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Benoît XVI laisse une vision claire de l’Église

(ROME)-Pope Benedict XVI took several opportunities in the last few weeks of his pontificate to reveal his view of Church and to offer subtle cues as direction for the future. 

His perspectives on the Church and its needs were among the most important themes in speeches he delivered since his resignation announcement, that is, from February 11 to February 28. They all seemed to point to the need for a humble Church. 

His resignation, which he said was a decision taken "for the good of the Church" seemed to set the stage for what followed in subsequent comments. 

"Faith sometimes requires us to make difficult decisions," he told the crowd gathered for his last general audience February 27. And these decisions must be made to benefit the Church and the faithful.   


The Church, while practically run by people, is of Christ, who is its head.  

The Church, he said on several occasions and in particular in his resignation announcement, "belongs to Christ, whose care and guidance will never be lacking". 

The Church does not depend solely on the work of men and women. It is not a human organization but it was instituted by Christ to follows Christ. And it is Jesus who ensures that people will be there to take on the work of the Church, he said at his last general audience, February 27. 

"God guides his Church always. Let us never forget that," he added.   


The Church must be open to the renewal of the Second Vatican Council and in particular to a new dialogue with the world.  

The Second Vatican Council was a response to the desire within the Church for renewal, the pope said. The idea was to "find a new relationship between the Church and the world in order to open up the future of humanity, to open up to real progress," he told the priests of Rome, February 14.   

The Council Fathers had "hoped that everything would be renewed, that a new Pentecost really would come, a new era of the Church... There was the feeling that the Church was going on, but getting smaller, that somehow it seemed like a reality of the past and not the bearer of the future. And now, we hoped that this relationship would be renewed, changed, that the Church would once again be a source of strength for today and tomorrow."  

However, the renewal that came out of the Council has yet to be fully understood and implemented, he said regretfully.    


The Church must overcome individualism and rivalry to witness to true communion.  

The Church being instituted by Christ, its members must live ecclesial communion intentionally and intensely, with humility and vigour, said Benedict.   

In his Ash Wednesday homily, Benedict said each Catholic must "reflect on the importance of witness to faith and Christian life, for each of us and our community, so that we can reveal the face of the Church and how this face is, at times, disfigured."  

"I am thinking in particular of the sins against the unity of the Church, of the divisions in the body of the Church," he continued.  

And ecclesial communion can only be lived by "overcoming individualism and rivalry" which serves as "a humble and precious sign for those who have distanced themselves from the faith or who are indifferent," he said.   


The Church's relationship with the faithful, and the faithful among themselves, recalls family.  

In his message February 27, he recounted having received many personal letters from faithful during his pontificate, and being moved by their tone and style. They were written "from the heart and with affection", with the same familiarity as if they were addressing parents or siblings, he said.   

He also shared his paternal affection for the Church and all its members. "I always felt a deep love for all, without distinction and all equally. I carried all of you in prayer with the heart of a father," he said to applause.  

The link of affection in these letters, he continued, affirmed for him that "the Church is not just an organization involved in humanitarian works but it is a real body."   

The latter theme, echoed in Benedict's previous writings on social justice and charity, came through again in his February 15 address to the Pro Petri Sede, an association of good works. The Church, he insisted, must engage in these good works, not only on humanitarian grounds, but out of a collective witness to the love of God for his people.   

'LIVING' AND DYNAMIC BODY The Church is a "living body", animated by the Holy Spirit, which like all living realities, develops but remains centred on Christ.   

In his opening remarks at his last general audience, February 27, Benedict said the large turnout in the square brought him the joy of seeing the Church living and so alive.  

And in his parting address to the College of Cardinals, February 28, he referred to the general audience, saying: "Our experience yesterday in the square thus seemed to me: seeing that the Church is a living body, animated by the Holy Spirit and truly alive by the power of God. It is in the world but not of the world: it is of God, of Christ, and of the Spirit."  

He also cited theologian Romano Guardini, whose writings inspired Benedict's ecclesiology. "The Church is not an institution devised and built by human beings ... but a living reality," Guardini writes. "It lives still throughout the course of time. Like all living realities it develops, it changes ... and yet in the very depths of its being it remains the same: its inmost nucleus is Christ."   


Church leadership is not about power but about leading the faithful in the tradition of the 12 Apostles in the body of the Church.  

In the Church structure, the notion of collegiality among bishops needs to be further understood. This discussion during the Council was misunderstood as a "struggle for power," he said.  

"It was not about power," he clarified, but about the complementarity of factors that make up the body of the Church.   

"The bishops together are the continuation of the 12, the body of the Apostles," he explained. "We said: only one bishop, that of Rome, is the successor of one particular Apostle, Peter. All others become successors of the Apostles, entering the body that continues the body of the Apostles."    


The Church is subject to the authority of Scripture and must remain in right relationship to the Word of God.   

"The Church is subject to the Scriptures, obeys the Word of God and is not above Scripture," he told the priests of Rome, February 14. "Yet, Scripture is Scripture only because there is the living Church, its living subject.   

"Without the living subject of the Church, Scripture is only a book, open to different interpretations but which does not give any final clarity."   


The Church is not an organizational reality alone but "the community in which Jesus brings us together; faith is necessarily ecclesial," Benedict said in his February 13 Ash Wednesday address.  

In his address to his priests of the Diocese of Rome, February 14, Benedict spoke of the Church as "the mystical body of an organism, a vital reality that enters my soul, so that I myself, with my own soul as a believer, am a constructive element of the Church as such."  

"We are the Church, the Church is not a structure, a thing," he continued. "We Christians, together, we are all the living body of the Church."  

As well, it is through Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Christ, that believers form Church, in addition to being in communion with the episcopate and the Triune God.   

He said the ecclesiology of communion that emerged out of the Second Vatican Council requires further development.  


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