.- During a meeting held yesterday morning in the Vatican with pastors of the diocese of Rome, the Holy Father answered a number of questions addressed to him by priests on numerous matters. During the discussion the Holy Father told his priests to do their best to support new ecclesial movements and emphasized the need to find a healthy balance between their pastoral and spiritual lives. The Pontiff went so far as to confess his own preference for morning prayer time.
Answering a question put by a priest from the Roman Shrine of "Divino Amore," the Pope highlighted how such places enable people to participate in an experience of prayer that has extended over generations and centuries, and he stressed the value of popular piety and Marian devotion.
Another priest asked about ecclesial movements. In his answer, the Pope referred to the need for dialogue at all levels while taking care "not to extinguish the charisms. ... If the Lord gives us new gifts, we must be grateful even if they are difficult. It is good that they arise without an initiative from the hierarchy. They result from grassroots initiatives," but such initiatives also "come from on high, in other words from the gifts of the Holy Spirit."
During the course of the meeting, Benedict XVI also recalled the spiritual nature of the Church which, he said, "is the body of Christ, and hence a spiritual body, as St. Paul says. The Church is not an international organization; she is not an executive body or an organ of power. Nor is she a social agency, though she does undertake social work, but a spiritual body."
Speaking of the need to balance the spiritual and pastoral dimensions, Benedict XVI commented that "the Gospels tell us that during the day He worked, at night He was on the mountain with His Father and He prayed. Here I must confess my own weakness because at night I cannot pray, I want to sleep ... but seriously we must nonetheless find free time for the Lord."
The Pope also mentioned sacred art, which he described as a living catechesis. The richness of religious art, he added, shows that the Church "has always been a source of inspiration."
Youth ministry and Sacred Scripture
In answer to another question, the Holy Father emphasized the importance of reading Holy Scripture, a subject that is due to be the theme of the next Synod of Bishops in October 2008. The Bible, he said, "must be read as a whole." It represents a single path and, "in Christ we find the key to everything." Holy Scripture is a journey that leads only one way because "it leads to the Cross of Christ." For this reason, he went on, it must be read not only in its historical and Christological dimensions, but also in an ecclesial light, "because all its passages are footsteps of the people of God."