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The most beautiful memory of the Council

· Benedict XVI's visit to the Verbites' Casa 'Ad Gentes' in Nemi ·

For Benedict XVI Monday, 9 July, on the occasion of his visit to the centre of the Verbite Missionaries on the Lake of Nemi, was a morning under the banner of memories linked to the period when he was a young theologian at the Second Vatican Council.

Forty-seven years after taking part in the work of the Council's Commission on Missions, Joseph Ratzinger in fact returned to those same places to meet the 125 chapter fathers of the Society of the Divine Word who had gathered in the build that bears the same name as the Decree of the Second Vatican Council on the Church's Missionary Activity: Ad Gentes.

In its form it was a private visit which was immediately transformed for the Pope into a favourable opportunity to think back with his mind and heart to those days of which he says he cherishes a “most beautiful memory, perhaps the most beautiful of the entire Council”. Unforgettable moments lived ”in the greenery”, in touch with “the breath of nature”, in the “fresh air” and in the “company of very many great theologians”. So it was that his memories took on the features of several protagonists of the great season of the Council. Fr Schütte, the Verbite Superior General of the time, a man “full of  missionary dynamism” who, the Pope said, speaking of himself, had chosen “a very young theologian of no great importance,  I do not know why he was invited. But it was an immense gift for me”. And then there were Bishop Fulton Sheen, who fascinated those present with his evening discourses, the Dominican Yves Congar and the great missiologists of Louvain. “For me it was a spiritual enrichment”, he commented, then also referring to the controversy between the Schools of Louvain and of Münster, on the principal purpose of the mission. Benedict XVI confided that he had “never really understood” the reasons for that controversy, because in his judgement “everything was converging in one dynamism of the need to bring the light of the word of God, the light of the love of God to the world and to give new joy through this proclamation”.

Lastly, directly addressing the capitulars present, the Holy Father expressed his pleasure at seeing how the Verbite family flourishes in so many nations. “Obviously missionary dynamism is alive”, he concluded, “ and it lives only if there is the joy of the Gospel, if we are having the experience of good which comes from God and must and wants to be communicated”.

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