Pope Benedict XVI’s Lenten message, a press conference was held today at the Vatican. Speaking at the conference were Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes, President of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum," and Fr. Oreste Benzi, president of the John XXIII Foundation. Archbishop Cordes noted that through his message this year, the Pope is decrying the poverty of God’s presence in today’s world, saying that, “the absence of God is worse than material poverty.”
Until now the pontiffs' Lenten Messages have concentrated, said Archbishop Cordes, "on works of charity in the sense of the social commitment of Christians." However, Benedict XVI's Message this year "focuses forcefully upon God the Father of Jesus Christ and has, therefore, not an anthropocentric but a theocentric emphasis. ... This alteration is also discernable in the preaching of Benedict XVI in general. He seems to want us to address ourselves more intensely to the Father in heaven, to entrust ourselves to His Son, Jesus Christ."
"Of course, Benedict XVI is also aware that God seems to be the great missing presence of our time, whether man knows it or not. ... Clearly, the Pope cannot accept this impoverishment. The absence of God is worse than material poverty because it kills all sure hope and leaves man alone with his pain and grief."
The president of "Cor Unum" pointed out how in this year's Message, "the Pope resumes the reflections on 'eros and 'agape' he began in his Encyclical, and sees these two forms of love come together in all their fullness in the crucified Christ. He writes: 'only the love that unites the free gift of oneself with the impassioned desire for reciprocity instills a joy, which eases the greatest of sacrifices.'
"Thus," Archbishop Cordes added, "the Pope also uses his Lenten Message to go back to the pain that weighs upon our lives through our own or others' fault, and he invites us to raise our eyes from the depths to the heights, 'they shall look on Him whom they have pierced'." The Holy Father reveals "a sensitivity to the despair of the world, not exclusively, perhaps not even principally, to eliminate misery by one's own efforts, but to seek energy in the fountain of love against all forms of resignation."
Archbishop Cordes concluded by pointing out that no one, "by appealing for us to turn to Christ, seeks to substitute the service of man with service to God."
For his part Fr. Oreste Benzi indicated that Lent must be, for all Christians, "a renewed experience of the love of God, donated to us in Christ, a love that in our turn we must 're-donate' to our fellow man, especially to the needy and the suffering."
In this context, Fr. Benzi enumerated the tasks facing the communities and movements recognized by the Church. These include: "the struggle to defend women from abortion, recognition of the true family, the fight against drugs, the commitment to show a real welcome to immigrants ... and gypsies, the commitment to help prisoners, ... the commitment not to be employees of charity but lovers of Christ, the commitment to be a [united] people, and the struggle for freedom from slavery and prostitution."
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