Vatican City (AsiaNews) – By praying for the civil authorities, even when they are persecuted by them, Christians follow Christ’s teaching on the cross and recognise the legitimacy of the political institutions. But “Cesar is not everything, another sovereignty emerges” born of the truth that God is coming, and thus “is worthy of being heard even by the State”.
After having dedicated past general audiences to the lives of the single apostles and witnesses, starting today Benedict XVI will centre his Wednesday catechesis on the “the apostolic fathers of the church, that is the first and second generation after the apostles”. First among those “fathers” is St. Clement, third of St Peter’s successors who St Irenaeus tells us “had seen the apostles he had met them”.
Examining Clements letter to the Corinthians, defined by the Pope as “the first act by the Roman primate following St Peter’s death”, in his audience address Benedict XVI, underlined that the Church’s structure is “sacramental and not political”. Indeed the letter was motivated by “grave problems” which had arisen in Corinth, where “the priests had been deposed by a group of young contesters”.
In the document, first and foremost is the joyful news of the grace which saves and Gods gift to Christians is underlined. News which “fills the heart with joy” and “gives certainty to our lives”. But we must coherently dedicate ourselves to this gift and to a journey of conversion. Clement states that if there have been abuses it is due to the undermining of charity, he recalls the faithful to humility and fraternal love, the fundamental elements of the Church. Moreover for the first time the term laikos, layman, member of Gods people, different from religious, appears in Christian writings. But the distinction must not mean opposition, because it is the same Spirit which breaths through the diverse members of the one body of Christ.
The letter, underlined Benedict XVI, shows that the Church “is neither confusion nor anarchy, in which each person can do as they wish” and Clement clearly explains the doctrine of apostolic succession: the norms which rule this are on analyses derived from God himself. The Father sent Jesus, he the apostles and they in their turn their successors. “Everything proceeds from the will of God”. This explains why the Church’s structure is “sacramental and not political” and that the sacramental structure guarantees the precedence of the divine gift. The Church “is Gods gift not our creature”.
Written in the shadow of Diocletian’s persecution, circa 96 AD, the Pope underlined that it also shows that Christians did not cease in their prayers for the authorities, even when they were unjustly oppressed by them. This text “has guided the Christian attitude to politics and the State down through the centuries”: “in the aftermath of persecution Christians still prayed for those same authorities who unjustly condemned them. The reason is primarily found in the Christological order: we must pray for our persecutors as Christ did on the cross”. “By praying for the authorities Clement recognises the legitimacy of the political authorities in the order established by God; at the same time, he expresses the concern that the authorities are open to God and that they use the power which He has granted them in peace and with pity”. But, beside “Cesar”, “another sovereignty emerges, whose origins and essence are not of this world, but come from above: it is the sovereignty of truth which bears the right to be heard even by the State”.