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ROME — Pope Francis urged Christians on Wednesday to take up the practice of meditation as a way to nourish the “inner life” and stave off stress and emptiness.

“The practice of meditation has received a great deal of attention in recent years,” the pontiff said during his weekly General Audience in the Vatican. “It is not only Christians who talk about it: the practice of meditation exists in almost all the world’s religions.”

Meditation is also “a widespread activity among people who do not have a religious view of life,” the pope added.

“We all need to meditate, to reflect, to discover ourselves, it is a human dynamic,” he said. “Especially in the voracious western world, people seek meditation because it represents a high barrier against the daily stress and emptiness that is everywhere.”

In his address, the pope distinguished between Christian meditation and other forms, while insisting that it is a good thing no matter what.

“Here, then, is the image of young people and adults sitting in meditation, in silence, with eyes half-closed,” he said. “But what do these people do, we might ask? They meditate. It is a phenomenon to be looked on favourably.”

Human beings “are not made to run all the time,” he insisted. “We have an inner life that cannot always be neglected. Meditating is therefore a need for everyone.”

“Meditating, so to say, is like stopping and taking a breath in life,” he added. “To stop and be still.”

While meditating is a “necessary human dimension,” Francis said, Christians must go further.

“For the Christian, meditation enters through the door of Jesus Christ,” he said. “The practice of meditation also follows this path.”

Moreover, in meditating, the Christian “does not aspire to full self-transparency, does not seek the deepest centre of the ego,” he said. “This is legitimate, but the Christian seeks something else.”

“The prayer of the Christian is first of all an encounter with the Other, with a capital “O”: the transcendent encounter with God,” he asserted.

The pope also stated that while there are many and varied methods of meditation “a method is only a guide; the important thing is to advance, with the Holy Spirit, along the one way of prayer: Christ Jesus.”

“This is why it must always be remembered that the method is a path, not a goal,” he said, and “any method of prayer, if it is to be Christian, is part of that sequela Christi that is the essence of our faith.”

“The methods of meditation are paths to travel to arrive at the encounter with Jesus, but if you stop on the road, and just look at the path, you will never find Jesus,” he warned. “You will make a ‘god’ out of the path.”

“The ‘god’ is not waiting for you there, it is Jesus who awaits you,” he said. “And the path is there to take you to Jesus.”

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