.- “The real crisis facing the Church in the western world is a crisis of faith,” Pope Benedict XVI told gathering of lay Catholics Sept. 24.
“We see that in our affluent western world much is lacking. Many people lack experience of God’s goodness,” the Pope said to the Central Committee of German Catholics on the third day of his state visit to Germany.
“They no longer find any point of contact with the mainstream churches and their traditional structures.”
The Central Committee of German Catholics is an apostolate founded in 1952 as a forum for lay Catholics. It draws together individuals who hold positions of responsibility in civil society. Today’s meeting took place in the diocesan seminary in the southwestern city of Freiburg.
Using Catholicism in Germany as an example, the Pope said that while the German Church was “superbly organized” it was perhaps lacking in a “corresponding spiritual strength, the strength of faith in a living God.”
“We must honestly admit that we have more than enough by way of structure but not enough by way of Spirit. I would add: the real crisis facing the Church in the western world is a crisis of faith.”
For anybody coming from the developing world to the western world, this crisis can be seen in the “poverty in human relations and poverty in the religious sphere” brought about by “a subliminal relativism that penetrates every area of life,” he said.
This is observed, said the Pope, “in the inconstancy and fragmentation of many people’s lives and in an exaggerated individualism,” such that many people “no longer seem capable of any form of self-denial or of making a sacrifice for others.” Meanwhile others “are now quite incapable of committing themselves unreservedly to a single partner.”
To tackle these problems at their root, the Pope explained, he had created the Pontifical Council for New Evangelization. Established last year, it has a particular mission to re-evangelize those traditionally Christian countries that have seen a decline in belief and practice in recent years. The Pope stressed, however, that without a renewal in faith “all structural reform will remain ineffective.”
Hence the need for new places where those who lack experience of God’s goodness can encounter it, said the Pope. He suggested that small communities could be one such path where “friendships are lived and deepened in regular communal adoration before God.”
There, said the Pope, “we find people who speak of these small faith experiences at their workplace and within their circle of family and friends, and in so doing bear witness to a new closeness between Church and society.” Such encounters, he suggested, lead people to recognize the need for “this nourishment of love, this concrete friendship with others and with the Lord.”
He concluded by praying that God “always point out to us how together we can be lights in the world and can show our fellow men the path to the source at which they can quench their profound thirst for life.”