|Communion is Born from Faith Inspired by
Apostolic Teaching, Nourished by the Breaking of the Bread and Prayer, and
Lived in Love and Service
At the General Audience in
St. Peter's Square on Wednesday, 5 April, the Holy Father continued in his
Reflection on the topic of "communion" whose source is the Holy Spirit.
The following is a translation of the Pope's Catechesis, given in Italian.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In the new series of Catecheses that began a few weeks ago, we are
considering the origins of the Church so as to understand Jesus' original
plan and thereby grasp the essential of the Church that lives on through
the changing times. Thus, we also understand the reason for our being in
the Church and how we must strive to live it at the dawn of a new
In thinking about the newborn Church, we can discover two aspects: a
first aspect is strongly highlighted by St. Irenaeus of Lyons, a martyr
and great theologian of the end of the second century, the first to have
given us a theology that was to a certain extent systematic. St. Irenaeus
wrote: 'Wherever the Church is, God's Spirit is too; and wherever God's
Spirit is, there is the Church and every grace; for the Spirit is truth' (Adversus
Haereses, III, 24, 1: PG 7, 966).
Thus, a deep bond exists between the Holy Spirit and the Church. The
Holy Spirit builds the Church and gives her the truth; he pours out love,
as St. Paul says, into the hearts of believers (cf. Rom 5:5).
Then there is a second aspect. This deep bond with the Spirit does not
eradicate our humanity, with all of its weaknesses. So it is that from the
start the community of the disciples has known not only the joy of the
Holy Spirit, the grace of truth and love, but also trials that are
constituted above all by disagreements about the truths of faith, with the
consequent wounds to communion.
Dissent and love, hand in hand
Just as the fellowship of love has existed since the outset and will
continue to the end (cf. I Jn. 1:1ff), so also, from the start, division
unfortunately arose. We should not be surprised that it still exists
today. "They went out from us, but they were not of us", John says in his
First Letter, "for if they had been of us, they would have continued with
us; but they went out, that it might be plain that they are not of us" (I Jn 2:19).
Thus, in the events of the world but also in the weaknesses of the
Church, there is always a risk of losing faith, hence, also love and
brotherhood. Consequently, it is a specific duty of those who believe in
the Church of love and want to live in her to recognize this danger
too and accept that communion is no longer possible with those who have
drifted away from the doctrine of salvation (cf. II Jn 9:11).
That the newborn Church was well aware of the possible tensions in
the experience of communion is clearly shown by John's First Letter:
no voice is more forcefully raised in the New Testament to highlight the
reality and duty of fraternal love among Christians; but the same voice
is addressed with drastic severity to adversaries of the Church who used
to be members of the community but now no longer belong to it.
The Church of love is also the Church of truth, understood primarily as
fidelity to the Gospel entrusted by the Lord Jesus to his followers. It
was being made children of the same Father by the Spirit of truth that
gave rise to Christian brotherhood: "For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God" (Rom
However, if the family of God's children is to live in unity and peace,
it needs someone to keep it in the truth and guide it with wise and
authoritative discernment: this is what the ministry of the Apostles is required to
And here we come to all important point. The Church is wholly of the
Spirit but has a structure, the apostolic succession, which is responsible
for guaranteeing that the Church endures in the truth given by Christ,
from whom the capacity to love also comes.
The first brief description in the Acts sums up very effectively the
convergence of these values in the life of the newborn Church: "And they
devoted themselves to the Apostles' teaching and fellowship (koinonia),
to the breaking of bread and the prayers" (Acts 2:42). Communion is born
from faith inspired by apostolic preaching, it is nourished by the
Breaking of Bread and prayer, and is expressed in brotherly love and
We have before us the description of fellowship in the newborn Church
with the riches of its internal dynamism and visible expressions: the gift
of communion is safeguarded and promoted in particular by the apostolic
ministry, which in turn is a gift for the entire community.
Custodians of the deposit of truth
The Apostles and their successors are therefore the custodians and
authoritative witnesses of the deposit of truth consigned to the Church,
and are likewise the minister of charity. These are two aspects that go
They must always be mindful of the inseparable nature of this twofold
service which in fact is only one: truth and love, revealed and given by
the Lord Jesus. In this regard,
their service is first and foremost a service of love: and the charity
they live and foster is inseparable from the truth they preserve and pass
Truth and love are the two faces of the same gift that comes from God
and, thanks to the apostolic ministry, is safeguarded in the Church and
handed down to us, to our present time!
And the love of the Trinitarian God also reaches us through the service
of the Apostles and their successors, to communicate to us the truth
that sets us free (cf. Jn 8:32)!
All this, which we see in the newborn Church. impels us to pray for the
Successors of the Apostles, for all the Bishops and for the Successors of
Peter, so that together they may truly be at the same time custodians of
truth and love; so that, in this regard, they may truly be apostles of
Chris and that his light, the light of truth and love, may never be
extinguished in the Church or in the world.