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Pope's Oct. 19 Homily in Verona

"Be Yourselves the First to Witness to a Converted Life"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 31, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Benedict XVI delivered Oct. 19 in Verona during his pastoral visit on the occasion of the national congress of the Church in Italy.

The Mass in the Bentegodi soccer stadium was attended by 42,000 pilgrims. An additional 60,000 faithful followed the Mass on large screens set up in various parts of the city.

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

Today, in this Eucharistic celebration we live the key moment of the Fourth National Convention of the Church in Italy, which is gathered around the Successor of Peter. The heart of every ecclesial event is the Eucharist, in which Christ the Lord draws us together, speaks to us, nourishes and sends us.

The Verona stadium, the place chosen for this solemn liturgy, is significant: it is a place where non-religious rites are usually celebrated, sports events attracting millions of fans.

Today, this space is host to the Risen Jesus, truly present in his Word, in the assembly of the People of God with its Pastors and, in an eminent way, in the Sacrament of his Body and his Blood.

Christ comes today in this modern Areopagus to pour forth his Spirit on the Church in Italy, so that, renewed by his breath in a new Pentecost, she can "communicate the Gospel in a changing world", as proposed by the pastoral directives of the Italian Bishops' Conference for the years 2000-2010.

And you, dear Brother Bishops, with the Presbyters and Deacons, to you, dear delegates of the Dioceses and of lay groups, to you men and women religious and committed laity, I address my most cordial greeting that I extend to those joining us by radio and television.

I greet and spiritually embrace the entire Italian Church, the living Body of Christ. I want to express in a special way my appreciation to those who have worked hard to prepare and organize this Convention: the President of the Italian Bishops' Conference, Cardinal Camillo Ruini; the Secretary General, Mons. Giuseppe Betori, with the collaborators of the various offices; Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi and the other members of the preparatory committee; Bishop Flavio Roberto Carraro of Verona, to whom I am grateful for the kind words he addressed to me at the beginning of the celebration also in the name of this beloved community of Verona that welcomes us. Our esteem also goes to Mister President of the Council of Ministers and the other distinguished Authorities present. Lastly, a cordial thank you to the communications team following the work of this important session of the Church in Italy.

The Bible Reading proclaimed a short time ago illuminates the theme of the Convention: "Witnesses of the Risen Jesus, Hope of the World". The Word of God highlights Christ's Resurrection, an event that has regenerated believers to a lively hope, as the Apostle Peter states at the beginning of his First Letter. This text constitutes the axis underpinning the itinerary of preparations for this great national meeting. As his Successor, I too exclaim with joy: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Pt 1:3), because through the Resurrection of his Son he has regenerated us and has given us by faith the invincible hope of eternal life, so that we live in the present always directed towards the goal, which is the final meeting with our Lord and Savior.

Strengthened by this hope, we are not afraid of trials, which, however painful and heavy, can never impair the profound joy that comes from being loved by God. In his merciful providence, he has given his Son for us and we, even without seeing him, believe in him and love him (cf. I Pt 1:3-9). His love is sufficient for us.

Strengthened by this love, firm in faith in the Resurrection of Jesus that builds hope, our Christian witness is born and constantly renewed. It is there that our "Creed" is rooted, the symbol of faith from which the initial preaching was drawn and that continues unaltered to nourish the People of God.

The content of the "kerygma", the proclamation, which constitutes the substance of the entire Gospel message, is Christ, the Son of God made Man, who died and rose for us. His Resurrection is the qualifying mystery of Christianity, the superabundant fulfillment of all salvific promises, also those we have heard in the First Reading taken from the end of the Book of the prophet Isaiah.

From the Risen Christ, the first fruits of the new humanity, regenerated and regenerating, the "poor" people are truly born, as the prophet foretold, who have opened their hearts to the Gospel and have become and always become new "oaks of righteousness", "the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified", rebuilders of ruins, ...

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