On the Unity of the Church

Here is the translation of Pope Francis’ address during his weekly General Audience today held in St. Peter’s Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the “Creed” we say “I believe in One …  Church,” that is, we profess that the Church is one and this Church is, in herself, unity. However, if we look at the Catholic Church in the world we discover that she has almost 3,000 dioceses scattered in all the Continents: so many languages, so many cultures! Yet the thousands of Catholic communities form a unity. How can this be?

We find a synthetic answer in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which states: the Catholic Church spread around the world “has only one faith, only one sacramental life, only one apostolic succession, one common hope, the same charity” (n. 161). Unity in faith, in hope, in charity, unity in the Sacraments, in the Ministry: they are as pillars that support and hold together the one great edifice of the Church. Wherever we go, even in the smallest parish, in the most isolated corner of this earth, there is the one Church; we are at home, we are in the family, we are among brothers and sisters. And this is a great gift of God! The Church is one for all. There isn’t a Church for Europeans, one for Africans, one for Americans, one for Asians, one for those who live in Oceania, but it’s the same one everywhere. It is as happens in a family: one can be far away, scattered around the world, but the profound bonds that unite all the members remain firm no matter what the distance is. I am thinking of the experience of the World Youth Day at Rio de Janeiro: in that immense multitude of young people on the beach of Copacabana, so many languages were heard, very different facial features were seen among them, different cultures met, yet there was a profound unity, one only Church was formed, there was unity and it was felt. Let’s all ask ourselves: do I feel this unity? Do I live this unity? Or don’t I care because I’m closed in in my small group or in myself? Am I one of those who “privatize” the Church for my own group, my own nation, my own friends? When I hear that so many Christians in the world are suffering, am I indifferent or is it as if someone of my family were suffering? Do we pray for one another? It’s important to look beyond one’s own enclosure, to feel oneself Church, the one family of God!

2. We take another step and ask ourselves: are there wounds to this unity? Can we wound this unity? Unfortunately, we see that in the course of history, also now, we don’t always live unity. Sometimes misunderstandings, conflicts, tensions, divisions arise that wound, and then the Church doesn’t have the face we would like, she doesn’t manifest charity. What God wants. We are the ones who create lacerations! And if we look at the divisions that there still are among Christians, Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants … we feel the labor of rendering this unity fully visible. God gives us unity, but we often find it hard to live it. We must seek, build communion, and educate ourselves to communion, to surmount misunderstandings and divisions, beginning with the family, with the ecclesial realities, in the ecumenical dialogue. Our world is in need of unity, of reconciliation, of communion and the Church is the House of communion. Saint Paul said to the Christians of Ephesus: “I therefore, prisoner for the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (4:1-3). Humility, gentleness, magnanimity, love to preserve unity! And he continued: There is one body, that of Christ which we receive in the Eucharist; one Spirit, the Holy Spirit that animates and constantly recreates the Church; one hope, eternal life; one faith, one Baptism, one God, Father of us all (cf. vv. 4-6). The richness of what unites us! Each one should ask himself today: do I make unity grow in the family, in the parish, in the community or am I a motive of division, of hardship? Do I have the humility to heal with patience, with sacrifice, the wounds to communion?

3.Finally, the last step in greater profoundness: who is the motor of this unity of the Church? It is the Holy Spirit. Our unity is not primarily the fruit of our consensus, of our effort to be in agreement, but it comes from Him who makes unity in diversity, which is harmony. Because of this, prayer is important, which is the soul of our commitment as men and women of communion, of unity.

Let us pray to the Lord: enable us to be ever more united, to never be instruments of division; make us be committed — as a beautiful Franciscan prayer says –, to bring love where there is hatred, to bring forgiveness where there is offense, to bring union where there is discord.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters: In the Creed, we confess that the Church is “one”. When we consider the rich diversity of languages, cultures and peoples present in the Church throughout the world, we realize that this unity is a God-given gift, grounded in our common Baptism and our sharing in the Church’s one faith and sacramental life. Like a great family, we are united to all our brothers and sisters in Christ, wherever they may be. We might ask ourselves how much we appreciate and express in our daily lives, and particularly in our prayer, this reality of our unity and solidarity in the communion of the Church. The world needs our witness to God’s plan for the unity, reconciliation and peace of the whole human family. Let us ask the Lord to enable us, and Christians everywhere, to work to overcome our tensions and divisions, to strive, as Saint Paul bids us, to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (cf.Eph 4:3), and to cherish the harmony which the same Spirit creates from the richness of our diversity.

Pope Francis (In Italian):

I offer an affectionate greeting to all the English-speaking pilgrims present at today’s Audience, including those from England, Scotland, Ireland, Denmark, Norway, South Africa, Uganda, Australia, New Zealand, India, China, Japan, Sri Lanka, South Korea, Vietnam, Canada and the United States. My particular greeting goes to the delegation from Sophia University in Tokyo, the new seminarians of the Venerable English College, the participants in the Institute for Continuing Theological Education at the Pontifical North American College, and the priests’ pilgrimage from the Archdiocese of Colombo accompanied by its Cardinal Archbishop. May your stay in the Eternal City confirm you in love for Christ and his Church. God bless you all!

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A warm welcome to the Italian-speaking pilgrims. In particular I greet the faithful of Belluno-Feltre, Ancona-Osimo and Mileto-Nicotera-Tropea, with their respective Bishops, Monsignor Andrich, Monsignor Menichelli and Monsignor Renzo, who have come to the See of Peter for the diocesan pilgrimages on the occasion of the Year of Faith; the Religious, especially the Missionary Sisters of Saint Peter Claver, who are holding their General Chapter; the representatives of the Movement for a Better World; the participants in the Congress on Constantine organized by the Pontifical Institute of Christian Archaeology. I greet the parish groups, in particular the of Naples and the pilgrims of Tuscany and Altavilla Irpina and the workers of the “Ideal Standard” establishment of Orcenico Inferiore. May the visit to the tombs of the Apostles be for all a propitious moment to strengthen their faith!

Finally, an affectionate thought goes to young people, especially the youngsters of Monsummano  Terme, to the sick and to newlyweds. Ask the Lord in prayer for the gift of unity, for the Church, for families and for the whole world, so that all hatred and discord is overcome and all discover the joy that comes from peace.

[Translation by ZENIT]
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