(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis held his weekly General Audience on Wednesday – the last before the suspension of the event for the summer. The Holy Father dedicated his catechetical reflections to the second installment in his series on the Church. Specifically, Pope Francis focused on the Church’s public and universal nature, and in particular on the importance of belonging to the Church.
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Pope Francis discussed three main points in connection with the theme of belonging: that it is impossible to be a Christian “by oneself”; that belonging to the Church means being formed by members who have in their own turn received the faith – that is to say – to be part of a living tradition; that the Church – the community of faith – is the essential and necessary mediator of grace, including the grace of knowledge of and relationship with the Lord.
“There are those who believe you can have a personal, direct, immediate relationship with Jesus Christ outside of the communion and the mediation of the Church,” said Pope Francis. “These are,” he went on to say, “dangerous and harmful temptations.” It was a theme to which he returned in the English-language summary that was read out after his main catechesis in Italian. “Our relationship with Christ is personal but not private; it is born of, and enriched by, the communion of the Church.”
The Holy Father went on to say, “Our shared pilgrimage is not always easy: at times we encounter human weakness, limitations and even scandal in the life of the Church.” Nevertheless, he continued, “God has called us to know him and to love him precisely by loving our brothers and sisters, by persevering in the fellowship of the Church and by seeking in all things to grow in faith and holiness as members of the one body of Christ.”
At the end of the audience, the Holy Father greeted pilgrims from the various language groups, including English speakers, among whom were a delegation from Bethlehem University, which this year celebrates the fortieth anniversary of its establishment. Pope Francis offered, “Cordial greetings,” to the delegation, “with appreciation for its praiseworthy educational apostolate among the Palestinian people.”