Reflecting on today's feast of Pentecost, which commemorates the descent of the the Holy Spirit on the Virgin Mary and the Apostles gathered in the Cenacle, the pope said this event marked “the solemn birth of the Church”.
“In this extraordinary event – he continued – we find the essential and qualifying characteristics of the Church: the Church is one, as was the community of Pentecost gathered in prayer and 'agreement': ‘the community of believers was of one heart and mind' (Acts; 4,32). The Church is holy, not because of its own merits, but because it is animated by the Holy Spirit, it keeps its gaze fixed on Christ, so as to become one with Him and his love. The Church is Catholic, because the Gospel is destined for all peoples, thus from the very begining, the Holy Spirit makes it so it is announced in all tongues. The Church is apostolic, because it has been built upon the cornerstone of the Apostles, and is the faithful custodian of their teachings down through the unbroken line of episcopal succession”.
Moreover, the “Catholic” characteristic of the Church, capable of reaching out to all peoples in all languages, also renders it “missionary”. “The Church – continued the pontiff – is in its very nature a missionary Church, and since the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit has ceaselessly propelled it and continues to guide it along the world's paths, to the very edges of the earth and the end of all time”.
The pope then added a further, “essential point”: the Church is also “Roman”, not in the context of geographical limitations, but as an expression of its catholic and missionary nature : “In the Acts of the Apostles - explained the pope - … the passage of the Gospel from the Jews to the pagans, from Jerusalem to Rome is described. Rome represents the pagan world, thus all of the nations of people who are beyond the circle of God's ancient people. In fact, the Acts conclude with the arrival of the Gospel in Rome. Thus we can say that Rome is synonymous of Catholicism and Mission, it expresses faithfulness to the origins, to the Church of all times, to a Church which speaks all languages and to all cultures”.
Following the Marian prayer, Benedict XVI greeted the pilgrims in various languages, among them brass bands from Germany, Austria and Switzerland, who played some traditional German hymns.