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 CNS Story:

POPE-AUDIENCE Jan-28-2009 (470 words) With photos. xxxi

Pastors need to be strong, loving fathers of God's children, says pope

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI prayed that Christians would treat all people lovingly as members of God's one family and that pastors would be strong yet tender fathers of the Christian community.

"Christians are no longer strangers or guests, but fellow citizens with the saints and family members of the household of God," the pope said Jan. 28 at his weekly general audience.

The Christian community is also open to everyone, as all people are capable of knowing the truth of God's love and message of salvation, he said.

With an estimated 4,000 people gathered inside the Paul VI hall, Pope Benedict continued his audience talks about the life and teaching of St. Paul, focusing on his letters to Timothy and Titus -- also known as the pastoral epistles.

Even though the Christian community was still quite small at the time the pastoral epistles were written, its universality was strongly emphasized, said the pope.

Christianity is "a living faith open to everyone and gives witness to God's love for all people," he said.

Therefore, Christians are "to slander no one, to be peaceable, considerate, exercising all graciousness toward everyone," he said quoting from St. Paul's Letter to Titus.

The letters "present the church in very human terms as God's household, a family in which the bishop acts with the authority of a father," he said.

In his First Letter to Timothy, St. Paul lists detailed traits and qualities needed for the office of bishop. These included such things as being temperate, self-disciplined, hospitable, able to teach, gentle, having a good reputation among non-Christians and being fatherly, said the pope.

He prayed that the church's bishops and priests increasingly take on more fatherly feelings for their flocks and be "loving and strong fathers who build up God's house, the Christian community and the church."

The pope also asked that the Christian faithful increasingly show a loving attitude for other people in society and treat everyone as members of God's family.

At the end of his audience talk, Pope Benedict was treated to a festive juggling act by members of the Italian Medrano circus troupe.

Four women and one man juggled bowling pins and rings onstage next to the pope while a band played a rousing Italian folk tune.

The pope smiled and clapped even when some ill-timed tosses sent pins and rings clattering to the floor.

When a circus performer approached the pope with a feisty lion cub, the pope stood and enthusiastically petted the squirming feline.

- - -

Editor's Note: The text of the pope's audience remarks in English will be posted online at: www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2009/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20090128_en.html.

The text of the pope's audience remarks in Spanish will be posted online at: www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2009/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20090128_sp.html.


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