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Holy Father Continues Catecheses on Acts of the Apostles

October 23, 2019, General Audience – Full Text

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The Pope’s October 23, 2019, General Audience was held at 9 o’clock in St. Peter’s Square, where the Holy Father Francis met with groups of pilgrims and faithful from Italy and from all over the world.

Continuing with the series of catecheses on the Acts of the Apostles, in his address in Italian the Pope focused his meditation on the theme: “God opened the door of faith to the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27), the mission of Paul and Barnabas and the Council of Jerusalem (Biblical passage: from the Acts of the Apostles, 15:7-11).

After summarizing his catechesis in several languages, the Holy Father expressed special greetings to groups of faithful present. Then he made an appeal for the situation in Chile.

The General Audience ended with the singing of the Pater Noster and the Apostolic Blessing.

* * *

The Holy Father’s Catechesis

 Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

The Book of the Acts of the Apostles recounts that the Church of Jerusalem received Saint Paul, after that transforming encounter with Jesus, and thanks to Barnabas’ mediation. However, because of the hostility of some, he was constrained to go to Tarsus, his native city, where Barnabas met him to involve him in the long journey of the Word of God. It can be said that the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, on which we are commenting in these catecheses, is the Book of the long journey of the Word of God: the Word of God is proclaimed, and proclaimed everywhere. This journey begins following intense persecution (Cf. Acts 11:19); but the latter, instead of causing a setback for evangelization, became an opportunity to widen the field wherein to spread the good seed of the Word. The Christians were not scared. They had to flee, but they fled with the Word and spread the Word a bit everywhere.

Paul and Barnabas arrived first at Antioch of Syria, where they stayed for a whole year to teach and help the community to put down roots (Cf. Acts 11:26). They were proclaiming to the Hebrew community, to the Jews. Thus Antioch became the center of the missionary propulsion, thanks to the preaching with which the two evangelizers — Paul and Barnabas — influenced the hearts of believers, that here, at Antioch, were called for the first time “Christians” (Cf. Acts 11:26).

The nature of the Church emerges from the Book of the Acts, which is not a fortress but a tent capable of enlarging its space (Cf. Isaiah 54:2) and giving access to all. The Church is either “going forth” or it’s not Church, it is either a path that is always widening its space so that all can enter, or it’s not Church,’ — “a  Church with open doors” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 46), always with the doors open.  When I see a church here, in this city, or when I see it in the other diocese from which I come, with the doors closed, this is a bad sign. The churches must always have the doors open because this is the symbol of what a church is: always open. The Church is “called to be always the open House of the Father. [. . . ] So that, if someone wants to follow a motion of the Spirit and approaches, seeking God, he/she won’t meet with the coldness of a closed door” (Ibid., 47).

However, for whom is this novelty of open doors? For pagans, because the Apostles preached to the Jews, but the Gentiles also came to knock on the door of the Church. And this novelty of the open doors to the Gentiles unleashed a very animated controversy. Some Jews affirmed the necessity to become Jews through circumcision to be saved, and then receive Baptism. They said: “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved” (Acts 15:1), that is, you cannot then receive Baptism. First the Jewish rite and then Baptism: this was their position. And to settle the question, Paul and Barnabas consulted the Council of the Apostles and of the Elders at Jerusalem, and it gave place to what is held to be the first Council in the history of the Church, the Council or Assembly of Jerusalem, to which Paul makes reference in the Letter to the Galatians (2:1-10).

A very delicate theological, spiritual and disciplinary question was addressed, namely, the relation between faith in Christ and the observance of the Law of Moses. Decisive in the course of the Assembly were the speeches of Peter and James, “columns” of the Mother Church (Cf. Acts 15:7-21; Galatians 2:9).

They invited not to impose circumcision on the Gentiles, but to ask them only to reject idolatry and all its expressions. From the discussion stemmed the common way, and this decision was ratified with the so-called Apostolic Letter sent to Antioch.

The Assembly of Jerusalem offers us an important light on the way with which to address divergences and to seek the “truth in charity” (Ephesians 4:15). It reminds us that the ecclesial methods for the resolution of conflicts are based on dialogue made of attentive and patient listening, and on discernment made in the light of the Spirit. It is the Spirit, in fact, that helps to overcome the closures and tensions and works in hearts so that they reach unity, in truth and goodness. This text helps us to understand synodality. The way they write the Letter is interesting: the Apostles begin by saying: “The Holy Spirit and we think that . . . “ The presence of the Holy Spirit is proper of synodality, otherwise it’s not synodality, it’s a parlor, parliament, something else . . .

Let us ask the Lord to reinforce in all Christians, especially in Bishops and presbyters, the desire and the responsibility of communion. May He help us to live dialogue, listening and encounter with brothers in the faith and with those that are distant, to enjoy and manifest the fruitfulness of the Church, called to be in every time “joyous Mother of many children” (Cf. Psalm 113:9).

[Original text: Italian]  [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]


In Italian

 A warm welcome goes to the Italian-speaking pilgrims. In particular, I greet the Augustinian Missionary Sisters, who are holding their General Chapter and I encourage them to follow the gospel with renewed enthusiasm, sustained and illuminated always by the grace of the Lord. I greet the delegation of the Municipality of Accumoli and the parish groups, in particular, those of San Martino in Pensilis and of Avigliano.

Finally, I greet the young people, the elderly, the sick and the newlyweds. Yesterday we celebrated the liturgical Memorial of Saint John Paul II. Let us imitate this teacher of faith and evangelical life, example of love of Christ and of man.

[Original text: Italian]  [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]


The Holy Father’s Appeal

I follow with concern what is happening in Chile. I hope that, putting an end to the violent manifestations through dialogue, they do their utmost to find solutions to the crisis and to address the difficulties that generated it, for the good of the entire population.

[Original text: Italian]  [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]


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Virginia Forrester

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