Pope: Church Reform Begins With One's Self

Marks 400th Anniversary of Canonization of St. Charles Borromeo

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 5, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is urging a reform of the Church, and he detailed some indications to carry out this necessary purification proposing the example of St. Charles Borromeo.

In a message to the archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, on the 400th anniversary of the canonization of the St. Charles, the Pope said reform begins with one’s self.

“In times darkened by numerous trials for the Christian community, with doctrinal divisions and confusions, with the tarnishing of the purity of the faith and of customs and with the bad example of several sacred ministers, Charles Borromeo did not limit himself to deplore or condemn, or simply hope for change in others, but he began to reform his own life,” the Pontiff said in the message, which was published Thursday by the Vatican press office.

Specifically, he abandoned riches and comforts and filled his life with prayer, penance and loving dedication to his people, and he lived poverty, humility and chastity in a heroic way, in a constant journey of ascetic purification and Christian perfection, said the Pontiff.

Benedict XVI wrote that this saint “was aware that a serious and credible reform had to begin, in fact, with the pastors, so that it would have beneficial and lasting effects on the whole People of God.”

Sources of sanctity

“In that action of reform he was able to go to the traditional and always living sources of the holiness of the Catholic Church,” Benedict XVI continued.

And he enumerated those sources: the centrality of the Eucharist, the spirituality of the cross, assiduous frequenting of the sacraments, the Word of God meditated, read and interpreted in the Tradition, and love and devotion to the Pope.

The Pontiff also stressed that the conversion of each member of the Church to God is the “first and most urgent need in the Church” at all times.

He acknowledged again that today the ecclesial community is in need of “purification and reform” and that it is not lacking in “trials or sufferings.”

In this connection, he hoped “that the example of St. Charles will stimulate us to begin always from a serious commitment to personal and community conversion, to transform hearts, believing with firm certainty in the power of prayer and of penance.”

From prists and deacons the Pope desired especially “a limpid faith and sober and pure life,” and he urged them “to make of their life a courageous journey of sanctity, not to fear the exaltation of that confident love in Christ for whom bishop Charles was willing to forget himself and leave everything.”

Charity is infectious

In his message, the bishop of Rome pointed out “the extraordinary work of reform that St. Charles carried out in the structures of the Church” born from his holy life and conformed ever more to Christ. “Admirable was his work of guide of the People of God, of meticulous legislator, of brilliant organizer,” he noted.

He also recalled that during the saint’s episcopate, his diocese “felt infected by a current of sanctity which spread to all the people,” and this was possible thanks to the “ardor of his charity.”

“Wherever the intense experience of love exists, the profound face of God is revealed who attracts us and makes us his own,” said the Pope.

Benedict XVI invited the faithful to make the Eucharist “the true center of our communities,” and he asserted that “the whole apostolic and charitable work will draw vigor and fecundity from this source.”

The Pontiff concluded his message renewing his appeal to the young people of Milan to holiness: “God wants you to be saints, because he knows you in the depth of your being and loves you with a love that surpasses all human understanding.”

And he added: “You, dear young people, are not only the hope of the Church; you are already part of her present! And if you have the audacity to believe in sanctity, you will be the greatest treasure of your Ambrosian Church, which has been built on saints.”

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