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POPE-AUDIENCE Jan-23-2013 (530 words) With photos. xxxi

Belief in God leads to values that can be countercultural, pope says

A pilgrim holds a banner with an image of St. Lawrence as Pope Benedict XVI leads his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Jan. 23. (CNS/Paul Haring)

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- To believe in God means allowing his commandments to guide the concrete choices one makes every day, even when the values reflected in the choices are countercultural, Pope Benedict XVI said.

"To believe in God makes us bearers of values that often do not coincide" with those of popular culture and which give believers criteria for judgment that nonbelievers may not share, the pope said Jan. 23 at his weekly general audience.

"A Christian must not be afraid to go against the current in order to live his faith, resisting the temptation of conformity," he said.

Beginning a series of Year of Faith audience talks about the creed, Pope Benedict said that "believing in God implies adhering to him, accepting his word and joyfully obeying" his commandments.

Believers today, like Abraham in the Old Testament, must show trust in the God they profess to believe, even when God's ways appear mysterious, he said.

Pope Benedict asked the estimated 2,000 visitors and pilgrims gathered for his audience to imagine how they would have responded to a call like that God gave to Abraham, asking him to leave his home and set out for a land God would show him only later.

"In fact, he set off in the dark without knowing where God would lead him. It was a journey that required that radical obedience and trust that only faith could give him," the pope said.

"When we affirm 'I believe in God,' we are saying like Abraham, 'I trust you, I entrust myself to you, Lord,'" the pope said.

Real trust means turning to God not just "in moments of difficulty" or "a few minutes each day or each week," he said. "To say 'I believe in God' means building my life on him, letting his word guide each of my days, each concrete choice, without fear that I will lose myself."

While many in the modern world act as if God does not exist, he said, there are still people who thirst for God and who hear his word through the preaching, sharing and lives of others.

The life of faith "is a journey that is sometimes difficult and can include trials and even death," he said, but it leads to eternal life, "a radical transformation of reality that only the eyes of faith are capable of seeing."

Pope Benedict ended his audience with prayers for the people of Jakarta, Indonesia, which was "devastated" by flooding in mid-January, leading to at least 20 deaths and displacing more than 45,000 people.

The pope's audience took place during the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, an event the pope commented on in his greetings to several groups.

"May the ecumenical prayer of the faithful of different churches and Christian communities enrich the Year of Faith with a deepening of dialogue, search for the truth, recognition of traditions and gestures of reconciliation," he told Polish speakers.

Addressing Italian speakers, he said, "I hope the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity stimulates in each community a commitment to insistently asking the Lord for the gift of unity and of life in fraternal communion."

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Editor's Note: A video report on the pope's audience remarks is available on CNS client websites like http://www.catholicidaho.org and at http://www.youtube.com/user/CatholicNewsService.

The text of the pope's audience remarks in English will be posted online at www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2013/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20130123_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/2013/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20130123_sp.html.


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