~from Vatican Information Service
Yesterday afternoon at the Bentegodi Stadium in the Italian city of Verona, the Pope presided at a Eucharistic concelebration attended by more than 40,000 people. This was the second event - following the address he delivered earlier in the day at the Fair of Verona - of his pastoral visit to the city for the 4th Italian Ecclesial Congress, which has been considering the theme: "Witnesses of the Risen Christ, Hope of the World."
Apart from the faithful present in the stadium, a further 60,000 people were able to follow the Holy Father's homily on giant screens erected throughout the city. He told them that "the certainty that Christ arose assures us that no adverse power will ever be able to destroy the Church. We also draw encouragement from our awareness that only Christ can fully satisfy the profound expectations of the human heart and respond to the most disturbing questions of pain, injustice and evil, of death and the hereafter.
"Therefore," he added, "our faith is well founded; but it is necessary that this faith become part of our lives. A great effort must therefore be made in order for all Christians to transform themselves into 'witnesses,' ready and able to shoulder the commitment of testifying - always and to everyone - to the hope that animates them."
The Pope went on to highlight the importance of "going back to a vigorous and joyful announcement of the death and resurrection of Christ, the core of Christianity, the bedrock of our faith, the powerful lever of our certainties, the great wind that blows away all fear and indecision, all doubt and human calculation. Only from God can the decisive change of the world come. Only by going back to the Resurrection can the true nature of the Church and of her witness be understood."
Benedict XVI expressed the hope that the Church in Italy "may start out anew from this congress, ...impelled by the Word of the Risen Lord Who repeats to all mankind and to each individual: be, in today's world, witnesses of my Passion and my Resurrection. In a changing world, the Gospel does not alter. The Good News is always the same: Christ died, and He rose for our salvation! In His name bring everyone the announcement of conversion and the forgiveness of sins, but be yourselves the first to bear witness to a life of conversion and forgiveness." This is only possible, he added, with "the interior strength of the Spirit of the Risen Christ."
"Consecrated with the 'anointing' of the Holy Spirit," the Pope exclaimed, "go forth! Carry the good tidings to the poor, bind the wounds of the brokenhearted, proclaim freedom to slaves, open the doors of prisons to those within, promulgate the year of the Lord's mercy. Rebuild the ancient ruins, ... restore the wasted cities. There are so many difficult situations that await a decisive intervention! Bring into the world the hope of God, which is Christ the Lord Who rose from the dead and lives and reigns forever. Amen."
Following Mass, the Pope travelled to the airport of Verona-Villafranca where he boarded a plane for his return to Rome.