Pope warns against Godless culture as Synod opens

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ROME: Pope Benedict XVI attacked the Godless character of modern culture as he celebrated mass Sunday in a Roman basilica to mark the opening of a synod of Catholic bishops.

In a somber homily in which he suggested that Christianity in Europe could become extinct like some Christian communities in history, the pope told more than 250 bishops from around the world that societies which rebelled against God in the past had faced His punishment.

If we look at history we are forced to notice the frequent coldness and rebellion of incoherent Christians. Because of this, God, while never shirking in his promise of salvation, often had to turn towards punishment, he said.

Benedict warned that nations once rich in faith and vocations are losing their own identity under the harmful and destructive influence of a certain modern culture.

There are those that, having decided that God is dead, declare themselves god, believing themselves to be the only creator of their own fate, the absolute owner of the world, the German-born pope said.

When men proclaim themselves absolute owners of themselves and the only masters of creation, are they really going to be able to construct a society where freedom, justice and peace reign?

Is it not more likely – as demonstrated by news headlines every day – that the arbitrary rule of power, selfish interests, injustice and exploitation, and violence in all its forms, will extend their grip?

The pontiff was celebrating mass in the Basilica of St Paul outside the Walls in central Rome, which houses the tomb of the Apostle Paul.

Benedict however tempered his speech by saying if in certain regions, faith weakens to the point of fading away, there will always be other people ready to receive it, adding evil and death never have the final word.

The synod, a three-week gathering of more than 250 bishops from around the world, discusses Christian fundamentalism and the relationship between religion and science as well as Judaism.

The second such gathering to be presided over by Benedict since his election in 2005 has the theme The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church.

For the first time, the event will include a speech on Oct. 18 by Bartholomew I, the head of the Greek Orthodox Church, and Protestant and Anglican prelates are to attend as observers.

Israeli Rabbi Shear-Yashuv Cohen also became the first Jewish representative to address a Roman Catholic synod when he talked about themes of the Bible on Monday.

The synod is a consultative body created in 1965 to facilitate contacts among bishops, who represent 1.1 billion Catholics around the world, and to help the pope set policies for running the Church.

Of the 253 archbishops, bishops and cardinals summoned to the synod, 51 are from Africa, 62 from the Americas, 41 from Asia, 90 from Europe and nine from the Pacific.

Another 41 experts including six women and 37 observers are to take part in the gathering in which three former Italian presidents and Oscar-winning actor Roberto Benigni have also agreed to read from the Bible. -AFP

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