Made public today was a Message from the Pope addressed to Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, archbishop of Milan, Italy, marking the fourth centenary of the canonisation of St. Charles Borromeo, on 1 November 1610.
"The time in which Charles Borromeo lived was a very delicate one for Christianity", writes the Pope. "In a period obscured by many trials facing the Christian community, with divisions and doctrinal confusion, the clouding of the purity of faith and custom, and the bad example of many sacred ministers, Charles Borromeo did not limit himself to deploring and condemning, nor simply to expressing hope that others would change; rather, he began to reform his own life".
St. Charles "was aware that serious and credible reform had to begin with pastors". To this end he focused on "the centrality of the Eucharist, ... the spirituality of the cross, ... assiduous participation in the Sacraments, ... the Word of God, ... and love and devotion for the Supreme Pontiff, readily and filially obedient to his directives as a guarantee of true and complete ecclesial communion".
"May St. Charles encourage us always to begin with a serious commitment to personal conversion", writes the Holy Father, going on to encourage priests and deacons "to make of their lives a courageous path of sanctity" and expressing the hope that the Church in Milan may always find in her ministers "a clear faith and a sober and pure life, renewing that apostolic ardour which characterised St. Ambrose, St. Charles and so many of your holy pastors".
"St. Charles was recognised", Benedict XVI continues, "as a true loving father to the poor. ... He founded institutions for the assistance and recovery of those in need. ... During the plague of 1576, the saintly archbishop chose to remain among his people to encourage, serve and defend them with the weapons of prayer, penance and love".
The Pope highlights how "St. Charles Borromeo's charity cannot be understood without an understanding of his relationship of passionate love with the Lord Jesus". In this context the Holy Father refers to "the contemplation of the holy mystery of the altar and the Crucified Christ" which awakened the saint's "feelings of compassion for man's misery and aroused in his heart the apostolic longing to bring the evangelical message to everyone".
"Let us make the Eucharist the true centre of our communities, let us allow ourselves to be educated and moulded by that well of charity. Each apostolic and charitable action will draw strength and fruitfulness from that source".
The Holy Father concludes his Message with an appeal to young people: "Like St. Charles, you too are can make your youth an offering to Christ and your fellows. ... Dear young people, you are not only the hope of the Church, you are part of her present moment. And if you have the courage to believe in sanctity, you will become the greatest treasure of your Ambrosian Church, which is built upon saints".
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