Church Is Free, Affirms Pontiff

But Greatest Danger Is What Pollutes Christian Life

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 30, 2010 ( Benedict XVI says the experiences of Peter and Paul, and those of two millennia of Christians, attest that God keeps his Church free, historically and spiritually.

The Pope reflected on the freedom of the Church on Tuesday, when he celebrated Mass for the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, and bestowed the pallium on 38 metropolitan archbishops.

The Mass readings focused on Peter being freed from prison by God’s angel, and Paul at the end of his life reflecting how the Lord was always close to him and freed him from many dangers. The Gospel contained Christ’s promise that the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church.

“Observing closely we note a certain progression regarding this issue,” the Holy Father proposed. “In the first reading a specific episode is narrated that shows the Lord’s intervention to free Peter from prison. In the second Paul, on the basis of his extraordinary apostolic experience, is convinced that the Lord, who already freed him ‘from the mouth of the lion’ delivers him ‘from all evil’ by opening the doors of heaven to him. In the Gospel we no longer speak of the individual apostles, but the Church as a whole and its safekeeping from the forces of evil, in the widest and most profound sense. Thus we see that the promise of Jesus — ‘the powers of hell shall not prevail’ on the Church — yes, includes the historical experience of persecution suffered by Peter and Paul and other witnesses of the Gospel, but it goes further, wanting to protect especially against threats of a spiritual order.”

Two thousand years of Church history attest that Christ’s announcement has been fulfilled, the Pope said: Christians have “never been lacking in trials.”

“These, however, despite the suffering they cause, are not the greatest danger for the Church. In fact it suffers greatest damage from what pollutes the Christian faith and life of its members and its communities, eroding the integrity of the Mystical Body, weakening its ability to prophesy and witness, tarnishing the beauty of its face,” he added.

Nevertheless, the Pontiff illustrated, God makes a guarantee of freedom to the Church: “it is freedom from the material bonds that seek to prevent or coerce mission, both through spiritual and moral evils, which may affect its authenticity and credibility.”

Union with Peter

Union with the Successor of Peter, Benedict XVI continued, is the “guarantee of freedom for the Church’s pastors and the communities entrusted to them.”

Historically, union with the Apostolic See has ensured local Churches freedom with respect to civil powers that “can sometimes hinder the mission of the ecclesial Church.”

“Furthermore, and most essentially,” he added, “the Petrine ministry is a guarantee of freedom in the sense of full adherence to truth and authentic tradition, so that the People of God may be preserved from mistakes concerning faith and morals.”

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