Pope Benedict welcomed the 33rd Rimini Meeting, an annual gathering organized by the lay Catholic movement Communion & Liberation, by examining mankind's relation to the Infinite.
“To discuss the subject of man and his yearning for the Infinite means first and foremost recognizing his constitutive relationship with the Creator. Man is a creature of God,” the Pope said in a letter for the start of the Aug. 19-25 gathering.
“Today,” he said, “this word, "creature," seems to be out of fashion: It would be more likely to think of man as a self-fulfilled being and master of his own destiny.”
But this worldview still means that man “attempts to grasp the Infinite.” He does so by choosing “incorrect methods,” such as “drugs, disordered sexuality, technologies that devour man, success at any price and with misleading forms of religiosity,” Pope Benedict observed.
Communion & Liberation grew out of the teaching methods of its Italian founder Father Luigi Giussani. As a high-school teacher in 1950s Milan, he wanted to help young people live out their Catholic faith in everyday life. The group that emerged around him became known as Communion & Liberation.
Since 1980, the movement has held an annual “Meeting for the Friendship Among Peoples” in the Italian seaside resort of Rimini. The gathering is described as “an encounter among persons of different faiths and cultures” where “peace, socialization and a friendship among peoples may be established.”
This year’s event will bring more than 800,000 visitors from more than 20 nations to the Rimini Fiera conference center to enjoy seminars, guest speakers, exhibitions, cinema, theater, music and sporting events.
Pope Benedict told the conference that despite the “original sin” of our first parents, which ruptured the human race’s relationship with God, every person still has “an aching desire to reconcile this relationship, resembling the signature sealed with fire in man’s soul and his flesh by the Creator himself.”
This instinct is summed up, he suggested, in Psalm 63, where the author pleads, “You, God, are my God; earnestly I seek you. I thirst for you; my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.”
“Not only my soul, but every fiber of my flesh is made to encounter its peace and its fulfillment in God,” said the Pope, reflecting upon the Old Testament text.
“This tension is impossible to eliminate from the heart of man: Even when one rejects or denies God, the thirst for the Infinite that inhabits man does not melt away,” he said.
It is this hard-wired instinct, the Pope explained, that can lead some to mistakenly pursue “an arduous and sterile search for ‘false infinites’” that only satisfy the soul for “an instant” because they attempt to “replace the real thirst for the true Infinite.”
Pope Benedict told participants that truly recognizing we are “made for the Infinite” means pursuing “a journey of purification in order to leave the ‘false infinities’ behind.” This requires a “conversion of the heart and the mind” to uproot all those promises things “that are false and seduce man, rendering him a slave.”
Once a person undergoes this conversion, he wrote in his letter, then they are able to recognize they are “a creature, dependent on God,” which is accompanied by the “joyful discovery” that they are “children of God” and have “the possibility of a completely free and fulfilled life.”
How, though, can people bridge the gap between the finite and Infinite? The Pope said that this question leads us “straight to the core of Christianity”: the incarnation of Jesus Christ.
“Ever since the Incarnation, from the moment when the Word became flesh, the overwhelming gap between finiteness and infiniteness vanished; the eternal and infinite God left his heaven and entered time.”
It is then, said the Pope, that each person can discover “the truest dimension of human existence,” as continually taught by the Father Giussani: “life as vocation.”