A KEY TO
CHURCH UNITY, ACCORDING TO
POPE BENEDICT XVI
Pope focuses on “gift of communion”
during his general audience at St. Peter’s Square
VATICAN CITY, March 29, 2006 - The Church is a creation of God's
love so that people may encounter Christ, says Benedict XVI to 40,000
people as he continued his series of cathecheses on the “mystery
of the relationship between Jesus and the Church”
"The Church thus presents herself, despite all the human frailties
that are part of her historical features, as a wondrous creation
of love, constituted to make Christ close to every man and woman
who truly wishes to encounter him, until the end of times,"
the Holy Father explained in his meditation.
Leaving his papers to one side, Benedict XVI added: "In the
Church the Lord continues to be our contemporary. Scripture is not
something of the past."
"The Lord does not speak in the past, but speaks in the present,
he speaks to us today, gives us light, shows us the way of life,
gives us fellowship and in this way prepares us and opens us to
the light," he said.
The Bishop of Rome dedicated much of his intervention to explain
that "communion" consists in participation in the life
of the Trinitarian God, "which must unite disciples among themselves."
"This life of communion with God and among ourselves is the
very object of the proclamation of the Gospel, the object of conversion
to Christianity," noted the Holy Father.
"Therefore, this double communion with God and among ourselves
is inseparable," he added. "Wherever communion with God
is destroyed, which is communion with the Father, the Son and the
Holy Spirit, the root and source of communion among ourselves is
"And wherever communion among ourselves is not lived, communion
with the Trinitarian God cannot be alive and true."
This communion "is nourished by the Eucharistic bread and
is expressed in fraternal relations," as "in the Eucharist
Jesus nourishes us, unites us to himself, with the Father and with
the Holy Spirit and among ourselves, and this network of unity that
embraces the world is an anticipation of the future world in our
time," the Pope said later.
For this reason, "communion is a gift which also has very
real consequences, it makes us come out of our solitudes, of our
own narrow-mindedness, and allows us to participate in the love
that unites us to God and among ourselves," Benedict XVI continued.
"To understand the grandeur of this gift, suffice it to think
of the divisions and conflicts that afflict relations between individuals,
groups and entire nations," he said. "And if the gift
of unity in the Holy Spirit is lacking, humanity's division is inevitable."
"Communion," the Holy Father added, is truly "the
remedy the Lord has given us against the loneliness that threatens
all today, the precious gift that makes us feel accepted and loved
in God, in the unity of his People, gathered together in the name
of the Trinity; it is the light that makes the Church shine as a
sign raised among the nations."
Here is a translation of Pope Benedict XVI’s address:
Dear Brothers and Sisters:
Through the apostolic ministry, the Church, community assembled
by the Son of God made flesh, will live throughout time, building
and nourishing communion in Christ and in the Spirit, to which all
are called and in which they can experience the salvation given
by the Father. The Twelve Apostles -- as the third successor of
Peter, Pope Clement, said at the end of the first century -- took
care to provide their successors (cf. 1 Clement 42, 4) so that the
mission entrusted to them would continue after their death. Throughout
the centuries, the Church, structured under the leadership of legitimate
pastors, has continued to live in the world as mystery of communion,
in which in a certain sense, the Trinitarian communion itself is
reflected, the mystery of God himself.
The Apostle Paul already mentions this supreme Trinitarian source
when he wishes his Christians: "The grace of the Lord Jesus
Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit
be with you all" (2 Corinthians 13:13). These words, probably
an echo of the worship of the nascent Church, highlights how the
free gift of the Father's love in Jesus Christ is realized and expressed
in the communion wrought by the Holy Spirit.
This interpretation, based on the immediate relationship established
in the text between the three genitives ("the grace of the
Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the communion of the Holy
Spirit"), presents "communion" as specific gift of
the Spirit, fruit of the love given by God the Father and of the
grace offered by the Lord Jesus.
Moreover, the context, characterized by the emphasis on fraternal
communion, leads us to see in the "koinonia" of the Holy
Spirit not only "participation" in divine life in an almost
individual way, as if each one was on his own, but also logically
"communion" among believers, which the Spirit himself
infuses as its author and principal agent (cf. Philippians 2:1).
It might be affirmed that grace, love and communion, referred respectively
to Christ, to the Father and to the Spirit, are different aspects
of the one divine action for our salvation, action that creates
the Church and that makes of the Church -- as St. Cyprian said in
the third century -- "a throng gathered together by the unity
of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" ("De
Oratione Dominica," 23: PL 4, 536, quoted in "Lumen Gentium,"
The idea of communion as participation in the Trinitarian life
is illuminated with particular intensity in John's Gospel, where
the communion of love that unites the Son with the Father and with
men is at the same time the model and source of fraternal union,
which must unite disciples among themselves: "love one another
as I have loved you" (John 15:12; cf. 13:34). "That they
also may be in us" (John 17:21,22), hence, communion of people
with the Trinitarian God and communion of people among themselves.
During the time of the earthly pilgrimage, through communion with
the Son, the disciple can already participate in his divine life
and in that of the Father: "our fellowship is with the Father
and with his Son Jesus Christ" (1 John 1:3).
This life of communion with God and among ourselves is the very
end of the object of the proclamation of the Gospel, the object
of conversion to Christianity: "that which we have seen and
heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with
us" (1 John 1:3). Therefore, this double communion with God
and among ourselves is inseparable.
Wherever communion with God is destroyed, which is communion with
the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the root and source of
communion among ourselves is also destroyed. And wherever communion
among ourselves is not lived, communion with the Trinitarian God
cannot be alive and true, as we have heard.