Vatican City (AsiaNews) - When you say that the Church is "Catholic" and "Apostolic" it means that it is "universal" and "missionary", "outgoing", as were the apostles. This means "taking to heart the salvation of all mankind", "having a sense of the fullness, completeness, harmony of Christian life" and "being aware that our faith is anchored to the same proclamation and witness of the apostles". These were Pope Francis reflections today at his General Audience dedicated to the Church.
The Pope toured at length among the 30 thousand people in St Peter's Square, stopping to accept even a sip of mate. Speaking to them Francis also pointed out the value of the work of missionaries. "Let us give thanks to the Lord because our Church has many missionaries, has had many missionary and still needs more."
Francis began his reflection by asking what "actually" is the meaning of the words "Catholic and Apostolic" contained in the Creed and "what meaning do they have for Christian communities and for each of us?". "Catholic - he explained - means universal. A complete and clear definition is offered by one of the Fathers of the Church from the earliest centuries, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, when he says: " The Church is called Catholic or universal because it has spread throughout the entire world, from one end of the earth to the other. Again, it is called Catholic because it teaches fully and unfailingly all the doctrines which ought to be brought to men's knowledge, whether concerned with visible or invisible things, with the realities of heaven or the things of earth". A clear sign of the catholicity of the Church is the fact that it speaks all languages. And this is but one of the effects of Pentecost: It is the Holy Spirit in fact who enabled the Apostles and the whole Church to resonate at all, to the ends of the earth, the Beautiful News of salvation and love of God. Thus the Catholic Church was born, which has been "symphonic" from the beginning, and can only be Catholic, projected toward evangelization and encounter with everyone".
"Today the Word of God is read in all languages, everyone has the Gospel in their own tongue, and are able to read it. And I return to this again: It is always a good idea to carry a little Gospel around with you, in your pocket, in your bag so that during the day you can read a passage from it. It does us so much good. The Gospel has spread in all languages because the Church, the proclamation of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer, is all over the world. This is why we say the Church is Catholic because it is universal".
"If the Church was born Catholic, it means that it was born "outward looking", it was born missionary." "If the apostles had stayed there in the Upper Room, without leaving to preach the Gospel, the Church would only be the Church of the people of that city, in that Upper Room. But they all went out into the world, from the very moment that the Church was born from the moment the Holy Spirit came. And so the Church was born 'outward bound' in short missionary. That is what we mean when we call it Apostolic, because the apostle is the person who brings the good news of the Resurrection of Jesus". "This term reminds us that the Church, founded on the Apostles and in continuity with them - are the apostles who went and founded new churches, new bishops all over the world, in continuity. Nowadays we are all in continuity with that group of Apostles who first received the Holy Spirit and then went to 'out', to preach - sent to bring to all men this proclamation of the Gospel, accompanied by signs of God's tenderness and power. This too comes from Pentecost: it is the Holy Spirit who overcomes resistance, who overcomes the temptation to withdraw into ourselves, to consider ourselves the chosen few, and the only recipients of God's blessing ... if a group of Christians is doing this - 'we are the chosen ones, just us' - eventually they will die. First their soul will die, then their body will die because they have no life, they are not capable of generating life, in other people, in other peoples: They are not Apostolic. It is the Spirit that leads us to encounter brothers and sisters, even those who are most distant to us, so that they can share with us the love, the peace, the joy that the Risen Lord has left us as a gift".
"What does it mean for our communities and for each of us - he asked - to be part of a Church that is Catholic and Apostolic? First of all, it means caring for the salvation of all mankind, not feeling indifferent or removed from the fate of so many of our brothers and sisters, but open and supportive towards them. It also means having a sense of fullness, completeness, harmony of Christian life, always rejecting the partial, unilateral positions, which close us in ourselves".
"Being a member of the Apostolic Church means being aware that our faith is anchored in the proclamation and witness of Christ's Apostles - is anchored there, it is a long chain that begins there, and therefore we should always regard ourselves as being sent out, in communion with the successors of the Apostles, to announce, with a heart full of joy, Christ and His love for all mankind.". "And here I would like to recall the heroic life of many, many missionaries who have left their homeland to go to preach the Gospel in other countries, in other continents. A Brazilian Cardinal who worked quite a bit in the Amazon, that when he go to a place, to a town in the Amazon, or to a city, he always goes to the cemetery and there he sees the graves of these missionaries, priests, brothers, sisters who have gone to preach the Gospel, these apostles. And he thinks that they all could be made saints right now, they left everything to proclaim Jesus Christ. Let us give thanks to the Lord because our Church has many missionaries, has had many missionary and still needs more! Let us thank the Lord for this. Perhaps among the many young men and women who are here, someone has the desire to become a missionary: go ahead! This is beautiful, bringing the Gospel of Jesus. Be brave, be courageous".
"So let us ask the Lord - he concluded - to renew in us the gift of his Spirit, so that each and every baptized Christian community is an expression of Holy Mother Catholic and Apostolic Church.