“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.”
These were the world of Pope Francis and the theme of his message on October 23, 2019, as he continued his catecheses on the Acts of the Apostles during his General Audience in St. Peter’s Square.
The Holy Father explained that after Paul’s “transforming encounter with Jesus,” the new believer was received by the Church of Jerusalem. But some were hostile and Paul was asked to go to his home in Tarsus, “where Barnabas met him to involve him in the long journey of the Word of God.”
As the Pope points out, the “long journey” of spreading the Word was often rejected, sometimes resulting in persecution. Yet, the Word continued to be 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,” Francis said. “They had to flee, but they fled with the Word and spread the Word a bit everywhere.”
The Pope stressed the Church as always having an “open door”, a concept that generated some controversy during the time of the apostles. For instance, some thought that Gentiles or Pagans who wished to join the Church should first be circumcised as were Jews. The idea was that these converts should first embrace Jewish practice, then receive Christian baptism.
“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,” the Pope noted. But the apostles found a solution: “They invited not to impose circumcision on the Gentiles, but to ask them only to reject idolatry and all its expressions.
“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).”