Benedict XVI: cradle Catholics have not done enough to show people that God exists

Cradle Catholics have not done enough to show people that God exists and can bring true fulfilment to everyone, Pope Benedict XVI has told a group of his former students.

“We, who have been able to know [Christ] since our youth, may we ask forgiveness because we bring so little of the light of his face to people; so little certainty comes from us that he exists, he’s present and he is the greatness that everyone is waiting for,” the Pope said.

The Pope presided at a Mass yesterday in Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome, during his annual meeting with students who did their doctorates with him when he was a professor in Germany.

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Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, a regular participant in the Ratzinger Schülerkreis (Ratzinger student circle), gave the homily at the Mass, but the Pope made remarks at the beginning of the liturgy.

The Vatican released the text of the Pope’s remarks today.

Pope Benedict highlighted the day’s reading in Psalm 63 in which the soul thirsts for God “in a land parched, lifeless and without water”.

He asked God to show himself to today’s world, which is marked by God’s absence and where “the land of souls is arid and dry, and people still don’t know where the living water comes from”.

May God let people who are searching for water elsewhere know that the only thing that will quench their thirst is God himself and that he would never let “people’s lives, their thirst for that which is great, for fulfilment, drown and suffocate in the ephemeral,” the Pope told his former students.

However, it also is up to Christians to make God known to the world, the Pope said, and older generations may not have done their best.

“We want to ask [God] to forgive us, that he renew us with the living water of his spirit and that he helps us to celebrate properly the sacred mysteries,” he said.

The formal discussions of the “schulerkreis” this year focused on the new evangelisation.

The closed-door seminar was held from August 25 to 28 in the papal residence of Castel Gandolfo and was attended by 40 people, according to L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper.

The Pope chose two speakers to give lectures: Hanna-Barbara Gerl-Falkovitz, a female German theologian and professor, and Otto Neubauer, director of the Emmanuel Community’s academy for evangelisation in Vienna.

The lectures were followed by discussion among the participants, including the Pope.

Summarising the discussions for L’Osservatore Romano, Cardinal Schönborn said participants felt that World Youth Day events in Madrid represented a fresh “boost of renewed hope” for the Church.

He said older generations had suffered by first living their faith at a time when Church life was thriving, and now watching parishes lose parishioners.

But today’s young Catholics seem to realise they are a minority in a secular, relativistic world and have shown their “undaunted willingness to give witness to their peers in such an environment,” he said.

Seminar participants saw the so-called “John Paul II and Benedict XVI generations” as a whole new phase for the Church. No one thought young Catholics would be so open to being in “the courtyard of the Gentiles” to evangelise, said the cardinal.

He said the meeting also reflected on how to spread the Gospel in a secular world that nonetheless “shows that it is waiting to receive anew the Gospel message.”

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