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Pope's Meeting With Roman Clergy (Part 2 of 3)

3/12/2007 - 6:10 AM PST

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"Do Not Extinguish Charisms ... the Church Is One"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 12, 2007 (Zenit) - Here is the second part of the Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's Feb. 22 session of questions-and-answers with Roman clergy.

Part 1 as published on Catholic Online. Part 3 will appear Monday.

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Fr Maurizio Secondo Mirilli, Parochial Vicar of Santa Bernadette Soubirous Parish and head of the Diocesan Youth Programme, emphasized the demanding task incumbent on priests in their mission to instil faith in the new generations. Fr Mirilli asked the Pope for a word of guidance on how to transmit the joy of the Christian faith to youth, especially in the face of today's cultural challenges, and also asked him to point out the priority topics on which to focus in order to help young men and women to encounter Christ in practice.

Pope Benedict XVI: Thank you for your work for teenagers. We know that the young really must be a priority of our pastoral work because they dwell in a world far from God. And in our cultural context it is not easy to encounter Christ, the Christian life and the faith life.

Young people require so much guidance if they are truly to find this path. I would say -- even if I unfortunately live rather far away from them and so cannot provide very practical instructions -- that the first element is, precisely and above all, guidance. They must realize that living the faith in our time is possible, that it is not a question of something obsolete but rather, that it is possible to live as Christians today and so to find true goodness.

I remember an autobiographical detail in St Cyprian's writings. "I lived in this world of ours", he says, "totally cut off from God because the divinities were dead and God was not visible. And in seeing Christians I thought: it is an impossible life, this cannot be done in our world! Then, however, meeting some of them, joining their company and letting myself be guided in the catechumenate, in this process of conversion to God, I gradually understood: it is possible! And now I am happy at having found life. I have realized that the other was not life, and to tell the truth", he confesses, "even beforehand, I knew that that was not true life".

It seems to me to be very important that the young find people -- both of their own age and older -- in whom they can see that Christian life today is possible, and also reasonable and feasible. I believe there are doubts about both these elements: about its feasibility, because the other paths are very distant from the Christian way of life, and about its reasonableness, because at first glance it seems that science is telling us quite different things and that it is therefore impossible to mark out a reasonable route towards faith in order to show that it is something attuned to our time and our reason.

Thus, the first point is experience, which also opens the door to knowledge. In this regard, the "catechumenate" lived in a new way -- that is, as a common journey through life, a common experience of the possibility of living in this way -- is of paramount importance.

Only if there is a certain experience can one also understand. I remember a piece of advice that Pascal gave to a non-believer friend. He told him: "Try to do what a believer does, then you will see from this experience that it is all logical and true".

I would say that one important aspect is being shown to us at this very moment by Lent. We cannot conceive of immediately living a life that is 100 percent Christian without doubts and without sins. We have to recognize that we are journeying on, that we must and can learn, and also, gradually, that we must convert. Of course, fundamental conversion is a definitive act. But true conversion is an act of life that is achieved through the patience of a lifetime. It is an act in which we must not lose trust and courage on the way.

We must recognize exactly this: we cannot make ourselves perfect Christians from one moment to the next. Yet, it is worth going ahead, being true to the fundamental option, so to speak, then firmly persevering in a process of conversion that sometimes becomes difficult.

Indeed, it can happen that I feel discouraged so that I am in a state of crisis and want to give up everything instantly. We should not allow ourselves to give up immediately, but should take heart and start again. The Lord guides me, the Lord is generous and with his forgiveness I make headway, also becoming generous to others. Thus, we truly learn love for our neighbour and Christian life, which implies this perseverance in forging ahead.

As for the important topics, I would say that it is important to know God. The subject "God" is essential. St Paul says in his Letter to the ...

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