Saturday in the Vatican, the Pope received a large group of representatives from secular institutes in various countries, who are in Rome for the occasion of an international symposium being held to mark the anniversary of the Apostolic Constitution "Provida Mater Ecclesia."
Recalling that six decades have passed since February 2 1947, when Pope Pius XII promulgated the Apostolic Constitution, Benedict XVI said: "That juridical act was not an end but the starting point of a process that aimed to define a new form of consecration: that of lay faithful and diocesan priests, called to live with evangelical radicalism the secular state in which, by virtue of their life condition or pastoral ministry, they are immersed."
The Holy Father went on to enumerate the characteristics of the secular mission: "bearing witness to human virtues, ... an 'honorable conduct of life' as mentioned by Peter in his first Letter, ... and commitment to building a society that recognizes in all its various aspects the dignity of human beings and the values essential for their full realization, from politics to economics, from education to commitment to public health, from providing services to scientific research."
"All the circumstances in which man lives and dies," the Pope told his audience, "are an opportunity for you to bear witness to the salvific work of God. This is your mission."
The Holy Father told the members of the secular institutes that "the secular nature of your consecration highlights, on the one hand, the means you use to put it into practice, ... and on the other, the way in which it develops: through a profound relationship with the signs of the times, which you are called to discern, individually and as a group, in the light of the Gospel."
"The place of your apostolate is, then, the entire human sphere, not only in the Christian community, ... but also and above all in the civil community with which you relate in the search for the common good and in dialogue with everyone, called to bear witness to Christian anthropology, which proposes meaning to a society disoriented and confused by the multi-cultural and multi-religious atmosphere that characterizes it."
Benedict XVI concluded with an exhortation to announce "the beauty of God and of His Creation. Following the example of Christ, remain obedient to love and be men and women of humbleness and mercy, capable of following the paths of the world doing only good. ... The Church also needs you to give completeness to her mission. Be seed of sanctity ... in the furrow of history."