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To respond with gentleness and respect to the practical atheism that clouds the ethical horizon

· At the General Audience Benedict XVI suggests three paths that lead to God: the world, man, faith ·

Christianity is the “life blood” from which to draw to encourage “the renewal of consciences” and  a “harmonious orientation to the common good”. The invitation that John Paul II addressed to the Members of the Italian Parliament on 14 November 2002, who welcomed him at their headquarters in the Montecitorio Building, was reiterated by Benedict XVI on the occasion of the ceremony commemorating the tenth anniversary of the papal visit in a message – signed by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State – sent to Renato Schifani and Gianfranco Fini, Presidents, respectively, of the Senate of the Republic and of the Chamber of Deputies.

In his message the Pope recalls that it is in just such a moment as this, heavily marked by the consequences of  the economic crisis, that Christianity can offer a “spiritual and ethical patrimony”  to guide government leaders in their action. Hence the hope he expressed that “the constant collaboration between Italy and the Holy See, as well as between the State and the Church in Italy, may continue to sustain the Italian nation on its journey and families in particular in their primordial educational and social role, as well as all citizens, especially in the sense of civil responsibility.

In his catechesis at the General Audience in the Paul VI Hall  this morning, Wednesday, 4 November, the Holy Father also referred to the need to place God at the centre of man's daily life. How can men and women be brought to overcome scepticism – he asked himself – indifference and the conviction that they can live as though God did not exist? It can only be done by helping man to rediscover the ability to contemplate the beauty of creation, to reinterpret the meaning of the thirst for the infinite that every person has within him, to recover the meaning of the life of faith as a way that leads to the encounter with God.

“God’s initiative”, Benedict XVI declared, “always precedes every human initiative”. Consequently “it is not we who possess the Truth after having sought it but the Truth that seeks us out and possesses us”. The Pope then referred to that form of “practical atheism” which permeates society today, in which “the truths of faith or religious rites are not denied but are merely deemed irrelevant to daily life, detached from life, pointless”. And today this is the greatest danger to be faced, which the Pope called “reductionism”, in other words the tendency to reduce man, separated from God, to a single dimension: the horizontal.  “By obscuring the reference to God” he warned, “the ethical horizon has also been obscured, leaving room for relativism” and an ambiguous conception of freedom has been endorsed “which, instead of being liberating, ends by binding human beings to idols”.

It is to such people, the Pope recommended, that Christianity must give answers. And citing St Augustine, he pointed out the paths to take: the world, man, faith. Without forgetting that Christianity, “before being  a moral or an ethic, is the event of love”.

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