.- Pope Benedict XVI went to the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance to call upon every Catholic to once again play a full part in renewing todayâs culture.
âBe ferment in society, be present as Christians, be active and coherent,â said the Pope during morning Mass in the town of Arezzo in the region of Tuscany May 13.
âThe whole Church is sent out into the world to preach the Gospel and salvation. But it is always Godâs initiative; he calls us to different ministries, so that each one plays his proper role for the common good.â
Pope Benedict was making a one day visit to the Tuscan towns of Arezzo, La Verna and Sansepolcro. In Arezzo he offered Mass in a local park before a congregation numbering in the tens of thousands.
The Pope noted that the area was the birthplace of âgreat Renaissance personalitiesâ such as the poet Petrarch and painter and architect Varasi. Such men had played âan active role in affirming that concept of man which left its mark on the history of Europe, drawing strength from Christian values.â
Given these historical precedents, the Pope asked, âwhat vision of man are we proposing to new generations?â He suggested that an invitation to live Godâs love towards all people should see a new Christian culture embody âdistinctive valuesâ including âsolidarity, attention to the weak, respect for the dignity of all.â
This is particularly manifested, he said, in the âdefense of human life, from its beginning to its natural endâ and âthe defense of the family, through laws that are just and protect the weakest elements.â
Later in the day the Pope travelled on to the town of La Verna to visit the Chapel of the Wounds. It was there that St. Francis of Assisi received the stigmata in the year 1224.
With Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti in the congregation at morning Mass, the Pope offered the âshining witness of St. Francisâ as a guide to how Christians should cope with the current economic downturn in Italy and beyond.
âSince the remotest times, attention to others has moved the Church to show concrete signs of solidarity with those in need, sharing resources, promoting simpler lifestyles, going against an ephemeral culture which has disappointed many and determined a profound spiritual crisis,â he said.
At the conclusion of Mass the Pope led the congregation in the Eastertide Marian prayer, the Regina Coeli. He prayed that each pilgrim would âcontinue serving God and man according to the teaching of Jesus, the shining example of your saints and the tradition of your peopleâ and he commended them to the âmaternal protection of Our Lady of Comfort, whom you love and venerate, accompany and sustain you in this task.â
The Popeâs final stop in the day was the town of Sansepolcro to make a pilgrimage to the famous crucifix known as the Santo Volto or Holy Face which resides in the local cathedral. The artwork is an unusual carved wooden crucifix made from a single walnut log between the eighth and ninth centuries.
Pope Benedict XVI will return to the Vatican later Sunday evening.