On the Catholicity of the Church

Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s continuing catechesis on the Creed during his weekly General Audience today in St. Peter’s Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

“I believe in One, Holy, Catholic Church …” Today we pause to reflect on this Note of the Church: her catholicity. What does Catholic mean? It comes from the Greek “kath’olon,” which means “according to all,” the totality. In what sense is this totality applied to the Church? In what sense do we say that the Church is Catholic? I would say in three significant fundamentals.

1. The first. The Church is Catholic because it is the area, the house in which the whole faith is proclaimed, in which the salvation Christ brought us is offered to all. The Church makes us encounter God’s mercy which transforms us, because Jesus Christ is present in it, who gives it the true confession of faith, the fullness of the sacramental life, the authenticity of the ordained ministry. Each one of us finds in the Church what is necessary to believe, to live as Christians, to become holy, to walk in every place and in every time.

To give an example, we can say that it is as in the life of a family. In the family, each one of us is given all that enables us to grow, to mature, to live. We cannot grow on our own, we cannot walk on our own, isolating ourselves, but we walk and grow in a community, in a family. We can listen to the Word of God in the Church, certain that it is the message that the Lord has given us. In the Church we can encounter the Lord in the Sacraments, which are open windows through which we are given the light of God, streams from which we draw the very life of God. In the Church we learn to live in communion, in the love that comes from God. Each one of us can ask him/herself today: how do I live in the Church? How do I receive the gifts she offers me, to grow, to mature as a Christian? Do I take part in community life or do a shut myself in my problems?

2. A second meaning: the Church is Catholic because she is universal; she is spread throughout the world and proclaims the Gospel to every man and every woman. The Church isn’t an elite group; she is not concerned only with a few. The Church is not closed; she is sent to the totality of persons and of the human race. And the one Church is present also in her smallest parts. Everyone can say: the Catholic Church is present in my parish, because the latter is part of the universal Church, it is also the fullness of the gifts of Christ, faith, the Sacraments, the ministry. It is in communion with the Bishop, with the Pope and is open to all, without distinctions. The Church isn’t only the shadow of our bell tower, but embraces a vastness of people, of peoples who profess the same faith, who are nourished by the same Eucharist, who are served by the same Pastors. We feel in communion with all the Churches, with all the small and large Catholic communities of the world! And then we feel that we are all on mission, small and large communities, we must all open our doors and go out for the Gospel. Let us ask ourselves: what do I do to communicate to others the joy of encountering the Lord, the joy of belonging to the Church? To proclaim and witness the faith is not the concern of a few, it also concerns me, you, each one of us!

3. A third and last thought: the Church is Catholic because it is the “House of harmony” where unity and diversity are able to be combined to be a richness. We think of the image of a symphony, which means accord and harmony, different instruments sound together; each one maintains its unmistakable timbre and its characteristics of sound are in accord with something in common. Then there is the one who leads,, the director, and in the symphony that is performed all together have a “harmony,” but the timbre of each instrument, the peculiarity of each isn’t cancelled, rather, it is valued to the utmost!

It is a beautiful image which tells us that the Church is like a great orchestra in which there is variety; there is variety among the components, but there is no conflict, no opposition. It is a variety that lets itself be founded in the harmony of the Holy Spirit; He is the true “Maestro,” He himself is harmony. And here we ask ourselves: do we live harmony in our communities? Do we accept the other, do we accept that there is a just variety or do we tend to make everything uniform? Let us pray to the Holy Spirit to make us ever more “Catholics”!

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Dear Brothers and Sisters:

In the Creed, we profess that the Church is “Catholic”; in other words, she is universal. We can understand this catholicity in three ways.  First, the Church is catholic because she proclaims the apostolic faith in its entirety; she is the place where we meet Christ in his sacraments and receive the spiritual gifts needed to grow in holiness together with our brothers and sisters.  The Church is also catholic because her communion embraces the whole human race, and she is sent to bring to the entire world the joy of salvation and the truth of the Gospel.  Finally, the Church is catholic because she reconciles the wonderful diversity of God’s gifts to build up his People in unity and harmony.  Let us ask the Lord to make us more catholic – to enable us, like a great family, to grow together in faith and love, to draw others to Jesus in the communion of the Church, and to welcome the gifts and contributions of everyone, in order to create a joyful symphony of praise to God for his goodness, his grace, and his redemptive love.

Pope Francis (in Italian):

I cordially greet all the English-speaking pilgrims present at today’s Audience, including those from England, Scotland, Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, Ghana, Nigeria, Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Canada and the United States.  My particular greeting goes to the new students of the Pontifical Beda College.  Upon all of you, and your families, I invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace!

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I address a cordial welcome to the Italian-speaking pilgrims. I greet the parishes, the Religious Institutes, the Associations, the schoolchildren, the prayer groups, the families. In particular, I greet the pilgrims of the dioceses of Pinerolo, Piacenza-Bobbio, Viterbo, Sulmona-Valva, Anagni-Alatri, Oria, accompanied by their Bishops. I greet the Order of Saint Ursula and the Daughters of Saint Joseph, who are holding their respective General Chapters. I greet the parishes of Andria, Mede, San Giorgio del Sannio, and the Institute of Religious Teachers Filippini of L’Aquila, as well as the group of the Polentari of Italy

Finally, I address my thought to young people, the sick and newlyweds. I thank you all for your presence at this meeting, encouraging each one of you to listen to the “wounds of Jesus,” through solicitous care of the weakest and neediest.

With special affection I greet  the Bishops of the Church of the Alexandrian tradition of Ethiopia and Eritrea, to which I am particularly close in prayer and in grief for so many children of their land who lost their life in the tragedy of Lampedusa.

[Translation by ZENIT]
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