Pope Benedict praised the launch of a three-day conference in Rome that seeks to explain to modern society why Jesus Christ is more than a historical figure.
“I am glad and grateful for your choice to dedicate to the person of Jesus, several days of interdisciplinary study and cultural offerings, destined to resonate within the Church community and throughout Italian society,” said Pope Benedict XVI in a message to Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, President of the Italian Episcopal Conference, Feb. 9.
“Jesus Our Contemporary” runs from Feb. 9-11 and is organized by the Italian Episcopal Conference.
The Pope explained how Jesus entered “forever” into human history “and continues to live there” through “his beauty and power in that body which is fragile and always in need of purification but also infinitely full of divine love – the Church.”
“The contemporary nature of Jesus is revealed in a special way in the Eucharist,” he said, “in which he is present with his passion, death and resurrection.”
It is through the Church that Jesus is “a contemporary of every man, able to embrace all men and all ages because she is guided by the Holy Spirit with the aim of continuing the work of Jesus in history.”
Over three days, numerous events such as lectures, seminars, discussions, film showings and photographic exhibitions are taking place at various locations in and around the Vatican. Several thousand visitors are expected to attend, mainly from the dioceses of Italy.
The topics they’ll be able to explore include Jesus in contemporary literature, Jesus and the poor, Jesus and the Jerusalem of Yesterday and Today as well as a study of Pope Benedict XVI’s biographical trilogy of Christ’s life, Jesus of Nazareth. The third in the series is expected to be published later this year.
“This is a major question that niggles at the heart of man today including Christians,” Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan told CNA Feb. 9.
“Jesus lived in the time and space of 2,000 years ago. How can he save me today if he is not my contemporary?” Answering this question, he said, is the “challenge” of the conference.
“Many elements are being proposed that explain to us how Jesus breaks through and transcends time and, for eternity from his resurrection, particularly through his Eucharist, he reaches out to my freedom and that of every man and the freedom of all the human family. This is the sense of the event.”
Among the other clerical guest speakers are Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, former Vicar General of Rome and Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun of Hong Kong.
Also taking part are the German theologian Klaus Berger, the French philosopher and historian Jean-Luc Marion, Italian film director and screenwriter Liliana Cavani and the Italian magazine L’Espresso’s Vatican correspondent, Sandro Magister.
“The title certainly attracted me to the conference,” said a local Catholic teacher as she went into the opening session. She described the issue as “the challenge of our times,” as “Jesus is always seen as a man of the past, especially by children.”
“I think this is the most beautiful message that Jesus left us, the love of God the father and this love of God is a universal love that has no time, no boundaries, so Jesus is a contemporary man.”