations to abide in the love and truth of Christ evoke an appealing image of a sure and safe dwelling place. God first loves us (1 John 4:10) and we, drawn toward this gift, find a resting place where we can "constantly drink anew from the original source, which is Jesus Christ, from whose pierced heart flows the love of God" ("Deus Caritas Est," 7).

St. John was also compelled to urge his communities to remain in that love. Already some had been weakened by the disputes and distractions which eventually lead to division.

2. Dear Brothers, your own diocesan communities are challenged to resonate with the living statement of faith: "We know and believe the love God has for us" (1 John 4:16).

These words, which eloquently reveal faith as personal adherence to God and concurrent assent to the whole truth that God reveals (cf. "Dominus Iesus," 7), can be credibly proclaimed only in the wake of an encounter with Christ. Drawn by his love the believer entrusts his entire self to God and so becomes one with the Lord (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:17).

In the Eucharist this union is strengthened and renewed by entering into the very dynamic of Christ's self-giving so as to share in the divine life: "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him" (John 6:56; cf. "Deus Caritas Est," 13).

[The Pope read the following in French]

St. John's warning remains however always timely. In our increasingly secularized societies, which you yourselves have experienced, the love that flows from God's heart toward humanity can be unperceived or even rejected. On imagining that removing himself from this relationship constitutes, one way or another, a solution for his liberation, man becomes in fact a stranger to himself, because "in reality, the truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light" ("Gaudium et Spes," No. 22).

By their lack of interest in the love that reveals the fullness of the truth of man, numerous men and women continue to estrange themselves from God's dwelling to live in the desert of individual isolation, social brokenness and the loss of cultural identity.

[End of Translation of French original]

3. Within this perspective, one sees that the fundamental task of the evangelization of culture is the challenge to make God visible in the human face of Jesus. In helping individuals to recognize and experience the love of Christ, you will awaken in them the desire to dwell in the house of the Lord, embracing the life of the Church.

This is our mission. It expresses our ecclesial nature and ensures that every initiative of evangelization concurrently strengthens Christian identity. In this regard, we must acknowledge that any reduction of the core message of Jesus, that is, the "kingdom of God," to indefinite talk of "kingdom values" weakens Christian identity and debilitates the Church's contribution to the regeneration of society.

When believing is replaced by "doing" and witness by talk of "issues," there is an urgent need to recapture the profound joy and awe of the first disciples whose hearts, in the Lord's presence, "burned within them" impelling them to "tell their story" (cf. Luke 24:32,35).

Today, the impediments to the spread of Christ's kingdom are experienced most dramatically in the split between the Gospel and culture, with the exclusion of God from the public sphere. Canada has a well-earned reputation for a generous and practical commitment to justice and peace, and there is an enticing sense of vibrancy and opportunity in your multicultural cities.

At the same time, however, certain values detached from their moral roots and full significance found in Christ have evolved in the most disturbing of ways. In the name of "tolerance" your country has had to endure the folly of the redefinition ...

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