Pope's Audience Address: On the Church

«God forms a people to take His blessing to all the families of the earth»

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

Here is a translation of Pope Francis’ address during the General Audience this morning in St. Peter’s Square. 


Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning. And congratulations to you because you have been good, with this weather that one doesn’t know if water is coming or not coming … You are good! We hope to finish the Audience without water, may the Lord have mercy on us.

Today I begin a series of catecheses on the Church. It’s somewhat like a child speaking of his mother, of his family. To speak of the Church is to speak of our Mother, of our family. The Church, in fact, is not an institution oriented to herself or a private association, an NGO, and much less so should one’s look be restricted to the clergy or the Vatican … “The Church thinks …” But we are all the Church! “Of whom are you speaking?” “Not of priests …” Ah, the priests are part of the Church, but we are all the Church! She mustn’t be restricted to priests, to Bishops, to the Vatican … They are part of the Church, but we are all the Church, all family, all of the Mother. And the Church is a much broader reality, which opens to the whole of humanity and which is not born in a laboratory; the Church is not born in a laboratory, she was not born suddenly. She was founded by Jesus but is a people with a long history behind it and a preparation that began much before Christ himself.

This history, or “pre-history,” of the Church is found already in the pages of the Old Testament. We heard the Book of Genesis: God chose Abraham, our Father in faith, and asked him to go forth, to leave his earthly homeland and go to another land, which He would indicate to him (cf. Genesis 2:1-9). And in this vocation God did not call Abraham alone, as an individual, but from the beginning involved his family, his relatives and all those who served in his household. Once on the way, — yes, this is how the Church begins to journey – then, God widens the horizon again and fills Abraham with His blessing, promising him numerous descendants like the stars of the heavens and the sand on the seashore. The first important detail in fact is this: beginning with Abraham, God forms a people to take His blessing to all the families of the earth. And Jesus is born within this people.

A second element: it is not for Abraham to constitute a people around him, but it is God who gives life to this people. Usually it was man who turned to the divinity, seeking to fill the distance and invoking support and protection. People prayed to the gods, to the divinities. Witnessed in this case, instead, is something unheard of: it is God Himself who takes the initiative. Let us listen to this: it is God who knocks on Abraham’s door and says to him: go forth, go from your land, begin to walk and I will make of you a great people. And this is the beginning of the Church and Jesus is born in this people. God takes the initiative and addresses His Word to man, creating a bond and a new relation with him. “But Father, how does this happen? Does God speak to us?” “Yes.” “And can we speak to God?” “Yes.” “But can we have a conversation with God?” “Yes.” This is called prayer, but it is God who has done this from the beginning. In this way God forms a people with all those who listen to His Word and go forth, trusting in Him. This is the only condition: to trust God. If you trust God, listen to Him and go forth, this is to make the Church. God’s love precedes everything. God is always first, He arrives before us, He precedes us. The prophet Isaiah, or Jeremiah, I don’t remember well, said that God is like the flower of the almond tree, because it is the first tree to flower in spring — to say that God always flowers before us. When we arrive, He is waiting for us, He calls us, He makes us walk. He is always ahead of us. And this is called love, because God always waits for us. “But Father, I don’t believe this, because if you, Father, knew my life, it’s been so bad, how can I think that God waits for me?” “God waits for you. And if you have been a great sinner He waits for you even more and He waits for you with so much love, because He is first. This is the beauty of the Church, which leads us to this God who waist for us!” He precedes Abraham, He also precedes Adam.

Abraham and his own listen to God’s call and go forth, despite not knowing well who this God is and where He wishes to lead them. It’s true, because Abraham goes forth, trusting this God who spoke to him, but he didn’t have a theology book to study what this God is. He trusts, he trusts the love. God makes him feel the love and he trusts. However, this does not mean that this people was always convinced and faithful. In fact, from the beginning there were resistances, a turning in on itself and its interests and the temptation of bargaining with God and of resolve things in its own way. And these are the betrayals and sins that mark the path of the people throughout the history of salvation, which is the history of God’s fidelity and the people’s infidelity. God, however, does not tire; God has patience, He has so much patience, and in time He continues to educate and form His people, as a father with his son. God walks with us. The prophet Hosea says: “I have walked with you and I have taught you to walk as a father teaches his child to walk.” Beautiful is this image of God! And it is so with us: He teaches us to walk. And it is the same attitude that He has in dealings with the Church. We too, in fact, despite our resolution to follow the Lord Jesus, every day experience egoism and the hardness of our heart. However, when we acknowledge ourselves sinners, God fills us with His mercy and His love. And He forgives us, He forgives us always. And, in fact, it is this which makes us grow as people of God, as Church: it’s not our bravura, it’s not our merits – we are but a little thing; it’s not that –, but it is the daily experience of how much the Lord loves us and takes care of us. It is this which makes us feel truly His, in His hands, and makes us grow in communion with Him and among ourselves. To be Church is to feel oneself in the hands of God, who is Father and who loves us, caresses us, waits for us, and makes us feel His tenderness. And this is very beautiful!

Dear friends, this is God’s plan; when He called Abraham, God was thinking of this: to form a blessed people from His love, which would take His blessing to all the peoples of the earth. This plan doesn’t change; it is always in act. It had its fulfillment in Christ and again today God continues to realize it in the Church. Let us then ask for the grace to remain faithful in following the Lord Jesus and in listening to His Word., ready to go forth every day, as Abraham, towards the land of God and of man, our true homeland, and thus become a blessing, a sign of the love of God for all His children. I like to think that a synonym, another name that we Christians could have, is this: we are men and women, we are people that bless. The Christian must always bless with his life, he must bless God and bless all. We, Christians, are people who bless, who are able to bless. This is a beautiful vocation!

[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]

Summary of the Catechesis and Greeting in English

Dear Brothers and Sisters: Today begins a new cycle of catecheses devoted to the Church. The Church is not simply an institution but a mother, a family, a mystery which is meant to embrace the whole human race. Founded by Jesus Christ, she traces her roots to the Old Testament, where God called Abraham to set off with his household for a new land and promised to make him the father of a vast people, in order to bring his blessing to all the nations of the earth. Significantly, it is God himself who takes the first step: he chooses Abraham and all his household to follow him in faith. The way God points out is not alway
s clear, nor is the path free of obstacles, including the constant temptation to sin and infidelity. The history of God’s people, the Church, is thus one of God’s absolute fidelity, mercy and love; only by his unfailing aid can we overcome our sins and persevere in following the path he points out to us in Christ. Let us ask the Lord to sustain the Church on her journey of faith through history, to guide her to our heavenly homeland and to make her a blessing and a sign of God’s loving plan for all his children.

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, including those from England, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Kuwait, India, Australia and the United States. Upon all of you, and upon your families, I invoke joy and peace in the Lord Jesus. God bless you all!

[Original text: English]

Greeting in Italian

I extend a cordial welcometo the Italian-speaking pilgrims. I greet the faithful of the diocese of Oristano, with their Bishop, Monsignor IgnazioSanna; the Comboni Missionaries; the Missionary Sisters of the Catechism and the participants in the Congress of the Italian Federation of Nursery Schools. I greet the ItalianSuperiors of the Franciscan Orders and of the Order of Friars Preachers on the anniversary of the proclamation of Saint Francis of Assis and of Saint Catherine of Siena as Patrons of Italy, and the numerous parish groups, in particular the pilgrims of Lusciano. May the visit to the Tombs of the Apostles enhance in all the sense of belonging to the Church.

I address, finally, the young people, the sick and the newlyweds. We are on the eve of Corpus Domini. Dear young people, may the Eucharist be themain nourishment of your faith; dear sick, especially the little patients of the Saint Matthew Clinic of Pavia, do not tire of adoring the Lord also in trials; and you dear newlyweds, learn to love on the example of Him who, out of love, made himself victim for our salvation.

[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]

The Holy Father’s Appeal

Day after tomorrow, June 20, is the World Day of Refugees, which the international community dedicates to those constrained to leave their land to flee from conflicts and persecutions. The number of these refugee brothers is growing and, in these last days, other thousands of persons were induced to leave their homes to be saved. Millions of families, millions, sheltered in many countries and of every religious faith live in their histories tragedies and wounds that it will be difficult to heal. Let us make ourselves their neighbors, sharing their fears and their uncertainty for the future and alleviating concretely their sufferings. May the Lord support the persons and institutions that work with generosity to ensure hospitality and dignity to the refugees, and give them reasons for hope. Let us think that Jesus was a refugee, he had to flee to save his life, with Saint Joseph and Our Lady, he had to go to Egypt. He was a refugee. Let us pray to Our Lady, who knows the pains of the refugees, to be close to these, our brothers and sisters. Let us pray together with Our Lady for refugee brothers and sisters.

[Ave Maria]

Mary, Mother of refugees, pray for us.

[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]
Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry


Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation