VATICAN CITY, 2 JUL 2011 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, the Holy Father greeted faithful from the Italian diocese of Altamura-Gravina-Acquaviva delle Fonti, which is currently celebrating its diocesan synod. The group was accompanied by their bishop, Msgr. Mario Paciello.

"A synod is an event which gives us concrete experience of being the 'People of God', of being Church, a pilgrim community travelling in history towards its eschatological fulfilment in God", said the Pope. "This means we must recognise that the Church does not of herself possess the vital principle: she depends on Christ, of Whom she is the effective sign and instrument. In her relationship with the Lord Jesus lies her deepest identity: that of being a gift of God to humankind, which prolongs the presence and salvific work of the Son through the Holy Spirit. In this perspective we can see that the Church is essentially a mystery of love at the service of humanity, with a view to its sanctification. ... Being Church has its source and its true meaning in the communion of love of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit: the Blessed Trinity is not only the model, but generates and moulds the Church as a mystery of communion".

The Holy Father continued: "We must begin from this truth, always and anew, in order to achieve a more intense understanding and experience of being Church: 'People of God. 'Body of Christ', 'Communion'. Otherwise we run the risk of reducing things to a horizontal dimension which perverts the identity of the Church and the announcement of the faith. The Church is not a social or philanthropic organisation, like many others that exist: she is the Community of God, she is a community which believes and loves, which adores the Lord Jesus and opens her 'veils' at the breath of the Holy Spirit; thus she is a community capable of evangelisation".

"Many men and women of our time need to encounter the Lord, or to rediscover the beauty of the God Who is close, the God Who in Jesus Christ reveals His face as Father and calls us to recognise the meaning and value of life. The current moment of history is marked by lights and shadows. We are witnessing complex forms of behaviour: closure, narcissism, desire to possess and consume, sentiments and affections divorced from responsibility. There are many reasons for this disorientation which finds expression in profound existential unease, but underlying everything is the negation of the transcendent dimension of man and of the basic relationship with God. For this reason its is vital for Christian communities to promote valid and compelling itineraries of faith".

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