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POPE-BRAZIL Sep-27-2010 (320 words) xxxi

Forgiveness is backbone of real reform, pope says

By Catholic News Service

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (CNS) -- Forgiveness is the backbone of all true reform, both in the life of an individual Christian and in the life of the whole church community, Pope Benedict XVI said.

Today's spiritual crisis, in fact, is rooted in "obscuring the grace of forgiveness," the pope said Sept. 25 as he met with a group of bishops from Brazil.

The bishops were making their "ad limina" visits to Rome to report on the status of their dioceses.

When forgiveness and the sacrament of reconciliation are not recognized as being "real and effective," people tend to feel free from guilt because "the conditions for the existence of (guilt) are never verified" or examined, the pope said.

However, even though people may think they are free from guilt, "deep down they know it's not true, they know that sin exists and that they themselves are sinners," he said.

No one is "so cold as to not experience feelings of guilt," he said, adding that such feelings are necessary "for the health of the soul."

Everyone needs God "to remove the layers of dust and filth that have collected on God's image inscribed in us," Pope Benedict said.

The layers of sin make God's image within each person unrecognizable, he said. When those layers are removed, the individual begins to look like Christ and more like everyone else who has become more Christ-like through purification, said the pope.

"We need forgiveness, which is the backbone of every real reform," he said.

The renewal of the individual "also becomes the core of the renewal of the community," he said. When people realize that it is Christ who lives in them, they are "torn from isolation and welcomed" into the community of believers, the pope said.

The church accompanies each individual in the process of purification, which can start out as a long, arduous process, but will always become more joyful, he said.

END


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