By Cindy Wooden
ROME (CNS) — Participation at Sunday Mass and reception of the Eucharist are central to the life of Catholics because they are a clear expression of belief in the sacrifice of Christ, they create community and motivate charity, Pope Benedict XVI said.
“In our day, people don’t love the word ‘sacrifice,’ which seems to belong to another age and another way of understanding life. However, when it is properly understood, it remains fundamental because it reveals how much God, in Christ, loves us,” the pope said June 15 in an address to the Rome diocesan pastoral conference.
With an evening speech at Rome’s Basilica of St. John Lateran, the pope opened the diocese’s three-day conference, which focused on finding ways to help Catholics understand the importance of the Sunday Eucharist and the essential role of charity in Catholic life. Parishes, the priests’ council, lay groups and special ministries throughout the diocese held preparatory listening sessions and conferences to draw up recommendations for the 300 delegates attending the June gathering.
While the majority of Rome’s citizens are baptized Catholics, “faith can never be assumed because every generation needs to receive this gift through the proclamation of the Gospel and knowledge of the truth which Christ has revealed to us,” the pope said.
Even among practicing Catholics, he said, there is a lack of understanding about the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and about the fact that receiving Jesus in the Eucharist must lead people to witness to God’s love by being charitable.
“A eucharistic celebration that does not lead to encountering people where they live, work and suffer in order to bring them the love of God does not demonstrate its truth,” the pope said.
“Charity is able to generate an authentic and permanent change in society, acting in the hearts and minds of men,” he said.
Pope Benedict told the diocesan delegates the best way to teach people the truth about the Eucharist and about the charity that flows from it is to have prayerful, well-prepared Masses.
When Catholics receive Jesus in the Eucharist, they are no longer isolated individuals, but members of a community committed to one another and to bringing God’s love to the world, he said.
“The world and men and women do not need another social organization, but they need the Church,” which can unite them in Christ, the pope said.
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