Pope Benedict XVI went to the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance to call upon every Catholic to once again play a full part in renewing today’s culture.
“Be ferment in society; be present as Christians; be active and coherent,” said the Pope during morning Mass in the town of Arezzo in the region of Tuscany May 13.
“The whole Church is sent out into the world to preach the Gospel and salvation. But it is always God’s initiative; he calls us to different ministries, so that each one plays his proper role for the common good.”
Pope Benedict was making a one-day visit to the Tuscan towns of Arezzo, La Verna and Sansepolcro. In Arezzo, he offered Mass in a local park before a congregation numbering in the tens of thousands.
The Pope noted that the area was the birthplace of “great Renaissance personalities” such as the poet Petrarch and painter and architect Varasi. Such men had played “an active role in affirming that concept of man which left its mark on the history of Europe, drawing strength from Christian values.”
Given these historical precedents, the Pope asked, “What vision of man are we proposing to new generations?” He suggested that an invitation to live God’s love towards all people should see a new Christian culture embody “distinctive values,” including “solidarity, attention to the weak, respect for the dignity of all.”
This is particularly manifested, he said, in the “defense of human life, from its beginning to its natural end” and “the defense of the family through laws that are just and protect the weakest elements.”
Later in the day, the Pope traveled on to the town of La Verna to visit the Chapel of the Wounds. It was there that St. Francis of Assisi received the stigmata in the year 1224.
With Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti in the congregation at morning Mass, the Pope offered the “shining witness of St. Francis” as a guide to how Christians should cope with the current economic downturn in Italy and beyond.
“Since the remotest times, attention to others has moved the Church to show concrete signs of solidarity with those in need, sharing resources, promoting simpler lifestyles, going against an ephemeral culture which has disappointed many and determined a profound spiritual crisis,” he said.
At the conclusion of Mass, the Pope led the congregation in the Eastertide Marian prayer, the Regina Coeli. He prayed that each pilgrim would “continue serving God and man according to the teaching of Jesus, the shining example of your saints and the tradition of your people,” and he commended them to the “maternal protection of Our Lady of Comfort, whom you love and venerate, accompany and sustain you in this task.”
The Pope’s final stop in the day was the town of Sansepolcro to make a pilgrimage to the famous crucifix known as the Santo Volto (Holy Face), which resides in the local cathedral. The artwork is an unusual carved wooden crucifix made from a single walnut log between the eighth and ninth centuries.
Pope Benedict XVI returned to the Vatican Sunday evening.