In a meeting held yesterday in the Vatican's Hall of Blessings with priests of the diocese of Rome, the Holy Father participated in a question and answer session on wide range of issues, including the reality of Heaven and Hell.
The exchange between Pope Benedict and the Roman priests involved ten questions covering the youth, evangelization, education and the four last things: death, judgment, Heaven and Hell.
On the topic of the Final Judgment, the Holy Father said that in the Church today there is perhaps too little reference to sin, Paradise and Hell. “Also for this reason", he said, "I chose to mention the Last Judgment in my Encyclical 'Spe Salvi'". Anyone who does not recognize the Final Judgment, he added, does not recognize the possibility of failure and the need for redemption. Anyone who does not labor for heaven does not work for the good of mankind on earth. In this context he noted that Nazism and Communism, which were concerned only with this world, ended up by destroying it.
On the topic of young people, the Holy Father noted the difficulties they encounter while trying to live a Christian life, in the face of the prevailing lifestyles. For this reason, it is important for priests to bear witness to the fact that we really can know God, that we can be His friends and walk with Him.
The Pontiff also highlighted the importance of the presence of God in the field of education and, referring to a letter he had recently written on this subject to the diocese of Rome, he indicated that professional formation must be accompanied by formation of the heart, by the presence of God. He added that one aspect of cultural formation is to know the Gospel.
On the subject of Lent, the Pope indicated that “it should also be a time to abstain from words and images, because we have need of a little silence. We need to create a space free from the constant bombardment of images...a silent space for ourselves, without images, in order to open our hearts to the true image, the true Word.”
In replying to a question posed by an Indian priest, Benedict XVI turned his attention to the theme of evangelization. Dialogue, he said, means respecting others. Yet, he explained, this dimension of dialogue does not exclude the announcement of the Gospel, which is a gift of Truth that we cannot keep for ourselves but must also offer to others.
Mission is not imposition, rather it means offering the gift of God and allowing His goodness to illuminate us. To do otherwise, said the Pope, would be to neglect a duty. We too would be unfaithful if we did not present our own faith while respecting the freedom of others, he added, highlighting the importance of missionary work. Dialogue and mission do not exclude one another, but need one another.