VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Religious education must focus on leading people to a personal relationship with Christ and building a community of believers where the talents of each person are valued and where all go out to share the Gospel and serve the poor, Pope Francis said.
"The first protagonists of catechesis are those messengers of the Gospel, often laypeople, who generously get involved to share the beauty of having encountered Jesus," the pope said Jan. 30 to participants in a meeting organized by the Italian bishops' National Catechetical Office.
Catechesis must "express God's saving love, which precedes any moral and religious obligation on our part," he said. "'You are loved, you are loved' -- this comes first; this is the gateway."
Catechesis does "not impose the truth but appeals to freedom, like Jesus did," he said, and "it should be marked by joy, encouragement, liveliness and a harmonious balance which will not reduce preaching to a few doctrines which are at times more philosophical than evangelical."
However, he said, a catechist always must teach what the church teaches and that includes the vision and teachings of the Second Vatican Council.
"This is magisterium: the council is the magisterium of the church," he said. "Either you are with the church and therefore you follow the council, or if you do not follow the council or you interpret it in your own way, as you wish, you are not with the church."
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HT: Blog reader John L.