No Renewal Without Peter, Says Benedict XVI

Reflects on St. Francis’ Love for the Church

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 27, 2010 ( A true renewal of the Church is always accompanied by closeness to the Successor of Peter, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope affirmed this today as he reflected on the example and life of St. Francis of Assisi during the general audience held in Paul VI Hall.

The Holy Father considered the life and teaching of the well-known and well-loved «poor man of Assisi,» particularly highlighting Francis’ role in renewing the Church of the early 13th century.

The Pontiff said Francis «had understood that every charism given by the Holy Spirit is placed at the service of the Body of Christ, which is the Church.»

«Hence,» he continued, «[Francis] always acted in full communion with the ecclesiastical authority.»

«In the life of saints there is no opposition between a prophetic charism and the charism of government and, if some tension is created, they must wait patiently for the times of the Holy Spirit,» he asserted.

Historical Francis

Benedict XVI observed that there are currents of thought that attempt to create a «historical Francis,» similar to the «historical Jesus.» This ideology attempts to separate the historical reality of the saint from the tradition linked to him.

«Such a historical Francis would not have been a man of the Church, but a man linked immediately only to Christ, a man who wished to create a renewal of the people of God, without canonical forms and without the hierarchy,» the Pope said.

But the truth is that Francis was a man of the Church, the Holy Father affirmed. «He knew that Christ never is ‘mine’ but always is ‘ours’ that ‘I’ cannot have Christ and ‘I’ cannot reconstruct against the Church, his will and his teaching.»

Joyful saint

Benedict XVI also reflected how Francis’ closeness to God made him a joyful person.

«Francis was a great saint and a joyful man,» he said. «His simplicity, his humility, his faith, his love of Christ, his kindness to every man and woman made him happy in every situation. In fact, between sanctity and joy there subsists a profound and indissoluble relation.

«A French writer said that there is only one sadness in the world: that of not being saints, that is, of not being close to God. Looking at St. Francis’ witness, we understand that this is the secret of true happiness: to become saints, close to God!»

The Holy Father concluded by entrusting this intention to Our Lady, «tenderly loved by Francis.»

«Holy Virgin Mary,» he prayed, citing the saint of Assisi, «there is no one like you born in the world among women, daughter and handmaid of the Most High King and heavenly Father, Mother of our Most Holy Lord Jesus Christ, spouse of the Holy Spirit: pray for us … to your most holy favorite Son, Lord and Master.»

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