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The Spirit: source of catholicity

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Holy Spirit
General Audience, Wednesday 2 January 1991 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. In the creed we affirm that the Church is one, holy, catholic and apostolic. These are the Church's characteristics. The Church's universality is therefore attributed to her with the very same word that is used in speaking of her: the Catholic Church.

This catholicity has its origin in the Holy Spirit, who "fills the universe" (Wis 1:7) and is the universal principle of communication and communion. The "power of the Holy Spirit" tends to spread faith in Christ and the Christian life "to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8), extending the benefits of redemption to all peoples.

2. Before the coming of the Holy Spirit, communion with the true God in divine covenant was not equally accessible to all peoples. The Letter to the Ephesians observes this in addressing Christians who belonged to pagan nations: "You people of Gentile stock, called 'uncircumcised' by those themselves 'circumcised'...remember that in former times you had no part in Christ and were excluded from the community of Israel. You were strangers to the covenant and the promise; you were without hope and without God in the world" (Eph 2:11-12). In order to enter in some way into the divine covenant, they had to accept circumcision and adopt the observances of the Hebrew people, thus cutting themselves off from their own people.

Now, however, communion with God no longer requires these restrictive conditions because it comes about "through the Spirit." There is no longer any discrimination based on race or nation. All human beings can "become a dwelling place for God in the Spirit" (Eph 2:22).

This change of situation was announced by Jesus in his conversation with the Samaritan woman: "An hour is coming and is already here, when authentic worshippers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth. Indeed, it is just such worshippers the Father seeks. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth" (Jn 4:23-24). That was Jesus' answer to the question about the place for true worship of God. For the Samaritans it was Mount Gerizim, and it was Jerusalem for the Israelites. Christ's answer showed another dimension of true worship of God, the interior dimension ("in spirit and truth"), for which worship was not bound up with a definite place (a national sanctuary), and was therefore a universal worship. The words addressed to the Samaritan woman opened the road to that universality which is a fundamental quality of the Church as the new temple, the new sanctuary built by the Spirit who dwells there. This is the profound root of catholicity.

3. This root is the origin of the external, visible catholicity, the community and social one, we could say. It is essential to the Church due to the fact that Jesus commanded the apostles and their successors to bring the Gospel "to all nations" (Mt 28:19). The Church's universality under the influence of the Holy Spirit was already manifested at the time of her birth on Pentecost. The Acts of the Apostles testify that at the event in Jerusalem participants included "devout Jews of every nation under heaven" (Acts 2:5) who were staying in the holy city, and with them the proselytes, that is, pagans who had accepted the law of Moses. The Acts of the Apostles lists the names of some of the countries from which the people came, but they also speak more generally of "every nation under heaven." It is a sign of the primitive Church's awareness, interpreted and testified to by Luke, that the "baptism in the Holy Spirit" (Acts 1:5) conferred on that first community of the Church certainly had a universal value and that the Church was born from it with her characteristic of catholicity (universality).

4. This universality,
generated by the action of the Holy Spirit, was from the very day of Pentecost accompanied by an insistent reference to that which is "particular," in regard to both persons and individual peoples and nations. This results from the fact that, as Luke notes in Acts, the power of the Holy Spirit was manifested through the gift of tongues in which the apostles spoke, so that each of (those present) heard them speaking in his own tongue (cf. Acts 2:4-6). Here we can observe that the Holy Spirit is Love, and to love someone means to respect everything that is a priority for the beloved. This especially goes for language which generally demands sensitivity and respect, but it also holds true for culture, spirituality and customs.

The event of Pentecost was attentive to this demand and manifested the Church's unity in the multiplicity of peoples and in cultural pluralism. The Church's catholicity includes respect for the values of all. We could say that the particular is not canceled out by the universal. The one dimension contains and requires the other.

5. The fact of the multiplicity of languages at Pentecost tells us that in the Church the language of faith - which is universal in that it is an expression of the truth revealed through the Word of God - finds its human expression in various languages; we can say in each and every language. Earliest Christian history is already proof of this. We know that the language spoken by Jesus was Aramaic, which was used in Israel at that time. When the apostles set off to spread Christ's message, Greek had become the common language of the Greco-Roman world, and thus became the language of evangelization. It is also the language of the Gospel and all the other writings of the New Testament which came about under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. These writings contain only a few words of Aramaic. This shows that from the beginning, the truth announced by Christ has sought the way to reach all tongues, to speak to all peoples. The Church has always sought, and continues to do so, to follow this principle of methodology and pedagogy of the apostolate according to the opportunities afforded in various eras. Today, we know, the practice of this demand of catholicity is especially felt and facilitated, thanks be to God.

6. In the Acts of the Apostles we find another example in an event which took place even before the conversion and preaching of Paul, the apostle of catholicity. At Caesarea Peter had accepted into the Church and baptized a Roman centurion Cornelius and his household—therefore, the first pagans. Luke's description of this event, which contains many details, indicates among other things, the fact that, since the Holy Spirit had descended upon all those who were listening to the Apostle's preaching, "the circumcised believers who had accompanied Peter were surprised that the gift of the Holy Spirit should have been poured out on Gentiles also" (Acts 10:44-45). However, Peter himself did not hesitate to confess that he had acted under the influence of the Holy Spirit: "The Spirit instructed me to accompany them without hesitation" (Acts 11:12).

7. This first "break" toward the universality of the faith immediately received further confirmation in dealing with the apostolic activity of Paul of Tarsus and his companions. The assembly in Jerusalem (which can be considered the first "council") reinforces this direction in the development of evangelization and of the Church. The apostles gathered in that assembly were sure that this direction came from the Spirit of Pentecost. Their words are eloquent, and they will always remain so. They can be considered the very first conciliar declaration: "It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and ours, too" (Acts 15:28). These decisions involved the path of universality which the Church had to take.

There is no doubt that this is the path the Church took then and throughout the centuries. The apostles and missionaries preached the Gospel to all nations, penetrating as much as possible the various societies and milieus. According to the possibilities of the time, the Church has sought to introduce the words of salvation into all cultures (inculturation), at the same time helping them recognize better their own authentic values in the light of the Gospel message.

8. This is what the Second Vatican Council set as a basic law for the Church when it wrote: "All men are called to belong to the new People of God. Wherefore this people, while remaining one and only one, is to be spread throughout the whole world and must exist in all ages.... It was for this purpose that God sent his Son.... For this too God sent the Spirit of his Son as Lord and Life-giver. He it is who brings together the whole Church and each and every one of those who believe, and who is the wellspring of their unity in the teaching of the apostles and in fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in prayers (cf. Acts 2:42)" (LG 13).

In these words the Council proclaimed its own awareness of the fact that the Holy Spirit is the principle and source of the Church's universality.

After the Catechesis, Papa Giovanni Paolo II greeted the pilgrims in various languages

Ai fedeli di espressione francese

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

J’accueille avec plaisir les personnes de langue française présentes à cette audience, notamment le pèlerinage venu de Strasbourg. J’adresse aussi un très cordial salut aux professeurs et aux étudiants de Salonique qui prennent contact avec l’Eglise de Rome. A tous, je souhaite une heureuse année nouvelle. Et je prie le Seigneur de vous combler de ses Bénédictions.

Ai presenti di lingua inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I extend a special welcome to the families and groups from Ireland, the United States and Canada who have come to Rome for the priestly Ordination of members of the Legionaries of Christ, who are celebrating the Fiftieth Anniversary of their foundation. May the joy of this special event help you to renew your faith and deepen your love of the Church.

To all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience I offer prayerful good wishes for a New Year filled with joy and peace. May Christ, who is the "way, and the truth, and the life", remain with you and your families. Upon all of you I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of God our Heavenly Father.

Ai pellegrini di espressione tedesca

Liebe Brüder und Schwestern in Christus! Einen ganz herzlichen Willkommensgruß möchte ich an alle Pilger und Besucher aus den Ländern deutscher Sprache richten.

Besonders grüße ich die Mitglieder der Choralschola der Pfarrei St. Petrus und Paulus aus Lüdenscheid, und die Pilgergruppe der Erzpfarre Maria Himmelfahrt-Deutschorden Lana aus der Provinz Bozen, und ich danke den beiden Gruppen für ihren schönen Gesang.

Euch allen aus den Ländern deutscher Sprache, Euren Familien, Euren Gemeinden wünsche ich von Herzen den Frieden des Herrn und ein von Gott gesegnetes neues Jahr, und erteile allen meinen besonderen Apostolischen Segen.

Ad un folto gruppo di fedeli giapponesi

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo! Saluto i componenti del gruppo “Movimento del Buon Pastore” e gli altri pellegrini giunti dalle varie regioni del Giappone.

Oggi rivolgo a voi il mio augurio affettuoso per il Capodanno, una festa molto cara anche a voi giapponesi: Buon Anno! Vi auguro tutta la felicità durante questo nuovo anno, e nello stesso tempo vi invito a pregare per la pace nel mondo, che in questi giorni è in pericolo.

Affidando ciascuno di voi alla protezione di Maria, Madre di Gesù e nostra, vi imparto di cuore la mia Benedizione Apostolica.

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Ai numerosi pellegrini di lingua spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

Saludo ahora muy cordialmente a todas las personas, familias y grupos procedentes de los diversos Países de América Latina y de España.

Al comenzar este Año Nuevo presento a todos mi afectuosa felicitación, deseando que 1991 sea un tiempo lleno de bendiciones del Señor y de continuo progreso en vuestra vida cristiana.

Con gran gozo deseo dar mi más cordial bienvenida a esta audiencia a la numerosa peregrinación de los Legionarios de Cristo. Representáis a muchas comunidades eclesiales, parroquias, grupos apostólicos, centros educativos y asistenciales esparcidos por México, España, Chile, Brasil, Venezuela y otros Países de América Latina. A todos quiero saludar con gran afecto deseando que vuestra venida a Roma, centro de la catolicidad, os confirme y refuerce vuestra fe, vuestra conciencia de ser Iglesia de Cristo y, a la vez, os empuje a un renovado dinamismo apostólico que haga presente en vuestros ambientes el mensaje de salvación y de gozo que Jesús nos ha traído en la Navidad.

Mirando a tantos chicos y chicas aquí presentes, deseo repetirles las palabras que dirigí en Buenos Aires con ocasión de la Jornada Mundial de la Juventud: “Hoy más que nunca el mundo necesita de vosotros, de vuestra alegría y de vuestro servicio, de vuestra vida limpia y de vuestro trabajo, de vuestra fortaleza y de vuestra entrega”.

Con la alegría del mensaje de amor que irradia desde el portal de Belén, imparto de corazón a todos una especial Bendición Apostólica.

Ai fedeli di espressione portoghese

Saúdo afectuosamente todos os povos de língua portuguesa, augurando-lhes um Bom Ano, na pacífica e livre convivência de todos sobre a sua própria terra, com as Bênçãos de Deus e a protecção da Virgem Maria Rainha da Paz.

Ai pellegrini polacchi

“Gdy . . . nadeszła pełnia czasu, zesłał Bóg Syna swego, zrodzonego z niewiasty” (Gal.

Odczytujemy te słowa Pawłowe (z Listu do Galatów) w pierwszym dniu Nowego Roku. Jest to zarazem dzień oktawy Bożego Narodzenia oraz uroczystość Bożego Macieżyństwa owej “Niewiasty”, z której narodził się  Przedwieczny Syn Boży, Syn Jednorodzony, którego Ojciec dał ludzkości jako Zbawiciela świata.

Odczytujemy te słowa wobec Ciebie, “Niewiasto”, Bogarodzico Dziewico, Bogiem sławiona Maryjo, która stałaś się  dla naszych przodków znakiem, że “pełnia czasu” weszła w dzieje naszej Ojczyzny.

Z tej “pełni” rozwija się czas, w którym żyje człowiek - czas historyczny, który wypełniają dzieje ludów i narodów.

Dziękujemy Ci, Bogurodzico Dziewico, za historyczny czas naszej Ojczyzny, który rozpoczął się  od Chrztu Mieszkowego w 966 roku i trwa już z górą tysiąc lat. Dziękujemy za Nowy Rok: Rok Pański 1991. Jest to zarazem pierwszy rok III Rzeczypospolitej.

Pierwsza Rzeczpospolita wyłoniła się  z dziedzictwa Piastów i ukształtowała się  jako wspólnota trzech narodów (a zarazem wspólne mieszkanie wielu narodów), poczynając od końca wieku XIV. Obdarzyła nas ona “złotym wiekiem”, ale później zaczęła się  chylić ku upadkowi.

Zanim jednak upadła, ulegając własnym słabościom oraz gwałtowi zaborców, pozostawiła Konstytucję : testament, a zarazem wskaźnik dla przyszłości. W tym roku minie dwieście lat od uchwalenia Konstytucji 3 maja.

Druga Rzeczpospolita rodziła się  w straszliwych trudach, zmaganiach i cierpieniach rozbiorów Polski, które trwały ponad sto lat. W tych trudach, zmaganiach i cierpieniach okrzepła na nowo wola niepodległości, której nie potrafiły później złamać okrucieństwa drugiej wojny światowej ani też dyktat jałtański.

U progu Trzeciej Rzeczypospolitej przywołujemy na pamięć cały ten historyczny czas, jaki rozwija się  pośród “pełni czasu”, która pochodzi od Boga samego, a stała się  udziałem ludzkości poprzez Wcielenie Słowa.

Wierzymy, że cały ten czas, Ty, Matko i Królowo Polski, “zachowujesz i rozważasz w swoim sercu” w naszym Jasnogórskim sanktuarium. I dlatego też wobec Ciebie powtarzamy - z myślą o Ojczyźnie, o Rzeczypospolitej - słowa noworocznej liturgii, niegdyś skierowane do synów Izraela: “Niech cię  Pan błogosławi i strzeże. Niech Pan rozpromieni oblicze swe nad tobą, niech cię  obdarzy swą łaską. Niech zwróci ku tobie oblicze swoje i niech cię  obdarzy pokojem” .

Ciebie - Polsko, Ojczyzno moja, u progu nowego okresu Twych dziejów.

Pozdrawiam pielgrzymów z Polski: grupę  nauczycieli z Tarnobrzegu; grupę  turystyczną “Kwartet” z Tych; grupę  kolejarzy z Częstochowy oraz innych pielgrzymów zarówno z kraju, jak i z emigracji.

Ai gruppi di fedeli venuti da diverse diocesi italiane

Saluto tutti i gruppi di lingua italiana, che prendono parte a questa Udienza.

Saluto anzitutto gli Studenti di Filosofia e Teologia della Congregazione “Missionari della Fede”, provenienti da diversi Paesi.

Mi rallegro con voi per la scelta vocazionale e per la crescita culturale e religiosa che state compiendo nella vostra Congregazione. Auguro che la luce della fede sia per tutti voi via sicura nel cammino della vostra vita.

Saluto anche i fedeli delle Parrocchie di San Domenico, in Molfetta, e di San Leonardo da Porto Maurizio, in Roma.

Ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli

Carissimi, abbiamo celebrato ieri la Giornata Mondiale della Pace: in questa occasione desidero tornare con voi brevemente sull’argomento che è sempre di grande attualità.

Ai giovani chiedo di cooperare alla civiltà della concordia, della tolleranza e della comprensione tra gli individui e tra i popoli, in modo che possano diventare degni testimoni di un’era di bontà e di partecipazione.

Mi rivolgo agli ammalati perché, per il merito delle loro sofferenze cristianamente sopportate, possano ottenere dal Signore quel dono celeste che gli Angeli annunziarono sulla terra.

Gli sposi novelli sappiano diffondere il messaggio del vero amore recato da Gesù.

Vi benedico tutti nel nome del Signore ed a tutti auguro un felice Anno Nuovo.

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