By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — When the Christian creed refers to God as “father,” it is affirming a trust that the God who created the universe loves each individual and will never abandon anyone, Pope Benedict XVI said.
“It isn’t always easy” to explain to people what it means to believe in God the father, especially when today’s fathers and their children experience such difficulty communicating with each other, the pope said Jan. 30 at his weekly general audience.
“For those who have had the experience of a father who is too authoritarian or inflexible, or indifferent and not affectionate, or particularly if he is absent, it is not easy to think of God as father and let oneself trust him,” Pope Benedict said.
In the second of his audience talks looking at statements of faith in the creed, the pope said understanding what the church means when it calls God “the father almighty” may mean people have to set aside their personal experiences when considering the words “father” and “might.”
The Bible, especially the Gospels, “reveals the face of God as a father who loves us to the point of giving his son to save humanity,” the pope said. The love of God is “infinitely greater, more faithful, more complete than any human love.”
“As father, God accompanies our existence with love, giving us his Word, his teaching, his grace and his Spirit,” the pope said.
Pope Benedict told the estimated 5,000 people gathered for the audience that many people today believe God can’t really be “almighty” or all powerful when there is so much evil and suffering in the world. Some people, he said, basically expect God to exercise a kind of “magic power,” immediately changing any situation they find difficult or painful.
Often, he said, “we want a divine omnipotence that coincides with our mindset and desires.”
“Creating free creatures, God renounced part of his omnipotence,” the pope said. But even giving men and women the ability to choose evil over good, his constant love means God is always there, urging conversion and offering mercy, forgiveness and salvation.
“Only one who is truly all-powerful can fully exercise the power of love,” he said.
In allowing Jesus to die for the sins of all, Pope Benedict said, God shows what “true, authentic and perfect divine power” is: “responding to evil with good, to insults with pardon, to homicidal hatred with a love that gives life.”
At the end of the audience, Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, chairman of the steering committee of the Center for Child Protection at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University, presented the pope with a German copy of “Toward Healing and Renewal.” The book is a collection of speeches and essays from a conference last year designed to help Catholic leaders around the world improve their child-protection policies and reach out to victims of clerical sexual abuse.
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Editor’s Note: A video report on the pope’s audience remarks is available on CNS client web sites like http://www.catholicidaho.org and at http://www.youtube.com/user/CatholicNewsService.
The text of the pope’s audience remarks in English will be posted online at www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2013/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20130130_en.html.
The text of the pope’s audience remarks in Spanish will be posted online at www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2013/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20130130_sp.html.
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