The unity of the Church, dispersed around the world, was the theme chosen by Pope Francis for his catechesis during today’s general audience in which over 40,000 people participated. “In the Creed”, he said, “we profess our faith in the Church, which is one, and this Church is in itself unity … even though it spreads across all the continents”.
Unity in faith, in hope, in charity, in the sacraments and the ministry, are “like the pillars that support and hold together the single great edifice of the Church. Wherever we go, even in the smallest parish, in the furthest corners of this earth, there is the One Church; we are at home, we are with our family, we are brothers and sisters. And this is a great gift from God! The Church is One for all. There is not one Church for Europeans, one for Africans, one for Americans, one for Asians, one for those who live in Oceania, but she is the same everywhere. And the Church is just like a family: the members may be far away, spread around the world, but the strong bonds that unite us all hold firm regardless of the distance”.
The Pope recalled that during the recent World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, which brought together so many cultures and languages, from so many places of origin, there was nonetheless a “profound unity, which formed a single Church, in whom all were united, and this could be felt”. “Let each one of us ask: do I feel this unity? Do I live this unity? Or am I not interested, am I one of those who would ‘privatise’ the Church for their own group, their own nation, their own friends? It is sad to encounter a privatised Church, as this form of selfishness indicates a lack of faith. Do we pray for each other? I wonder how many of you pray for persecuted Christians, for those brothers or those sisters who suffer as a consequence of their faith? It is important to look over one’s own fence, to feel part of the Church, of the single family of God”.
Francis then went on to ask whether there were any casualties of this unity, whether it could inflict harm, since “at times there arise misunderstandings, conflicts, tensions and divisions, which cause harm and then the Church does not have the face we would like, she does not manifest her charity, as God would want. We create those lacerations! And if we look at the divisions that still exist between Christians – Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants – we become aware of the effort that it takes to make this unity fully visible”. The Pope explained that although “God gives us unity”, we sometimes find it difficult to manifest it in our lives. “It is necessary to seek, to build communion, to educate in communion, to overcome misunderstandings and divisions. … Our world needs unity, reconciliation and communion, and the Church is the Home of Communion”.
Quoting St. Paul to the Ephesians, the Pope reiterated that in order to conserve unity it is necessary to have “humility, gentleness, magnanimity and love”, but this is not primarily the result of our consent or efforts, but rather comes from the Holy Spirit, which continually recreates the Church and creates “unity in diversity, which is harmony”. The Holy Father concluded by asking the Lord, as in the prayer of St. Francis, to help us never to become instruments of division, but rather to bring love where there is hate, forgiveness where there is injury and union where there is discord.