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 CNS Story:

POPE-RELIGIOUS May-22-2006 (480 words) xxxi

Pope says some religious order reforms threatened by modern culture

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Reforms undertaken by religious orders aimed at ensuring deeper fidelity to the Gospel, to the church and to the poor are threatened by too many adaptations to a modern, materialistic culture, Pope Benedict XVI said.

The pope met May 22 with some 1,500 superiors of women's and men's religious orders representing hundreds of thousands of priests, nuns, brothers and consecrated virgins around the world.

"To belong to the Lord: This is the mission of the men and women who have chosen to follow the chaste, poor and obedient Christ so that the world would believe and be saved," the pope told the superiors.

Consecrated men and women, he said, are called to be a "credible and shining sign of the Gospel and its paradoxes," which encourage humility, self-giving and the renunciation of earthly goods for the sake of spiritual goods.

"The Lord wants men and women who are free, not bound, able to abandon everything to follow him and who find everything only in him," the pope said.

Following the Second Vatican Council, he said, religious orders revised their constitutions and their way of life with a "more evangelical, more ecclesial and more apostolic spirit."

"But we cannot ignore that some concrete choices did not offer the world the authentic and life-giving face of Christ," the pope said.

A desire to modernize and to be able to speak to contemporary men and women sometimes allowed a "secularized culture" to penetrate the minds and hearts of some religious, he said.

"The consequence is that, alongside an undoubtedly generous commitment capable of witnessing and of total giving, consecrated life today experiences the danger of mediocrity, adopting bourgeois values and a consumeristic mentality," Pope Benedict said.

The pope told the religious superiors that the choice to follow Christ always carries with it a renunciation of doing or having other things.

"There is a need for courageous choices, on a personal and community level, that impose a new discipline on the life of consecrated persons and lead them to rediscover the all-encompassing dimension of following Christ," he said.

In an "increasingly disoriented and confused world," he said, members of religious orders are called to live, behave and dress in a way that communicates their total dedication to following Christ and serving others.

The vow of chastity or consecrated virginity, he said, "is the most 'unreasonable' of the Christian paradoxes, and not everyone is able to understand it and live it."

"Religious men and women are called to demonstrate this even in their choice of dress, a simple habit that is a sign of poverty," the pope said.

Pope Benedict expressed his gratitude to all members of religious orders around the world and offered special prayers for those who are elderly, sick or experiencing moments of crisis or loneliness.


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