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The Church's universality and diversity

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Holy Spirit
General Audience, Wednesday 27 September 1989 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. We read in the Constitution Lumen Gentium of Vatican Council II: "When the work which the Father gave the Son to do on earth (cf. Jn 17:4) was accomplished, the Holy Spirit was sent on the day of Pentecost in order that he might continually sanctify the Church, and thus, all those who believe would have access through Christ in one Spirit to the Father (cf. Eph 2:18). He is the Spirit of life, a fountain of water springing up to life eternal (cf. Jn 4:47; 7:38-39).... The Spirit dwells in the Church and in the hearts of the faithful, as in a temple (cf. 1 Cor 3:16; 6:19).... In them he prays on their behalf and bears witness to their adoptive sonship (cf. Gal 4:6; Rom 8:15-16 and 26)" (LG 4).

Therefore, the Church's birth on the day of Pentecost coincides with the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. For this reason also our reflections on the mystery of the Church in relationship to the Holy Spirit are concentrated around Pentecost.

2. Through an analysis of this event we noted and explained in the previous reflection that the Church, through the work of the Holy Spirit, has been missionary from the very beginning. Ever since, she has remained in statu missionis in all times and places.

The missionary character of the Church is intimately connected with her universality. At the same time, the Church's universality implies, on the one hand, a solid unity and on the other, a plurality and a multiformity, that is to say, a diversity. This is not an obstacle to unity, but rather give it the character of communion. The Constitution Lumen Gentium emphasizes that in a special way when it speaks of the "gift of union in the Holy Spirit" (cf. LG 13), a gift possessed by the Church from the day of her origin in Jerusalem.

3. An analysis of the passage of the Acts of the Apostles concerning the day of Pentecost entitles us to state that the Church came into being as a universal Church, and not merely as a particular church, that of Jerusalem, to which were later added other particular churches in other places. Certainly, the Church began at Jerusalem as a small original community of the apostles and of the first disciples; but the circumstances of her birth indicated from the very first moment the perspective of universality. One such circumstance was the apostles' "speaking in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance" (cf. Acts 2:4), so that people of different nations, present in Jerusalem, heard "the mighty works of God" (cf. Acts 2:11). They heard them in their own languages, even though the speakers "were Galileans" (cf. Acts 2:7). We have already mentioned this in the previous catechesis.

4. Moreover, the fact that the apostles were of Galilean origin is significant. Indeed, Galilee was a region of heterogeneous population (cf. 1 Macc 5:14-23), where the Jews had much contact with people of other nations. Hence, Galilee was known as "Galilee of the nations" (Is 9:1, quoted in Mt 4:15; 1 Macc 5:15). For this reason it was considered inferior, from the religious point of view, to Judea, the region of the authentic Jews.

The Church, therefore, was born at Jerusalem, but the message of faith was not proclaimed there by citizens of Jerusalem, but by a group of Galileans. Moreover, their preaching was not addressed exclusively to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, but to Jews and proselytes of whatever origin.

Following upon the witness of the apostles, shortly after Pentecost, communities (that is, local churches) arose in different places, and naturally also and first of all at Jerusalem. However, the Church which began with the descent of the Holy Spirit was not merely a Jerusalem church. From the moment of her birth the Church was universal with an aspect of universality, which would be manifested later by means of all the particular churches.

5. The Church's universal opening was confirmed in the so-called "council of Jerusalem" (cf. Acts 15:13-14) of which we read: "After they (Paul and Barnabas) finished speaking, James replied, 'Brethren, listen to me. Symeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name'" (Acts 15:13-14). In that "council" it is to be noted that Paul and Barnabas were witnesses of the spread of the Gospel among the Gentiles. James, who then spoke, authoritatively represented the Judaeo-Christian position typical of the Church of Jerusalem (cf. Gal 2:12), of which he became the leader upon Peter's departure (cf. Acts 15:13; 21:18). Peter was the herald of the universality of the Church which extended a welcome both to the Chosen People and to the pagans.

6. From the beginning the Holy Spirit wills the universality, the catholicity of the Church in the context of all the local and particular communities (that is, churches). This fulfills Jesus' significant words in his conversation with the Samaritan woman beside the well at Sychar: "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain (that is, Mount Garizim, in Samaria) nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.... But the hour is coming, and now is, when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him" (cf. Jn 4:21, 23).

That "worship of the Father in Spirit and in truth" began with the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. It cannot be limited to one place because it is inscribed in man's vocation to recognize and honor the one God who is also Spirit, and is therefore open to universality.

7. Under the action of the Holy Spirit Christian universalism was therefore inaugurated. It was expressed from the beginning in the multitude and diversity of persons who shared in the first radiation of Pentecost, and in a certain way in the plurality of the languages, cultures, peoples and nations represented by the people at Jerusalem on that occasion. It is also expressed in the human groups and social strata from which the followers of Christ down the centuries would be drawn. Universality does not mean uniformity either for those of the earliest times or for successive generations.

The demands of universality and variety are expressed also in the essential, internal unity of the Church by means of the multiplicity and diversity of the gifts or charisms, and also of ministries and initiatives. In this regard we observe that, on the day of Pentecost, Mary also, the mother of Christ, received the confirmation of her maternal mission. This was not only in regard to the Apostle John, but to all the disciples of her Son, and to all Christians (cf. RM 24; LG 59). And of all those assembled on that day in the upper room of Jerusalem—both men and women—who were "baptized with the Holy Spirit" (cf. Acts 2:4), it can be said that, following upon this fundamental event, they were endowed with different gifts, of which St. Paul would speak later: "Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord: and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good" (1 Cor 12:4-7). "God has appointed in the Church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, then healers, helpers, administrators and speakers in various kinds of tongues" (1 Cor 12:28). Through this range of charisms and ministries, from the very earliest times, the Spirit gathered together, governed and vivified Christ's Church.

8. St. Paul recognized and emphasized the fact that due to such a distribution of gifts to believers on the part of the Holy Spirit, the Church has a diversity of charisms and ministries for the unity of the entire body. As we read in the Letter to the Ephesians: "And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the equipment of the saints, for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (4:11-13).

Bringing together the witness of the apostles and of Christian tradition, the Constitution Lumen Gentium synthesizes as follows their teaching on the action of the Holy Spirit in the Church: "The Church, which the Spirit guides in the way of all truth and which he unified in communion and in works of ministry, he both equips and directs with hierarchical and charismatic gifts and adorns with his fruits. By the power of the Gospel he makes the Church keep the freshness of youth. Uninterruptedly he renews it and leads it to perfect union with its spouse. The Spirit and the bride both say to Jesus, the Lord, 'Come!'" (n. 4)."


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

Ai fedeli di espressione linguistica tedesca

Liebe Brüder und Schwestern!

INDEM ICH DIESE Überlegungen eurer persönlichen Betrachtung anempfehle, grüße ich Euch alle, liebe Brüder und Schwestern, sehr herzlich zu dieser Audienz. Auch jeder von uns ist berufen, heute seine besonderen Geistesgaben in das Leben der Kirche einzubringen zum Dienst an der gemeinsamen Sendung. Christus stärke euch dazu in eurem Glauben und in eurer Liebe zu ihm und zu den Mitmenschen. Das erbitte ich euch mit meinem besonderen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai pellegrini di lingua inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I WISH TO GREET several groups of pilgrims from the United States, in particular the Knights and Ladies of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre. My greetings go also to a group of students from London University, and to visitors from Sweden, Denmark and Finland. From the Gambia, I extend a warm welcome to a Choral Group from the capital, Banjul. Upon all the English-speakmg pilgrims here today I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.

Ad un gruppo proveniente dal Giappone

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

SALUTO IL GRUPPO giapponese di suonatori di arpa, che hanno voluto eseguire per me una musica tanto delicata. Vi ringrazio di cuore e auspico, carissimi, che le melodie che fate uscire dalle vostre arpe favoriscano il sorgere dei sentimenti di armonia e di pace in coloro che vi ascoltano.

Con questo augurio vi benedico di cuore.

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Ai numerosi fedeli di lingua spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

SALUDO CON ESPECIAL afecto a todos los peregrinos y visitantes provenientes de los diversos Países de América Latina y de España.

En particular, a los Religiosos Terciarios Capuchinos y al numeroso grupo de Legionarios de Cristo, que se disponen a iniciar sus estudios de filosofía y teología en Roma, provenientes de diversos Países, principalmente de México.

* * *

MI CORDIAL BIENVENIDA a esta audiencia a los Representantes de la Confederación Patronal y de la Confederación de Cámaras de Comercio de México. Deseo animaros en vuestro empeño por contribuir a la construcción de una sociedad más justa, próspera y pacífica, para bien de todos los mexicanos sin distinción. Pido a Dios que os asista para llevar a cabo vuestros cometidos como profesionales, animados siempre por la esperanza de un futuro mejor para México. Por nuestra parte, vemos con buen ánimo y optimismo la nueva actitud de las autoridades mexicanas hacia la Iglesia. Os ruego que al regresar a vuestro País hagáis llegar también el saludo del Papa a vuestros familiares y a los demás miembros de vuestras Confederaciones.

Finalmente, deseo saludar al grupo de peregrinos de Guatemala y a los integrantes del Movimiento de Schoenstatt de Chile.

A todos bendigo de corazón.

Ai fedeli di espressione linguistica portoghese

Queridos irmãos e irmãs de língua portuguesa,

SAÚDO CORDIALMENTE quantos me escutam, desejando a todos felicidades, no Senhor Jesus Cristo. Em particular, sejam bem-vindos os numerosos Brasileiros, de várias cidades, que foram anunciados: que a visita a Roma vos estimule na fé e na caridade e à adoração de Deus! Com a minha Bênção Apostólica.

Ai connazionali polacchi

WITAM SERDECZNIE wszystkich obecnych: księdza biskupa Józefa Rozwadowskiego; pielgrzymów z paraffi św. Józefa Robotnika z Cichego koło Zakopanego; przedstawicieli Górskiego Ochotniczego Pogotowia Ratunkowego z Podhala; pielgrzymów z parafii Narodzenia Matki Bożej z Przowa, z diecezji katowickiej; z diecezji czestochowskiej-kapłanów w 25-lecie święceń; pielgrzymów z paraffi św. Lamberta z Radomska; z paraffi Maksymiliana Kolbe w Grzmucinie; z parafii Podwyższenia Krzyża ze Zwolenia; z paraffi św. Mikołaja z Grójca k. Warszawy; pielgrzymkę diecezji chełmińskiej; pielgrzymów zparafii Narodzenia Matki Bożej i bł. Jadwigi Królowej z Choszczna; z paraffi św. Apostołów Piotra i Pawła z Radzęcina, z diecezji szczecińsko-kamieńskiej; z parafii Macierzyństwa Najświętszej Maryi Panny we Wrocławiu; z parafii św. Jadwigi również z Wrocławia; z paraffi Wniebowzięcia Matki Bożej z Polanicy-Zdroju; z parafii Wniebowzięcia Matki Bożej z Raciborza; z parafii św. Elżbiety z Kluczy; z paraffi św. Andrzeja Apostoła z Ujazdu Śłąskiego; z parafii Wniebowziecia Matki Bożej z Jaryszowa; z parafii polonijnej Matki Boskiej Częstochowskiej w New York Mills; grupę kolejarzy z Wrocławia; grupę kolejarzy z Lublina; Klub Honorowych Dawców Krwi z Kędziezyna; biuro turystyczne Pielgrzym; grupę Harcturu z Bielska-Białej; prócz tego uczestników grup turystycznych PTTK z Mielca i z Warszawy; grupę Orbisu z Warszawy; grupę Sports-Touristu z Płocka i grupę Turysty.

Ai numerosi gruppi italiani

Saluto anzitutto il folto gruppo degli ex alunni ed amici del Pontificio Collegio Russo, i quali si sono riuniti a Roma per ricordare il 60° anniversario della fondazione dell’Istituto.

Carissimi, so che avete una grande stima ed amore per il popolo russo, per il quale curate trasmissioni nella radio vaticana, come pure edizioni di libri e riviste di contenuto religioso e culturale. Auguro che i vostri gesti ecumenici valgano ad incrementare la comprensione tra cattolici ed ortodossi e rendano più spedito il cammino verso la piena unità di fede per la quale il Signore ha pregato.

* * *

Saluto poi i fedeli della Parrocchia Prepositurale di Asso, in diocesi di Milano, che hanno intrapreso un pellegrinaggio a Roma, per ricordare il Papa Pio XI, nel cinquantesimo anniversario della Sua morte.

Carissimi, quel grande Pontefice, che fu legato “da vincoli di amicizia e sante memorie” alla vostra cittadina, continui a benedire dal Cielo voi e l’intera Comunità di Asso, perché tutti possiate condurre un’esistenza prospera, ispirata agli ideali della fede cristiana.

* * *

Saluto pure i pellegrini della Parrocchia di S. Tommaso Apostolo in Vallemaio, diocesi di Montecassino. Nel dire la mia letizia di vedervi così numerosi, auspico che il vostro celeste Patrono protegga sempre ed assista la vostra comunità parrocchiale.

* * *

Rivolgo pure il mio cordiale saluto alle Religiose appartenenti alla Congregazione delle Piccole Sorelle dei Poveri. Affido volentieri le vostre persone alla Vergine Maria, perché vi ottenga dal Salvatore quelle grazie, che consentano di rispondere alla vocazione di portare la vostra sollecita carità ad ogni persona, che attende aiuto e conforto.

* * *

Giunga il mio affettuoso saluto ai bambini di Lugano e ai loro piccoli amici italiani, che li hanno ricevuti all’aeroporto. Carissimi, Gesù vi è sempre accanto, accogliete la sua amicizia come dono grande e prezioso, e saprete così diffondere attorno a voi la gioia che Egli vi offre.

* * *

La mia parola di benvenuto e cordiale augurio va a voi, abitanti di Marino, che, in occasione della tradizionale Sagra dell’uva, avete voluto partecipare a questa Udienza per ringraziare il Signore di aver reso fruttuoso il vostro lavoro.

Ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli

Mi è inoltre gradito rivolgere un saluto particolare a tutti i Giovani, ai cari Ammalati, ed alle coppie di Sposi Novelli, che hanno inserito questa visita nell’itinerario del loro viaggio di nozze.

A voi, cari giovani, io dico che i progetti del vostro futuro avranno uno scopo ed un significato se attuati in un gioioso e disinteressato servizio al prossimo.

* * *

Anche voi ammalati rivestite un ruolo importante in questo impegno di servizio, se saprete offrire con perseveranza il tesoro della vostra sofferenza alla Chiesa.

* * *

Agli sposi novelli raccomando la promessa, racchiusa nel “sì” pronunciato davanti all’altare, di una vera carità verso Dio attraverso la preghiera quotidiana, e della carità vicendevole tra loro, fatta di generosa e reciproca donazione.

A tutti imparto la mia Benedizione.

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