Pope Benedict XVI officially opened The Synod of Bishops, under the theme of "The New Evangelization and the Transmission of the Christian Faith" with the celebration of Mass in St. Peter's Square on Sunday. The Holy Father also proclaimed St. John of Avila and St. Hildegard of Bingen as Doctors of the Church.
During his homily, His Holiness reflected on the nature of the new evangelization, and the call of Christ to his disciples to announce the Gospel around the whole world. Pope Benedict XVI stressed the role of the Catholic Church, saying that the "Church exists to evangelize."
"Even in our own times, the Holy Spirit has nurtured in the Church a new effort to announce the Good News, a pastoral and spiritual dynamism which found a more universal expression and its most authoritative impulse in the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council," the pope said.
"Such renewed evangelical dynamism produces a beneficent influence on the two specific "branches" developed by it, that is, on the one hand the Missio ad Gentes or announcement of the Gospel to those who do not yet know Jesus Christ and his message of salvation, and on the other the New Evangelization, directed principally at those who, though baptized, have drifted away from the Church and live without reference to the Christian life."
The Pope reiterated the Synodal Assembly's purpose to evangelize to those who have strayed from the faith saying its rediscovery can be a "source of grace which brings joy and hope to personal, family and social life."
Contemplating on the theme of marriage found in the first reading and Gospel of Sunday, the Holy Father emphasized the importance of the sacrament of Marriage, calling it "a Gospel in itself." The Pope also stated that the crisis of faith is inherently linked to the crisis of marriage in today's society. "Marriage, as a union of faithful and indissoluble love, is based upon the grace that comes from the triune God, who in Christ loved us with a faithful love, even to the Cross," the pope said.
"Today we ought to grasp the full truth of this statement, in contrast to the painful reality of many marriages which, unhappily, end badly."