The faith, its meaning and significance in the modern world, were the main themes of Benedict XVI's address on October 24 at St Peter's Square. "In our time", the Pope said, "we need a renewed education in the faith. Certainly this must include a knowledge of its truths and of the events of salvation, but above all it must arise from an authentic encounter with God in Jesus Christ".
"Today, along with many signs of goodness, a spiritual desert is spreading around us. ... Even the ideas of progress and well-being are revealing their shadows and, despite the great discoveries of science and progress of technology, mankind today does not seem to have become freer. ... Many forms of exploitation, violence and injustice persist. ... Moreover, there are growing numbers of people who seem disorientated and who, in their search to go beyond a purely horizontal vision of reality, are ready to believe everything and the opposite of everything. In this context, certain fundamental questions arise: ... What meaning does life have? Do men and women, we and coming generations, have a future? What awaits us beyond the threshold of death?"
From these questions, the Pope explained, it is clear that "scientific knowledge, though important for the life of man, is not of itself enough. We need not only material bread, we need love, meaning and hope. We need a sure foundation ... which gives our lives true significance even in moments of crisis and darkness, even in daily difficulties. This is what the faith gives us. It means entrusting ourselves confidently to the 'You? that is God, the which gives me certainty: a certainty different but no less solid than that which comes from exact calculations and science. The faith is not a mere intellectual assent on man's part to the specific truths about God, it is an act by which I freely entrust myself to God Who is a Father and Who loves me, ... Who gives me hope and inspires my trust.
"Of course", the Pope added, "such adherence to God is not without content. Through it we are aware that God showed Himself to us in Christ. ... With the mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ, God descended to the depths of our human condition in order to draw it to Himself, to raise it to His heights. Faith means believing in this love of God, which does not diminish in the face of the corruption of man, in the face of evil and death; on the contrary, it is capable of transforming all forms of slavery, giving them the possibility of salvation".
"This possibility of salvation through faith is a gift which God gives to all mankind. I believe we should meditate more often - during our daily lives often marked by problems and dramatic situations - on the fact that Christian belief means abandoning oneself trustingly to the profound meaning which upholds me and the world, the meaning which we cannot give to ourselves but only receive as a gift, and which is the foundation upon which we can live without fear. We must be capable of announcing this liberating and reassuring certainty of the faith with words, and showing it with our Christian lives".
"Underpinning our journey of faith is Baptism, the Sacrament which gives us the Holy Spirit, makes us children of God in Christ, and marks our entry into the community of faith, into the Church. A person does not believe alone, without God's grace, nor do we believe by ourselves, but together with our brothers and sisters. From Baptism on all believers are called to re-live this confession of the faith and to make it their own, together with their brethren".
The Holy Father concluded: "The faith is a gift of God but it is also a profoundly free and human act. ... It does not run counter to our freedom or our reason. ... Believing means entrusting oneself in all freedom and joy to God's providential plan for history, as did the Patriarch Abraham, as did Mary of Nazareth".
In his greetings at the end of his audience, the Pope recalled how "last Monday we celebrated the memory of Blessed John Paul II, who remains alive among us". In this context, he invited young people "to learn to face life with his ardour and enthusiasm", and the sick "to carry the cross of suffering joyfully, as he himself taught us".