Religious orders model charity, says pontiff
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Citing his recent encyclical, Pope Benedict XVI said religious orders through the centuries have given the church and the world models of Christian charity.
The pope made the remarks at his Sunday blessing Jan. 29, as he looked forward to the celebration of the World Day for Consecrated Life, which is observed in Rome on the feast of the Presentation of the Lord Feb. 2.
The pope noted that in his first encyclical, titled "Deus Caritas Est" ("God Is Love"), he had written about the important witness of charity given by the saints, from the earliest days of the church to modern times.
Many of the saints, he said, were members of religious orders, including figures like St. Thomas Aquinas, the Dominican theologian; St. John Bosco, the Salesian who worked with young people; and St. Angela Merici, who founded the Ursulines and launched its teaching mission.
Among the saints devoted to charity, the pope named Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, whose Missionaries of Charity work with the poor around the world.
"In truth, the entire history of the church is a history of holiness, animated by the unique love that has its source in God," he said. "In fact, only supernatural charity, like that which flows continually from the heart of Christ, can explain the exceptional flowering down through the centuries of male and female religious orders and institutes, and other forms of consecrated life."
He said it was important for the modern church to remember the importance of consecrated life as "the expression and the school of charity."
Continuing a tradition of Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict was to say Mass Feb. 2 in St. Peter's Basilica to mark the World Day for Consecrated Life. Thousands of religious living in Rome were expected to attend the liturgy.
Copyright (c) 2006 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
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