May 16, 2011

VENICE, ITALY — In the city of gondolas and canals, Pope Benedict said Christians must make sure their lives as individuals and communities reflect the life-giving qualities of water and not the chaos and destruction it can bring.

"Water is an ambivalent symbol: of life, but also death; the populations struck by flooding and tsunamis know this," the pope said May 8 at the end of a two-day visit to Aquileia and Venice.

Venetians, he said, know how fascinating water has made their city but also the difficulties it causes for the health and stability of the city.

Residents can choose to reflect either the beautiful or the problematic qualities of water in their relationships with others and in the way they organize their life together, the pope said.

Celebrating Mass for 300,000 people in a park in nearby Mestre that morning, Pope Benedict preached about the Gospel story of the disciples meeting the risen Jesus on the road of Emmaus.

The story, he said, is about "conversion from desperation to hope, conversion from sadness to joy and, also, conversion to community life."

"Sometimes when one speaks of conversion, people think only about the hard work, detachment and renunciation it involves.

"But Christian conversion is most of all a source of joy, hope and love," as seen in the Gospel story when the disciples discover that Jesus truly rose from the dead and they return to Jerusalem to share the good news with the other disciples.

Too many Christians today tend to live like the disciples going toward Emmaus: They once knew Jesus or heard about him, but now they are "immersed in doubt, sadness and disappointment," he said.