Bookmark and Share

6) Catholic & Apostolic

Catechesis by Pope Francis on the Church (7th of 16)
General Audience, Wednesday 17 September 2014 - in Arabic, Croatian, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning,
This week we shall continue to speak about the Church. When we profess our faith, we affirm that the Church is catholic and apostolic. But what effectively is the meaning of these words, of these two well-known characteristics of the Church? And what value do they have for Christian communities and for each one of us?

1. Catholic means universal. A complete and clear definition is offered by one of the Fathers of the Church of the first centuries, St Cyril of Jerusalem, when he affirmed: The Church is doubtless “called catholic, meaning universal, because it extends over all the world, from one end of the earth to the other; and because it teaches universally and completely one and all the truths which ought to come to men’s knowledge, concerning things both visible and invisible, heavenly and earthly”. (The Catechesis 18:23). A clear sign of the catholicity of the Church is that she speaks all languages, and this is the very effect of Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:1-13): the Holy Spirit, in fact, enabled the Apostles and the whole Church to cause the Good News of God’s salvation and love to spread to all, even to the ends of the earth. Thus, the Church was born catholic, that is, “symphonic” from her very origins, and can be only catholic, projected to evangelization and encounter with all. The Word of God can be read today in all languages; everyone has the Gospel in his or her own language in order to read it. And I return to this concept: it is always good to take a small Gospel with us, to carry it in a pocket, in a purse and read a passage during the day. This is good for us. The Gospel has been disseminated in all languages because the Church, the message of Jesus Christ the Redeemer, exists throughout the world. This is why the Church is catholic, because she is universal.

2. While the Church was born catholic, that is to say that she was born “outward-bound”, that she was born missionary. Had the Apostles remained in the Upper Room, without going out to disseminate the Gospel, the Church would be the Church of only that people, of that city, of that Upper Room. But they all went out into the world, from the moment of the Church’s birth, from the moment the Spirit descended upon them. And this is why the Church was born “outward-bound”, that is, missionary. This is what we express by deeming her apostolic, because an apostle is one who spreads the Good News of the Resurrection of Jesus. This term reminds us that the Church, on the foundation of the Apostles and in continuity with them — it was the Apostles who went and founded new churches, thus, they constituted new bishops throughout the world, and in continuity. Today all of us are in continuity with that group of Apostles who received the Holy Spirit and then went “out”, to preach —, the Church is sent to take this Gospel message to all men, accompanying it with the signs of the tenderness and power of God. This too derives from the event of Pentecost: it is the Holy Spirit, indeed, who overcomes all resistance, to defeat the temptation of being self-absorbed, among the chosen few, thinking that God’s blessing is for them alone. If, for example, some Christians do this and say: “We are the chosen ones, we alone”, in the end, they die. They die first spiritually, then they die bodily, because they have no life, they are not capable of generating life, other people, other peoples: they are not apostolic. And it is precisely the Spirit who guides us to meet our brothers, even those who are most distant in every sense, in order that they may share with us the gift of love, peace, joy that the Risen Lord has bequeathed us.

3. What does it mean for our communities and for each one of us to belong to a Church which is catholic and apostolic? First of all, it means taking the salvation of all mankind to heart, not feeling indifferent or alien in facing the fate of so many of our brothers and sisters, but open and sympathetic toward them. It means, moreover, having a sense of the fullness, the completeness, the harmony of the Christian life, always rejecting partisan, unilateral positions, which close us within ourselves.

Belonging to the apostolic Church means being aware that our faith is anchored in the proclamation and the witness of the very Apostles of Jesus — it is anchored there, it is a long chain which comes from there —; and for this we always feel sent, we feel delegated, in communion with the Apostles’ successors, to proclaim, with the heart filled with joy, Christ and his love, to all mankind. And here I would like to recall the heroic life of so very many missionaries, men and women who left their homeland in order to go to proclaim the Gospel in other countries, on other continents. A Brazilian Cardinal who works quite often in Amazonia, was telling me that when he goes to a place, to a village or a town in Amazonia, he always goes to the cemetery where he sees the tombs of these missionaries, priests, brothers, sisters who went to preach the Gospel: apostles. And he thinks: all of them could be canonized now, they left all in order to proclaim Jesus Christ. Let us give thanks to the Lord that our Church has so many missionaries, she has had so many missionaries, yet she needs even more! Let us thank the Lord for this. Perhaps among so many young people, teenagers who are here, someone has the will to become a missionary: go ahead! This is beautiful, to spread the Gospel of Jesus. Be brave young people!

Thus let us ask the Lord to renew in us the gift of his Spirit, that every Christian community and every baptized person may be the expression of the Holy Mother catholic and apostolic Church."


"Je salue les pèlerins de langue française, en particulier la paroisse francophone de Berlin et les personnes venant de France et du Canada. Demandons au Seigneur de renouveler en nous le don de son Esprit, pour que chacune de nos communautés, et chaque baptisé, soient une authentique expression de notre Mère l’Église, qui est catholique et apostolique. Que Dieu vous bénisse!

I offer an affectionate greeting to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience, including those from England, Scotland, South Africa, Denmark, Norway, China, Japan, Sri Lanka, Australia, Canada and the United States. May your stay in the Eternal City deepen your love for Christ and renew the grace of Pentecost in your lives. May God bless you all!

Pozdrawiam serdecznie przybyłych na audiencję Polaków. Jutro w Polsce obchodzi się liturgiczne Wspomnienie Świętego Stanisława Kostki – jezuity, Patrona Młodzieży. Jego zdecydowane pójście w młodym wieku za głosem powołania, pragnienie świętości i wierność ideałom są wymownym znakiem także dla młodych naszego czasu. Niech będzie on dla was wszystkich a zwłaszcza dla młodzieży szczególnym wzorem, byście w swoim życiu z odwagą bronili najwyższych wartości. Wam tu obecnym i waszym Bliskim z serca błogosławię.

Gerne grüße ich die Gläubigen deutscher Sprache, die zu dieser Audienz gekommen sind. Einen besonderen Gruß richte ich an die Pilger des „Haus Franziskus“ in Salzkotten. Bitten wir den Herrn, dass wir Getaufte die heilige Mutter Kirche als katholische und apostolische stets sichtbar machen. Ich wünsche euch einen guten Aufenthalt in Rom. Gott segne euch alle.

Saludo a los peregrinos de lengua española venidos de España, México, Panamá, Nicaragua, Argentina, Perú, Chile y otros países latinoamericanos. Pido al Señor que su visita a Roma, y en concreto a la tumba de los apóstoles Pedro y Pablo, los ayude a anunciar a Cristo, que ama a todos los hombres.

Com grande estima, saúdo os peregrinos de língua portuguesa, em particular os grupos paroquiais vindos de Faro, Campo Limpo Paulista, Paraná e Passo Fundo, invocando sobre vós e sobre as vossas famílias a abundância dos dons do Espírito Santo para que tenhais o sentido da plenitude e da harmonia da vida cristã, rejeitando as posições parciais e unilaterais que nos fecham em nós mesmos. O Senhor vos abençoe, para serdes sempre e em toda a parte fiel expressão da santa Mãe Igreja católica e apostólica.

أحيي جميع المؤمنين الناطقين باللغة العربية، وخاصة القادمين من الأراضي المقدسة ومن الشرق الأوسط. الكنيسة هي جامعة ورسولية لأنها تفتح أحضانها للجميع البشر؛ وتقدم البشارة السارة بثبات وبمجانية ، دون إجبار أو قسر؛ وتدعو الجميع للأيمان بابن الله الذي صار بشرا، بمحبة وبلطف وبطول أناة. فيا أبناء تلك الأراضي المقدسة، والتي منها خرج نور البشارة حتى أقاصي الأرض، كونوا دائما، وبرغم الصعاب، حاملين، شجعان وفرحين، لبشارة الخلاص والحقيقة والبركة. ليبارككم الرب يحرسكم دائما!

Pozdrawiam serdecznie przybyłych na audiencję Polaków. Jutro w Polsce obchodzi się liturgiczne Wspomnienie Świętego Stanisława Kostki – jezuity, Patrona Młodzieży. Jego zdecydowane pójście w młodym wieku za głosem powołania, pragnienie świętości i wierność ideałom są wymownym znakiem także dla młodych naszego czasu. Niech będzie on dla was wszystkich a zwłaszcza dla młodzieży szczególnym wzorem, byście w swoim życiu z odwagą bronili najwyższych wartości. Wam tu obecnym i waszym Bliskim z serca błogosławię.

* * *


Domenica prossima, con l’aiuto di Dio, mi recherò in Albania. Ho deciso di visitare questo Paese perché ha tanto sofferto a causa di un terribile regime ateo e ora sta realizzando una pacifica convivenza tra le sue diverse componenti religiose. Fin da ora saluto con affetto il popolo albanese e ringrazio per la preparazione di questa visita. Chiedo a tutti di accompagnarmi con la preghiera, per intercessione della Madonna del Buon Consiglio. Grazie.

* * *

Cari pellegrini di lingua italiana: benvenuti! Saluto i sacerdoti e le religiose presenti, in particolare le Suore Ospedaliere della Misericordia, le Missionarie della Consolata e le Oblate di San Giuseppe, in occasione dei rispettivi Capitoli Generali. Saluto i partecipanti al Seminario promosso da Caritas Internationalis e l’Osservatorio internazionale per la dottrina sociale della Chiesa, con il Vescovo di Trieste Mons. Crepaldi. La visita alle Tombe degli Apostoli accresca in tutti il senso di appartenenza a Cristo e alla Chiesa.

Mi rivolgo infine ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli. Oggi celebriamo la memoria di San Roberto Bellarmino, dottore della Chiesa. La sua adesione al Signore indichi a voi, cari giovani, che Egli è la via, la verità e la vita; incoraggi voi, cari ammalati, in particolare l’Unitalsi di Pescara e il gruppo “Alzheimer uniti”, ad affrontare nella fede i momenti bui della croce; e stimoli voi, cari sposi novelli, a fondare su Cristo la vostra casa coniugale."

© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana