Vatican City, 24 March 2012 (VIS) - The French Episcopal Conference has organised a meeting on the theme: "Joy and Hope, Fifty Years after Vatican Council II". The event is being held in the French shrine of Lourdes on 24 and 25 March, and is being attended by French bishops and some 2,500 lay people, religious and priests from all over the country. For the occasion, Benedict XVI recorded a video message which was projected this morning before the first session began. Extracts of the message are given below.
"Vatican Council II was a genuine sign of God for our time. If we know how to interpret and accept it within the tradition of the Church, and under the secure guidance of the Magisterium, it will become an increasingly important driving force for the future of the Church. For this reason I hope this anniversary will be - for you and for the entire Church in France - an occasion of spiritual and pastoral renewal".
"This renewal, which is part of a continuous and ongoing process, takes many forms. For the Year of the Faith, to which I have called the entire Church, we must seek a more conscious faith and renew our adherence to the Gospel. To this end, we must become increasingly open to the person of Christ, and rediscover the pleasure of the Word of God in order to achieve a profound conversion of heart and walk the paths of the world, proclaiming the Gospel of hope to the men and women of our time, in respectful dialogue with everyone. May this time of grace also make it possible to consolidate communion within the great family of the Catholic Church, and contribute to restoring unity among all Christians, which was one of the main objectives of the Council".
"The renewal of the Church also includes the witness of Christians' own lives, that the Word of Truth the Lord left us may shine forth. If you approach witnesses of faith such as St. Bernadette the humble seer of Lourdes, Pauline Jaricot who gave new missionary drive to the Church, and many others who have made the soil of France fruitful, you will gain a deeper knowledge of Christ. ... St. Joan of Arc, the sixth centenary of whose birth falls this year, is one shining example. She brought the Gospel into the most dramatic events of the history of France and of her time. Rediscovering the joy of believing and the enthusiasm of communicating the power and beauty of the faith is a fundamental challenge of the new evangelisation to which the whole Church is called".