Pope says parishes are places for prayer, learning, charity

By  Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service
  • March 21, 2011
Pope Benedict XVI smiles as doves are released at the end of his visit to St. Corbinian Church in Rome. (CNS photo/Alessia Pierdomenico, Reuters)ROME - A parish church is a place for people to get to know God better, to worship him together and to learn how to take the message of his love to the neighborhood and the world, Pope Benedict XVI said at the dedication of a new church in Rome.

"Grow in the knowledge and love of Christ as individuals and as a parish community and encounter him in the Eucharist, in listening to his word, in prayer and in charity," the pope told parishioners at the new St. Corbinian Church March 20.

The parish on the southern edge of Rome was financed with help from the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, Germany, where Pope Benedict served as archbishop in the late 1970s and early 1980s before being named prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

And, he told parishioners, his papal coat of arms features the symbol most closely associated with St. Corbinian: a brown bear loaded with a pack on his back.

Legend holds that St. Corbinian, a Frenchman who became the first bishop of Freising in the early 700s, was on his way to Rome when a bear attacked and killed his horse. St. Corbinian punished the bear by making him carry the saint's belongings the rest of the way to Rome.

The Gospel reading at the Mass for the dedication of the church was St. Matthew's account of Jesus' transfiguration, which Pope Benedict said was the revelation of Jesus' real identity.

Seeing Jesus' divine splendor, "the disciples are prepared for Jesus' paschal mystery" and are given the strength and knowledge they need "to overcome the terrible trial of his passion and to understand the luminous fact of his resurrection," the pope said in his homily.

Pope Benedict said church buildings and parish communities are essential for Christian life and worship.

"In every neighborhood where people live and work, the church wants to be present with the evangelical witness of coherent and faithful Christians, but also with buildings where they can gather for prayer and the sacraments, for Christian formation and to establish relationships of friendship and brotherhood and where children, youths, families and the aged can grow in that spirit of community that Christ taught us and that the world needs so badly," he said.

The pope returned to the Vatican by helicopter in time to lead the recitation of the Angelus prayer at noon.

Talking about the Transfiguration reading, Pope Benedict tried to help people gathered in St. Peter's Square imagine what it would have been like to see Jesus' face shine "like the sun" and his clothes become "white as light," as the Gospel described it.

"Sunlight is the most intense light found in nature," the pope said, but the spiritual experience of the disciples allowed them to see "an even more intense splendor, that of Jesus' divine glory, which enlightens the whole history of salvation."

The Transfiguration did not change Jesus, but revealed his divinity to the disciples, the pope said.

"Dear friends, we also can participate in this vision and this supernatural gift by giving space to prayer and to listening to the word of God," he told the crowd in the square.

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