11-September-2013 -- ZENIT.org News Agency |

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Pope Addresses Non-Believers in Open Letter to Italian Newspapers

Gives Personal Experience of Faith and Encounter with Christ

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY, September 11, 2013 (Zenit.org) - In a letter addressed to the founder of the Italian newspaper "La Repubblica", Pope Francis gave his personal experience of discovering faith to non-believers. The Holy Father's letter was in response to several questions on how the Church responds to those who do not share the faith in Jesus which was published on July 7th.

"I feel it is very positive , not only for us individually but also for the society in which we live, to pause to dialogue about a reality that is as important as faith, which refers to preaching and the figure of Jesus," the Pope wrote.

"I think there are, in particular, two factors that make this dialogue today both a duty and precious. It, moreover, is, as is well known, one of the main goals of the Second Vatican Council, called by Pope John XXIII, and the ministry of the Popes who , each with its sensitivity and its contribution , since then until now have walked in pattern laid down by the Council."

Pope Francis also gave his own personal experience of faith and encounter with Jesus Christ in his life. "Faith, for me, was born from an encounter with Jesus. A personal encounter that touched my heart and gave me a direction and a new meaning to my existence," he wrote.

"But at the same time it was a meeting that was made possible by the community of faith which I lived in and through which I found access to the intelligence of the Sacred Scripture, to the new life that flows like gushing water from Jesus through the Sacraments, to the fraternity with all and to the service of the poor, true image of the Lord. Without the Church, I believe, I would not have encountered Jesus, while being aware that the immense gift that is faith is preserved in the fragile clay vessels of our humanity."

Regarding the question on how the Church responds to those who do not share the faith in Christ, the Pope answered saying that the God's mercy is limitless if one turns to him with a sincere and penitent heart. "The real question for those who do not believe in God lies in listening to one's own conscience."

"Sin, also in those who are without faith, exists when it goes against our conscience. Listening to and obeying one's conscience means, indeed, to make decisions in relation to what is perceived as good and bad. And on this decision rests the goodness or evil of our actions," Pope Francis wrote.

One of the questions the Pope responded to was regarding to whether it was a sin to believe in the non-existence of "an absolute truth. Truth, the Pope responded, "is God's love for us in Jesus Christ. So, the truth is a relationship! Each one of us receives the truth and expresses it in his or her own way, from the history, culture, and situation in which he or she lives."

The final question the Holy Father responded to was: "With the disappearance of man on earth, would there disappear also the thought capable of imagining God?"

"The greatness of man rests in his capacity to think of God. And this means being able to experience a knowing and responsible relationship with Him," the Pope answered.

"But the relationship is between two realities. God does not depend on our thought. Besides, when man's life on earth ends - for the Christian faith, in any case, this world as we know it is destined to fall - man will not cease to exist, and, in a way that we do not know, nor will the universe that was created with him."

Concluding his letter, Pope Francis emphasized the Church's missions to announce Jesus Christ despite its shortcomings.

"The Church, believe me, despite all the slowness, the infidelity, the mistakes and the sins that may have been committed by those who belong to her, has no other meaning or aim other than living and bearing witness to Jesus," the Pope wrote.

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