Pope Benedict XVI has opened the 12th general ordinary assembly of the synod of bishops on Sunday at the Basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls.

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For three weeks, more than 250 synod fathers will prayerfully reflect and discuss “The Word of God in the life and mission of the Church,” together with lay and religious auditors from around the world, and with the help of many experts in the sacred sciences.

The choice of St. Paul Outside the Walls as the venue for the opening was made in light of the Pauline Year, which is currently underway.

Papal message

Benedict XVI opened the world Synod of Bishops on the Word of God expressing the hope that it give birth to a new missionary dynamism in the regions of the world where it seems that “God is dead.”

Today the Pope presided over the inaugural Mass of the synod, which will end Oct. 26, at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. The synod’s theme is “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church.”

“Nations that at one time were rich with vocations are now losing their identity, under the deleterious and destructive influence of a certain modern culture,” the Holy Father noted in his homily.

“There are those who,! having decided that God is dead,’ declare themselves god,’ taking themselves to be the singular artificers of their destiny, the absolute lord of the world,” he continued. “Clearing God away and not awaiting salvation from him, man believes he can do as he pleases and poses himself as the sole measure of himself and his action.

“But when man eliminates God from his horizon, when he declares that God is dead,’ is he truly more happy? Does he truly become free?

“When men proclaim themselves absolute owners of themselves and lords of creation, can they really build a society where freedom, justice and peace reign?”

Division and confusion

Benedict XVI answered the question in the negative, explaining that “the daily news amply shows” that with this vision “the will to power, egoistic interests, injustice and exploitation, violence in all its forms” spre! ad. “The end of all this is that man finds himself alone and society more divided and confused.”

The Pope said that with this synod the Church wants to show the world “that evil and death do not have the last word, but Christ is the victor in the end. Always!”

“The Church never tires of proclaiming these glad tidings, as she does today in this basilica dedicated to the Apostle of the Gentiles, the one who first spread the Gospel in vast regions of Asia Minor and Europe,” he said.

To accomplish this mission, the Pontiff added, the Church’s “primary and fundamental” mission is to nourish herself on the Word of God. “In fact, if the proclamation of the Gospel constitutes her reason for being and her mission, it is indispensable that the Church know and live that which she proclaims so that her preaching is credible, despite the weaknesses and poverty of the human beings who constitute her.”

Citing St. Jerome, he added: “Whoever does not know the Scriptures does not know the power of God nor his wisdom. Ignoring the Scriptures means ignoring Christ.”

The synod’s work will begin on Monday with a meditation offered by Benedict XVI.