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POPE-PENTECOST (CORRECTED) Jun-2-2009 (710 words) With photos posted June 1. xxxi

People must fight spiritual pollution, pope says on Pentecost

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Just as the human body is threatened by breathing polluted air, the human soul is threatened by images and ideas that glorify violence or the exploitation of others, Pope Benedict XVI said.

"The metaphor of the 'impetuous wind' of Pentecost makes one think of how precious it is to breathe clean air both with the lungs -- the physical -- as well as with the heart -- the spiritual," the pope said May 31 during Mass for the feast of Pentecost.

The Holy Spirit, which was poured out on the disciples at Pentecost and available to every follower of Jesus for all time, is the "healthy air" of love, the pope said.

In his homily during the Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, the pope focused on the use of wind or breath and of fire to describe the movement of the Holy Spirit in the Bible.

The pope said the image of wind "makes us think of the air, which distinguishes our planet from the other heavenly bodies and allows us to live on it. What air is for biological life, the spirit is for spiritual life."

"And just as there exists atmospheric pollution, which poisons the environment and living beings, so there exists a pollution of the heart and of the spirit, which mortifies and poisons spiritual existence," he said.

Pope Benedict said it is right that protecting the environment has become a priority today, but it is equally important that people begin combating "the many products polluting the mind and heart" today, including "images that make a spectacle of pleasure, violence and contempt for men and women."

The other image used to describe the Holy Spirit is fire, the energy of the Holy Spirit brought to earth by Christ, he said.

Fire is a metaphor for power, an energy that can be used for good or for evil, the pope said.

"Taking possession of the energies of the cosmos -- the 'fire' -- the human being today seems to affirm himself as a god and to want to transform the world by excluding, putting aside or even denying the creator of the universe," the pope said.

"In the hands of a such a person, 'fire' and its enormous potential becomes dangerous: It can be turned against life and humanity itself as history unfortunately has demonstrated. A perennial warning comes from the tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where atomic energy used for bellicose aims sowed death in an unheard-of proportion," Pope Benedict said.

However, when human beings recognize God as the creator and the lord of the universe, they tend to be more careful with the way they use power, he said, because they know that the "pure, essential and personal 'fire' is the fire of love."

Pope Benedict said that while the Holy Spirit blows where it will, the story of Pentecost demonstrates that it normally comes when the followers of Jesus are united and are at prayer.

"This is valid also for the church today, valid for us," the pope said.

If the Holy Spirit is going to renew and give new strength to the church and all its members, he said, people must prepare to receive the Spirit through "the humble and silent listening to the word of God."

When the Holy Spirit descends it dispels fear, Pope Benedict said.

The Spirit "helps us know and feel like we are in the hands of all-powerful love: No matter what happens, his infinite love will not abandon us," he said.

In his "Regina Coeli" address after the Mass, the pope told thousands of people gathered in St. Peter's Square that the Holy Spirit is the soul of the church.

"Without it what would the church be? It would certainly be a great historical movement, a complex and solid social institution, perhaps a kind of humanitarian agency. And, truthfully, that is how it is seen by those who consider it outside the lens of faith," the pope said.

But the Holy Spirit guides the church, ensuring it is the living body of Christ, he said.


Copyright (c) 2009 Catholic News Service/USCCB. All rights reserved.
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