More than 100,000 people gathered in Verona, Italy, Thursday afternoon as Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass for the 4th Italian Ecclesial Congress. The Pontiff encouraged the Italian faithful to renew their efforts in spreading the Gospel and reminded them that Christ alone can satisfy the expectations of the human heart and answer life’s difficult questions.
"The certainty that Christ arose assures us that no adverse power will ever be able to destroy the Church,” Pope Benedict told the crowd. “We also draw encouragement from our awareness that only Christ can fully satisfy the profound expectations of the human heart and respond to the most disturbing questions of pain, injustice and evil, of death and the hereafter.”
"Therefore," he added, "our faith is well founded; but it is necessary that this faith become part of our lives. A great effort must therefore be made in order for all Christians to transform themselves into 'witnesses,' ready and able to shoulder the commitment of testifying - always and to everyone - to the hope that animates them."
The Holy Father told the crowd that it is necessary to go back "to a vigorous and joyful announcement of the death and resurrection of Christ, the core of Christianity, the bedrock of our faith, the powerful lever of our certainties, the great wind that blows away all fear and indecision, all doubt and human calculation.
“Only from God can the decisive change of the world come. Only by going back to the Resurrection can the true nature of the Church and of her witness be understood," the Pope emphasized.
Benedict XVI expressed his hope that the Church in Italy "may start out anew from this congress...impelled by the Word of the Risen Lord, who repeats to all mankind and to each individual: be, in today's world, witnesses of my Passion and my Resurrection.”
“In a changing world,” Pope Benedict said, “the Gospel does not change. The Good News is always the same: Christ died, and He rose for our salvation! In His name bring everyone the announcement of conversion and the forgiveness of sins, but be yourselves the first to bear witness to a life of conversion and forgiveness."
This is only possible, he added, with "the interior strength of the Spirit of the Risen Christ."
"Consecrated with the 'anointing' of the Holy Spirit," the Pope exclaimed, "go forth! Carry the good tidings to the poor, bind the wounds of the brokenhearted, proclaim freedom to slaves, open the doors of prisons to those within, promulgate the year of the Lord's mercy. Rebuild the ancient ruins... restore the wasted cities. There are so many difficult situations that await a decisive intervention! Bring into the world the hope of God, which is Christ the Lord Who rose from the dead and lives and reigns forever. Amen."