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Baptism enables the faithful to be one in Christ, teaches Holy Father

.- During his homily on Saturday morning in Luanda, Angola, Pope Benedict addressed bishops, priests, religious, members of ecclesial movements and catechists and explained that through the Sacrament of Baptism, all believers are unified in Christ.

Reflecting on the teachings of St. Paul, the patron saint of Luanda, the Holy Father noted that the Apostle to the Gentiles "speaks to us from personal experience about this God Who is rich in mercy."

The decisive event in the life of St. Paul, explained Benedict XVI, "was his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. Paul saw the Risen Lord and from then on "saw everything in the light of this perfect stature of humanity in Christ."

The Pontiff explained that when we know the Lord, as St. Paul did, we are brought into a "new dimension" which "integrates matter and through which a new world arises."

This new dimension, the Holy Father continued, comes to us through "faith and Baptism." He explained that the Sacrament of Baptism "is truly death and resurrection, transformation and new life. ... I live, but no longer I. In a certain way, my identity has been taken away and made part of an even greater identity; I still have my personal identity, but now it is changed and open to others as a result of my becoming part of Another: in Christ I find myself living on a new plane."

"Through this process of our 'Christification' by the working and grace of God's Spirit, the gestation of the Body of Christ in history is gradually being accomplished in us."

The Holy Father then recalled the years following 1506 when the first sub-Saharan Christian kingdom was established. He explained, "The kingdom remained officially Catholic from the sixteenth century until the eighteenth, with its own ambassador in Rome." Within the kingdom, two different ethnic groups, the Bantu and the Portuguese, "were able to find in the Christian religion common ground for understanding, and committed themselves to ensuring that this understanding would be long-lasting, and that differences - which undoubtedly existed, and great ones at that - would not divide the two kingdoms! For Baptism enables all believers to be one in Christ."

"Today it is up to you," he continued, "to offer the Risen Christ to your fellow citizens."

So many of them are living in fear of spirits, of malign and threatening powers." The Holy Father went on to address those who may object saying, "’Why not leave them in peace? They have their truth, and we have ours. Let us all try to live in peace, leaving everyone as they are, so they can best be themselves'."

However, "if we are convinced and have come to experience that without Christ life lacks something, that something real - indeed, the most real thing of all - is missing, we must also be convinced that we do no injustice to anyone if we present Christ to them and thus grant them the opportunity of finding their truest and most authentic selves, the joy of finding life. Indeed, we must do this. It is our duty to offer everyone this possibility of attaining eternal life."

Concluding his homily, the Holy Father prayed that all embrace the will of the Lord and, like St. Paul, preach the Gospel.

At the end of Mass, the Holy Father returned to the apostolic nunciature, where he ate lunch.


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