This morning, tens of thousands of people gathered in St. Peter's Square joined Benedict XVI for the Angelus prayer. Commenting today's Gospel reading on the healing of the blind man Bartimaeus, the Pope remarked how, "in the essentiality of its narrative, this account evokes the catechumen's journey towards the Sacrament of Baptism, which in the early Church was also called 'illumination.'
"Faith," the Holy Father added, "is a path of illumination. It begins with the recognition of our need for salvation and arrives at the personal meeting with Christ, Who calls us to follow Him on the road of love. This is the model followed by itineraries of Christian initiation in the Church, as a preparation for the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist.
"In places of long-standing evangelization, where the Baptism of children is widespread, young people and adults are presented with experiences of catechesis and spirituality enabling them to rediscover their faith with maturity and awareness, so that they can then take on a coherent commitment of witness" to that faith.
Benedict XVI praised the work of catechists and pastors in this field, highlighting how "the rediscovery of the value of their own Baptism lies at the root of all Christians' missionary commitment, because we see from the Gospel that people who let themselves be fascinated by Christ cannot but bear witness to the joy of following His footsteps."
Recalling how the month of October is traditionally dedicated to missions, the Pope called for the intercession of the Virgin Mary, "that missionaries of the Gospel may proliferate," and that "all the baptized may feel themselves called to announce, with the witness of their own lives, God's love to everyone."
After praying the Angelus, the Pope remarked upon the many requests he receives to intervene "in favor of people who, in different parts of the world, are victims of kidnapping."
He went on: "Reiterating my firm condemnation of this crime, I give assurances of my recollection in prayer for all the victims and their families and friends. In particular, I endorse the urgent appeal recently sent to me by the archbishop and the community of Sassari, Italy, in favor of Giovanni Battista Pinna, kidnapped on September 14, that he may soon be restored to his loved ones."
Benedict XVI then went on to address young people from various regions of Italy, who are meeting in Rome over these days as part of a project organized by the Italian Church every three years, known as the "Agora of young people."
"Dear friends," he told them, "I bless your journey and await your participation in large numbers at the great meeting of Italian youth, scheduled to take place on September 1 and 2, 2007 in Loreto, Italy. At that beloved Marian shrine we will experience a moment of grace together, in the joy of the faith and with a view to the mission, also as a preparation for World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia, in 2008."