Pope: Millions are losing their religion and declaring God is dead
06 October 2008
By LYNDSAY MOSS
MODERN culture is so devoid of faith that some people are declaring God "dead" and entire nations are losing their identity, Pope Benedict XVI warned yesterday.
The 81-year-old pontiff said that God was being pushed out of people's lives under the "harmful and destructive influence" of today's society.
His comments, made during a Mass at the start of a month-long synod of Roman Catholic bishops from around the world, come amid growing concern about the decline in church attendance and interest in religion in many Western nations.
Pope Benedict is particularly worried about a growing indifference to religion in Europe.Speaking at the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls in Rome, the Pope said: "Today, 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 who, after deciding that 'God is dead', declare themselves to be 'god' and the artisan of their own destiny, the absolute master of the world."
Pope Benedict said attempts to "brush God aside" lead to arrogance, selfishness, injustice, exploitation and violence."
When men proclaim themselves to be absolute masters of themselves and sole masters of creation, can they truly build a society where freedom, justice and peace reign?" he asked.
In recent decades, the Catholic Church's influence has seen a decline in developed countries, although it is growing in the Third World.
Both the Church of Scotland and Scottish Catholic Church have seen a drop in worshippers in recent years – the Church of Scotland has seen numbers fall nearly 60 per cent since 1960, and between 1994 and 2003, Mass attendances fell from 250,000 to 194,728. Earlier this year the Vatican also reported a dramatic fall in the number of Roman Catholic monks and nuns. Ronnie Convery, spokesman for the Scottish Catholic Church, said Pope Benedict's comments reflected the concerns religious leaders had been aware of for some time.
"What we are seeing is that our culture has changed, subtly but significantly," Mr Convery said. "Many people today, even though they wouldn't declare themselves atheist, behave as though God doesn't exist. One of the main challenges of the Catholic Church is to remind people of their Christian roots and the important role that the Church has played in the shaping of our culture."
Seven days of non-stop Bible reading
THE Pope was the first of more than 1,200 people to take part in a marathon non-stop reading of the Bible, expected to last a week. It will be broadcast on Italian state television, RAI.
The Pope read from Genesis yesterday. All 73 books of the Catholic edition of the Bible will be read. Each speaker will read for about five to eight minutes. Giulio Andreotti, a former Italian prime minister, former presidents Francesco Cossiga, Oscar Luigi Scalfaro and Carlo Azeglio Ciampi and several ministers in the centre-right government of Silvio Berlusconi will also be among the readers.
The Oscar-winning actor Roberto Benigni will be joined by film-maker Michele Placido and tenor Andrea Bocelli; the Brazil and AC Milan football star Kaká will also read.
A number of Muslims and Jews will also take part, but Rome's chief rabbi, Riccardo di Segni, pulled out of the event last month, saying it had become "too Catholic" for him. The reading ends on Saturday night.