.- Presiding over the recitation of the Sunday Angelus, Pope Benedict XVI commemorated the Feast of the Dedication of Romeâs Lateran Basilica. Calling Christians the âliving stonesâ of a âspiritual building,â he reminded the faithful that God wants to build in the world a community that âworships him in spirit and truth.â
The Basilica, called the âmother and head of all churches of the City and the World,â was built after the Emperor Constantineâs Edict of Milan, which in 313 granted Christians freedom to practice their religion. The same emperor, the Holy Father recalled, âgave Pope Miltiades the old property of the family of the Laterans and built the Basilica, Baptistery and the residence of the Bishop of Rome, where the Popes lived until the Avignon period.â
The Holy Father also explained that although the church was originally opened in 324 and was dedicated to the Most Holy Savior, the names of Sts. John the Baptist and John the Evangelist, for whom the basilica is commonly named, were added only after the sixth century.
âThis anniversary at first interested only the city of Rome; then, in 1565, it was extended to the Churches of the Roman rite. By honoring the Basilica, one intends to express love and veneration for the Roman Church, which, as St. Ignatius of Antioch affirms, âpresides over the charityâ of the entire Catholic communion.â
The Holy Father noted that the readings for this solemnity recall an essential truth: âthe temple of bricks is a symbol of the living Church, the Christian community, which the Apostles Peter and Paul already, in their letters, were understanding as a âspiritual building,â constructed by God with the âliving stones,â which are the Christians, over the unique foundation, which is Jesus Christ, called the âcornerstone.ââ
âThe beauty and harmony of churches, destined to render praise to God, invites us, limited and sinners, to form a âcosmos,â a well-ordered edifice, in communion with Jesus, who is the true Holy of Holies,â said the Pontiff.
He noted that this union happens in the Eucharistic liturgy, in which the âecclesÃ¬a,â that is, the community of baptized, âmeet again united to hear the Word of God and feed on the Body and Blood of Christ.â
Pope Benedict recounted the importance of the material building in which communities gather âto celebrate the praises of God.â
âEvery community has the duty to guard with care its own sacred building, which constitutes a precious religious and historical patrimony. Let us invoke the intercession of Most Holy Mary to help us become, like her, a âhouse of God,â a living temple of love,â the Holy Father continued.
After the Marian prayer of the Angelus, Benedict XVI recalled that today is the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht, âwhen Nazi fury against Jews broke loose in Germany.â He prayed for the victims and invited Christians to demonstrate âprofound solidarity with the Hebrew world.â
The Pope also mentioned the armed encounters in the region of North Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. âIt is estimated that there are more than 1.5 million refugees,â he said, renewing his appeal to all to collaborate to restore peace in that land.
Finally, the Holy Father recalled that todayâs Italian celebration of Thanksgiving, drawing attention to the problem of famine, âmade more dramatic by the rise in prices of some basic food commodities. He prayed for the rural world, âespecially for farmers in the developing world,â and said: âWho helps the poor helps Christ himself.â