Being a Christian means belonging to the Church, Pope affirms

In his general audience address Pope Francis drew attention to how God formed the Church to unify humanity, emphasizing that no one is saved on their own, but rather through the help of others.

Jun 26, 2014

Pope Francis greets pilgrims during his Wednesday General Audience April 23, 2014. Credit: Kyle Burkhart/CNA.

VATICAN: In his general audience address Pope Francis drew attention to how God formed the Church to unify humanity, emphasizing that no one is saved on their own, but rather through the help of others.

“Our identity is one of belonging. To say 'I am Christian' means to say: 'I belong to the Church. I belong to this People with whom God established an ancient alliance that is always faithful,'” the Pope explained in his June 25 general audience address.

His address to those gathered in St. Peter's square continued the reflections he began on the Church last week.

“Dear Brothers and Sisters, in our catechesis on the Church we have seen that God gathered a people to himself in the Old Testament and in the fullness of time sent his Son to establish the Church as the sacrament of unity for all humanity.”

“God wanted to form a people that takes his blessing to all the nations of the Earth,” and he “sets it as a sign and instrument of union of all men with God and each other through Jesus Christ," the Pope said.

Explaining how we are all called to be a part of “this great family,” the Pope drew attention the importance of “belonging to this people."

"We are not Christians as an individual, each one on his own,” he said. “None of us become Christians on our own," but rather “we owe our relationship with God to so many others who passed on the faith, who brought us for Baptism, who taught us to pray and showed us the beauty of the Christian life.”

Pope Francis then encouraged those present to give thanks to “our parents and grandparents, our priests, religious and teachers” who helped bring us into the Church.

“We are Christians not only because of others, but together with others” he pointed out, describing the Church as “a large family that welcomes us and teaches us to live as believers and disciples of the Lord.”

Observing how our relationship with God “is personal but not private,” the Roman Pontiff stated that our journey of faith “is born of and enriched by the communion of the Church.”

“Whoever says they believe in God but not in the Church, has a direct relation with Christ outside of her, falls into an absurd dichotomy” he noted, stating that “God has confided his saving message to human persons, to witnesses, and it is known to us through our brothers and sisters.”

However, to walk our path in the Church is not always easy, because “at times we encounter human weakness, limitations and even scandal in the life of the Church,” the Bishop of Rome continued.

But despite these difficulties, “God has called us to know him and to love him precisely by loving our brothers and sisters, by persevering in the fellowship of the Church and by seeking in all things to grow in faith and holiness as members of the one body of Christ.”

Concluding his address, Pope Francis encouraged those present to keep in mind that “as Christians, we cannot disregard the other, the Church; we cannot save ourselves on our own.”

Following his catechesis, the pontiff offered a special welcome to groups present from various countries around the world, including England and Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Sweden, Greece, Australia, Taiwan, Vietnam, India, the Antilles, the United States, Spain, México, Honduras, Colombia, Chile and Argentina.

He then gave a special greeting to the representatives of Bethlehem University, which celebrates the 40th anniversary of its founding this year.

“I offer cordial greetings to the delegation of Bethlehem University” he said, “with appreciation for its praiseworthy educational apostolate among the Palestinian people.”--CNA

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