Monday, May 24, 2010

Pope: The universal Church precedes the particular Churches


Yesterday the Holy Father preached powerfully on the Unity, Oneness of the Catholic Church:
The Son of God, dead and risen and returned to the Father, now breathes with untold energy the divine breath upon humanity, the Holy Spirit. And what does this new and powerful self-communication of God produce? Where there are divisions and estrangement he creates unity and understanding. The Spirit triggers a process of reunification of the divided and dispersed parts of the human family; persons, often reduced to individuals in competition or in conflict with each other, reached by the Spirit of Christ, open themselves to the experience of communion, can involve them to such an extent as to make of them a new organism, a new subject: the Church. This is the effect of God’s work: unity; thus unity is the sign of recognition, the “business card” of the Church in the course of her universal history. From the very beginning, from the day of Pentecost, she speaks all languages. The universal Church precedes the particular Churches, and the latter must always conform to the former according to a criterion of unity and universality. The Church never remains a prisoner within political, racial and cultural confines; she cannot be confused with states not with federations of states, because her unity is of a different type and aspires to transcend every human frontier.

From this, dear brothers, there derives a practical criterion of discernment for Christian life: When a person or a community, limits itself to its own way of thinking and acting, it is a sign that it has distanced itself from the Holy Spirit. The path of Christians and of the particular Churches must always confront itself with the path of the one and catholic Church, and harmonize with it. This does not mean that the unity created by the Holy Spirit is a kind of homogenization. On the contrary, that is rather the model of Babel, that is, the imposition of a culture of unity that we could call “technological.” The Bible, in fact, tells us (cf. Genesis 11:1-9) that in Babel everyone spoke the same language. At Pentecost, however, the Apostles speak different languages in such a way that everyone understands the message in his own tongue. The unity of the Spirit is manifested in the plurality of understanding. The Church is one and multiple by her nature, destined as she is to live among all nations, all peoples, and in the most diverse social contexts. She responds to her vocation to be a sign and instrument of unity of the human race (cf. “Lumen Gentium,” 1) only if she remains free from every state and every particular culture. Always and in every place the Church must truly be catholic and universal, the house of all in which each one can find a place.
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3 comments:

Michael Petek said...

What does he mean exactly?

The matter is complicated by the fact that the universal Church exists in and through each of the particular Churches, namely wherever the Blessed Sacrament is present, but is an integrated part of the whole when in communion with the See of Peter.

It reminds me of Aristotle's discussion of whether the individual is prior to society or society to the individual.

In a sense the whole is prior to the parts in that the parts exist for the sake of the whole, save that the Christian correction of Aristotle is that the individual does not belong to society in respect of all that he is.

But the parts are prior to the whole in the sense that they must exist first and then be unified into a composite whole. That is why we say God is simple - not composed of parts - because there is nothing prior to Him in terms of components.

Volpius Leonius said...

Which is why she must have her own universal language.

"A CHURCH that is universal must have a universal tongue, whilst a national church, or a church whose members speak one and the same language, and whose doctrines conveniently change to suit the times, can safely adopt the vernacular tongue in its liturgy." Cardinal Gibbons

Joe of St. Thérèse said...

Hmmm, I think the Holy Father has a few places in mind in these comments...God bless our Holy Father