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Pope on Italy, Politics and the Trials Facing Catholics

"A Profoundly Needy Land"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 29, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave to the participants in Italy's national ecclesial convention, held in Verona's Exhibition Center on Oct. 19.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am pleased to be with you today, in this beautiful and historical city of Verona, in order to take an active part in the Fourth National Convention of the Church in Italy. I offer to all and to each one of you my cordial greeting in the Lord.

I thank Cardinal Camillo Ruini, President of the Bishops' Conference, and Dr Giovanna Ghirlanda, representative of the Diocese of Verona, for the kind words of welcome they addressed to me on behalf of all of you and for the summary given to me on the Convention's progress.

I thank Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, President of the Preparatory Committee, and all who have worked for its realization. I wholeheartedly thank each of you who represent here, in pleasant harmony, the various components of the Church in Italy: Bishop Flavio Roberto Carraro of Verona, who is hosting us; the Bishops present, the priests and deacons, the religious men and women, and you lay faithful, men and women, who give voice to the many realities of the Catholic laity in Italy.

This Fourth National Convention is a new step on the path of implementing the Vatican II directives, which the Italian Church has undertaken since the years immediately following the great Council.

First of all, it is a path of communion with God the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit, and therefore of communion among us in the unity of the one Body of Christ (cf. I Jn 1:3; I Cor 12:12-13). It is a path directed towards evangelization, to keep the faith alive and strong in the Italian People. It is therefore a tenacious testimony of love for Italy and of active solicitude for the good of her children.

This journey of the Church in Italy has run in strict and constant union with the Successor of Peter: I am happy to recall with you the Servant of God, Paul VI, who called the First Convention in now distant 1976, and John Paul II, with his fundamental Interventions that we all remember at the Conventions of Loreto and Palermo, which have strengthened the confidence of the Italian Church to work so that faith in Jesus Christ continues to offer, also to the men and women of our time, the sense and the orientation of [human] existence and so has had "a leading role and an effective drawing power" in the Nation's journey towards its future (cf. Discourse at the Meeting with the Italian Church in Loreto, 11 April 1985; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 6 May, p. 5)

Risen Lord: Centre of Life

In the same spirit I have come to Verona today to pray to the Lord with you, to share, even though briefly, in your work of these days, and to propose my Reflection to you on what appears of the first importance for the Christian presence in Italy.

You have made a very appropriate choice, putting the Risen Jesus Christ at the centre of the Convention's attention, and of all the life and witness of the Church in Italy. The Resurrection of Christ is a fact that occurred in history, of which the Apostles were witnesses and certainly not its inventors. At the same time, it was not simply a return to our earthly life. Instead, it is the greatest "mutation" that ever occurred, the decisive "jump" towards a profoundly new dimension of life, the entry into a decidedly different order that regards above all Jesus of Nazareth, but with him also us, the whole human family, history and the entire universe.

This is why the Resurrection of Christ is the centre of the preaching and the Christian witness from the beginning and until the end of time. Certainly, it is a great mystery, the mystery of our salvation, which finds its fulfillment in the Resurrection of the Incarnate Word and both anticipates and guarantees our hope. But the mark of this mystery is love, and only in the logic of love can it be brought close and somehow understood: Jesus Christ risen from the dead, because all of his being is perfectly and intimately united with God who is love, which is truly stronger than death.

He was one with indestructible Life and therefore he could give his own life, letting himself be killed, but he could not succumb to death definitively: at the Last Supper he concretely anticipated and accepted out of love his own death on the Cross, thus transforming it into the gift of himself, that gift which gives us life, liberty and salvation.

His Resurrection, therefore, has been like an explosion of light, an explosion of love that melts the chains of sin and death. It inaugurated a new dimension of life and reality, from which the new world comes forth, that continuously penetrates our world, ...

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