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The Church as the Body of Christ

Catechesis by Pope Francis    
in Arabic, Croatian, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today I will focus on another expression, with which Vatican Council II indicates the nature of the Church: that of the body; the Council says that the Church is the Body of Christ (cf. Lumen gentium, 7).

I would like to start from a text of the Acts of the Apostles that we know well: the conversion of Saul, who will later take the name of Paul, one of the greatest evangelizers (cf. Acts 9:4-5). Saul is a persecutor of Christians, but while he is travelling along the road that leads to the city of Damascus, suddenly a light surrounds him, he falls to the ground and hears a voice telling him "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?". He asks: "Who art you, Lord?", and the voice answers: "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting" (vv. 3-5). The experience of St. Paul tells us how deep is the union between us Christians and Christ himself. When Jesus ascended into heaven he did not leave us orphans, but with the gift of the Holy Spirit the union with him has become even more intense. The Second Vatican Council States that Jesus "By communicating His Spirit, Christ made His brothers, called together from all nations, mystically the components of His own Body» (Dogmatic Const.Lumen Gentium, 7).

The image of the body helps us understand this deep connection between the Church and Christ, that St. Paul develops especially in the First Letter to the Corinthians (cf. ch. 12). Above all, the body brings to mind a living reality. The Church is not a care association, or a cultural or political one, but is a living body, which walks and acts in history. And this body has a head, Jesus, who guides, nourishes and sustains it. This is a point that I would like to emphasize: if you separate the head from the rest of the body, the whole person cannot survive. So it is in the Church: we need to stay connected to Jesus in an increasingly intense way. But not only that: as in a body, it is important for the lifeblood to pass through it, so we must allow Jesus to operate in us, must allow his Word to guide us, his Eucharistic presence to nourish us, animate us, we must allow his love to give strength to our loving our neighbor. And this, always! Always! Dear brothers and sisters, let us remain united to Jesus, let us trust him, let us orient our lives according to his Gospel, nourishing ourselves with daily prayer, listening to the Word of God and participation in the Sacraments.

And here I come to a second aspect of the Church as Body of Christ. St. Paul says that as the limbs of the human body, though different and many, form one body, so we are all baptized by one Spirit into one body (cf. 1 Cor 12:12-13). In the Church therefore, there is a variety, a diversity of tasks and functions; there is not flat uniformity, but the wealth of gifts that the Holy Spirit distributes. However, there is communion and unity: all are in relation with each other and all combine to form a single vital body, deeply attached to Christ. Let us remember well: being part of the Church means being united to Christ and receiving from Him the divine life that makes us live as Christians, it means remaining united to the Pope and the bishops who are instruments of unity and communion, and it also means learning to overcome personal favoritisms and divisions, to understand each other better, to harmonise the variety and wealth of each one; in a word, to better love God and the people near us, in the family, in the parish, in the associations. In order to live, body and limbs must be united! Unity is superior to the conflicts, always! Conflicts, if they’re not resolved well, separate us from one another, separate us from God. Conflict can help us grow, but it can also divide us. Let’s not take the path of division, of fights among ourselves! All united, all united with our differences, but united, always: this is Jesus’ path. Unity is superior to conflicts. Unity is a grace that we must ask from the Lord, so that He may free us from the temptations of division, of struggles among us, of selfishness, of gossip. How much harm gossiping does, how much! Never gossip about the others, never! How much damage comes to the Church from divisions between Christians, from being biased, from petty self-interests!

The divisions among us, but also the divisions among the communities: Evangelical Christians, Orthodox Christians, Catholic Christians, why are we divided? We must seek to bring unity. I will tell you something: today, before leaving the house, I spent forty minutes, more or less, half an hour, with an Evangelical pastor and we prayed together, and sought unity. But we must pray among ourselves as Catholics and also with the other Christians, pray that the Lord may give us unity, unity among us. But how can we achieve unity among Christians if we Catholics are unable to achieve it among ourselves? To have it in our family? How many families fight and are divided! Seek unity, the unity that makes the Church. Unity comes from Jesus Christ. He sends us the Holy Spirit to create unity.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us ask God: help us to be members of the Body of the Church always deeply united to Christ; help us not to cause the Body of the Church to suffer with our conflicts, our divisions, our selfishness; help us to be living limbs linked to each other by a single force, that of love, which the Holy Spirit pours into our hearts (cf Rom 5:5)."

(Catechesis begins at 41.08 mins)


"Je salue cordialement les pèlerins francophones, particulièrement les nombreux jeunes présents, venus de Suisse et de France. Chers frères et sœurs, devenons chaque jours plus unis à Jésus. Demandons cette grâce au Seigneur de ne plus faire souffrir le Corps de son Eglise par nos égoïsmes et nos divisions. Que l’Esprit de communion soit toujours le plus fort !

I offer an affectionate greeting to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience, including those from England, Scotland, Slovakia, Sweden, South Africa, Papua New Guinea, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, the West Indies and the United States. May your stay in the Eternal City confirm you in love for our Lord and for his Body which is the Church. God bless you all!

Von Herzen grüße ich alle Gäste aus den Ländern deutscher Sprache. besonders die verschiedenen Schülergruppen und die Ehejubilare aus München. Der Heilige Geist lasse uns teilhaben an seiner Liebe, damit wir in Einheit und Frieden mit allen unseren Mitmenschen leben. Gott geleite euch stets auf eurem Lebensweg.

Saludo a los peregrinos de lengua española, en particular a los grupos provenientes de España, Argentina, Costa Rica, Honduras, México, República Dominicana y los demás países latinoamericanos. Pidamos al Señor que nos ayude a ser miembros vivos de su Cuerpo unidos por el amor que el Espíritu Santo derrama en los corazones. Muchas gracias.

Dirijo uma cordial saudação ao grupo de Jurisprudentes Católicos de Língua Portuguesa, aos peregrinos de Lisboa e quantos provêm do Brasil e dos vários países lusófonos. Que esta peregrinação aos túmulos dos Apóstolos São Pedro e São Paulo fortaleça, nos vossos corações, o sentir e o viver com a Igreja, sob o terno olhar da Virgem Mãe. Aprendei com Ela a ler os sinais de Deus na história, para serdes construtores de uma nova humanidade. Com estes votos, invoco sobre vós e vossas famílias a abundância das bênçãos do Céu.

كلمات الأب الأقدس للأشخاص الناطقين باللغة العربية:

المؤمنون الأحباء الناطقون باللغة العربية خاصة القادمون من مصر والعراق ولبنان: إن الكنيسة هي جسد المسيح، ولهذا يجب علينا الاتحاد أكثر بالمسيح، والسماح له بأن يعمل في حياتنا. لترشدنا كلمته، وليغذينا حضوره الإفخارستي، ويهبنا القوة كي نحب القريب، كما أحبنا هو. ليعضد الرب، بواسطة نعمته، عزمنا في ألا نكون سبب ألم لجسد الكنيسة بصراعاتنا، وانقساماتنا، وأنانياتنا. وأمنح لكم جميعا البركة الرسولية!

Drodzy polscy pielgrzymi, prośmy Boga, aby pomógł nam być członkami Ciała Kościoła zawsze głęboko zjednoczonymi z Chrystusem. Módlmy się, abyśmy nie zadawali cierpień Kościołowi przez nasz egoizm, podziały i konflikty. Niech Pan nam pomoże być żywymi członkami połączonymi jedyną siłą miłości, jaką Duch Święty rozlewa w naszych sercach (por. Rz 5,5). Z serca wam błogosławię.


Tomorrow we will celebrate World Refugee Day. This year we are invited to consider particularly the situation of refugee families, forced often to leave their home and their homeland in a hurry, and to lose every material good and safety, to escape from violence, persecution, or serious discrimination because of their professed religion, or their belonging to an ethnic group, or their political views.

In addition to the dangers of the journey, these families are often at risk of disintegration and, in the country that welcomes them, they must contend with cultures and societies different from her own.   We cannot be insensitive to the families and to all our refugee brothers and sisters: we are called to help them, opening ourselves to understanding and to hospitality.

Let there not be missing throughout the world people and institutions that assist them: in their face, is impressed the face of Christ!

* * *

Last Sunday, in the Year of Faith, we celebrated God who is Life and the source of life, Christ who gives us the divine life, the Holy Spirit that keeps us in the vital relationship of true children of God. I would like to extend once again the call to all to welcome and witness the "Gospel of Life", to promote and defend life in all its dimensions and in all its phases. The Christian is one who says "Yes" to life, who says "Yes" to God, the Living One.


Rivolgo un cordiale benvenuto a tutti i fedeli di lingua italiana: parrocchie, associazioni, gruppi, enti vari. In particolare, ai pellegrinaggi delle Diocesi di Pozzuoli, Lecce, Velletri-Segni e Alessandria, guidati dai rispettivi Pastori. Saluto i fedeli di Osimo, con il loro Arcivescovo, della Vicaria di Marino, con il Vescovo di Albano; e quelli della Parrocchia dei Santi Crisante e Daria, in Roma. Un pensiero speciale rivolgo ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli.

Ringrazio tutti per la presenza a questo incontro. Vi chiedo di pregare per me e per il mio servizio alla Chiesa, e auspico per ciascuno di voi abbondanti grazie, perché siano rafforzati i vostri generosi propositi di fedeltà alla chiamata del Signore."

Francis - General Audience, Wednesday, 19 June 2013, St Peter's Square


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