On the Dangers of 'Parish' Sins

Pope Francis’ General Audience Catechesis, August 27th

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Below is a translation of the Pope’s address during today’s General Audience in St. Peter’s Square.


Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

Every time we renew our profession of faith reciting the “Creed,” we affirm that the Church is “one” and “holy.” She is one because she has her origin in God Trinity, mystery of unity and full communion. The Church is holy in as much as she is founded on Jesus Christ, animated by His Holy Spirit filled with His love and His salvation. At the same time, however, she is holy and is made up of sinners, all of us, we every day experience our own fragilities and our miseries. Now, this faith that we profess pushes us to conversion, to have the courage to live daily the unity and holiness, and if we are not united, if we are not holy, it is because we are not faithful to Him. However, He does not leave us alone; He does not abandon His Church! He walks with us. He understands us. He understands our weaknesses, our sins, and he pardons us. Always he pardons us. He is always with us, helping us, and makes us to be less sinners and to be more saints, and to be more united.

1. Our first comfort comes from the fact that Jesus prayed so much for the unity of the disciples. […] He prayed for unity, and He did so above all in the imminence of His Passion, when He was about to offer His whole life for us. It is that which we are continually invited to reread and meditate, in one of the most intense and moving pages of John’s Gospel, chapter 17 (cf. vv. 11.21-23). How lovely it is to know that the Lord, just before dying, was not concerned about Himself, but thought of us! And in His heartbroken dialogue with the Father, He prayed in fact that we would be one with Him and among ourselves. See, with these words, Jesus makes Himself our intercessor with the Father, so that we can also enter into full communion of love with Him. At the same time, He entrusts us to Him as His spiritual testament, so that unity can become increasingly the distinctive note of our Christian communities  and the most beautiful answer to anyone who asks us the reason for the hope that is in us (cf. 1 Peter 3:15).

2. “That they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17:21). The Church has sought from the beginning to realize this intention, which is so much in Jesus’ heart. The Acts of the Apostles remind us that the first Christians were distinguished by the fact of having “one heart and soul” (Acts 4:32). The Apostle Paul then exhorted his communities not to forget that they are “one body” (1 Corinthians 12:13). However, experience tells us that there are many sins against unity. And we do not think only of the great heresies and the schisms; we think of the many common failures in our communities, of “parish” sins, at those sins in the parishes.. Sometimes, in fact, our parishes, called to be places of sharing and communion, are marked sadly by envies, jealousies, antipathies. And this chitchat is carried to all. How much this chitchat exists in the parishes! This is not good. […] This is not the Church! One must not do this, we must not do it! We need to ask the Lord for the grace not to do this.

This is human, all right, but not Christian! This happens when we seek the first places, when we put ourselves at the center, with our personal ambitions and our ways of seeing things, and we judge others; when we look at the defects of our brothers instead of their gifts, when we give more weight to what divides that to what brings us together.

3. In face of all this, we must make a serious examination of conscience. In a Christian community, division is one of the gravest sins, because it renders it not the work of God but a sign of the devil, who by definition is he who separates, who ruins relations, who insinuates prejudices. Instead, God wants us to grow in the capacity to accept, forgive and love one another, to be ever more like Him who is communion and love. Herein lies the holiness of the Church: in recognizes herself as the image of God, filled with His mercy and His grace. […]

Dear friends, let us have these words of Jesus resound in our heart: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). Let us ask sincerely for forgiveness for all the times we have been the occasion of division or incomprehension within our communities, knowing well that communion is not attained except through constant conversion. And let us pray that the daily fabric of our relations can become an ever more beautiful and joyful reflection of the relation between Jesus and the Father.

[Working Translation by ZENIT] [Original Text: Italian]
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