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The title "Vicar of Peter" Vicarius Petri is used only of the pope, not of other bishops. Variations of it include: The term " pontiff " is derived from the Latin: The use of the term to refer to bishops in general is reflected in the terms " Roman Pontifical " a book containing rites reserved for bishops, such as confirmation and ordination , and "pontificals" the insignia of bishops. Summus Pontifex Ecclesiae Universalis. Pontifex Maximus , similar in meaning to Summus Pontifex , is a title commonly found in inscriptions on papal buildings, paintings, statues and coins, usually abbreviated as "Pont.
Although the description " servant of the servants of God " Latin: It became reserved for the pope in the 12th century and is used in papal bulls and similar important papal documents. From until , the Annuario Pontificio also included the title " Patriarch of the West". This title was first used by Pope Theodore I in , and was only used occasionally. Indeed, it did not begin to appear in the pontifical yearbook until On 22 March , the Vatican released a statement explaining this omission on the grounds of expressing a "historical and theological reality" and of "being useful to ecumenical dialogue".
The title Patriarch of the West symbolized the pope's special relationship with, and jurisdiction over, the Latin Church —and the omission of the title neither symbolizes in any way a change in this relationship, nor distorts the relationship between the Holy See and the Eastern Churches , as solemnly proclaimed by the Second Vatican Council. In the medieval period , " Dominus Apostolicus " "the Apostolic Lord" was also used. Pope Francis signs some documents with his name alone, either in Latin "Franciscus", as in an encyclical dated 29 June  or in another language.
The pope's signature is followed, in bulls of canonization, by those of all the cardinals resident in Rome, and in decrees of ecumenical councils, by the signatures of the other bishops participating in the council, each signing as Bishop of a particular see. Papal bulls are headed N. In general, they are not signed by the pope, but Pope John Paul II introduced in the mids the custom by which the pope signs not only bulls of canonization but also, using his normal signature, such as "Benedictus PP.
XVI", bulls of nomination of bishops. In heraldry , each pope has his own personal coat of arms. Though unique for each pope, the arms have for several centuries been traditionally accompanied by two keys in saltire i. The 21st century has seen departures from this tradition. In , Pope Benedict XVI, while maintaining the crossed keys behind the shield, omitted the papal tiara from his personal coat of arms, replacing it with a mitre with three horizontal lines. Beneath the shield he added the pallium, a papal symbol of authority more ancient than the tiara, the use of which is also granted to metropolitan archbishops as a sign of communion with the See of Rome.
Although the tiara was omitted in the pope's personal coat of arms, the coat of arms of the Holy See, which includes the tiara, remained unaltered. In , Pope Francis maintained the mitre that replaced the tiara, but omitted the pallium. He also departed from papal tradition by adding beneath the shield his personal pastoral motto: The flag most frequently associated with the pope is the yellow and white flag of Vatican City , with the arms of the Holy See blazoned: The pope's escucheon does not appear on the flag.
This flag was first adopted in , whereas the previous flag had been red and gold. Although Pope Benedict XVI replaced the triregnum with a mitre on his personal coat of arms, it has been retained on the flag. Pope Pius V reigned — , is often credited with having originated the custom whereby the pope wears white, by continuing after his election to wear the white habit of the Dominican order.
In reality, the basic papal attire was white long before. The earliest document that describes it as such is the Ordo XIII , a book of ceremonies compiled in about Later books of ceremonies describe the pope as wearing a red mantle, mozzetta , camauro and shoes, and a white cassock and stockings. If anyone says that the blessed Apostle Peter was not established by the Lord Christ as the chief of all the apostles , and the visible head of the whole militant Church , or, that the same received great honour but did not receive from the same our Lord Jesus Christ directly and immediately the primacy in true and proper jurisdiction: If anyone says that it is not from the institution of Christ the Lord Himself, or by divine right that the blessed Peter has perpetual successors in the primacy over the universal Church, or that the Roman Pontiff is not the successor of blessed Peter in the same primacy, let him be anathema.
If anyone thus speaks, that the Roman Pontiff has only the office of inspection or direction, but not the full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the universal Church, not only in things which pertain to faith and morals, but also in those which pertain to the discipline and government of the Church spread over the whole world; or, that he possesses only the more important parts, but not the whole plenitude of this supreme power; or that this power of his is not ordinary and immediate, or over the churches altogether and individually, and over the pastors and the faithful altogether and individually: We, adhering faithfully to the tradition received from the beginning of the Christian faith, to the glory of God, our Saviour, the elevation of the Catholic religion and the salvation of Christian peoples, with the approbation of the sacred Council, teach and explain that the dogma has been divinely revealed: But if anyone presumes to contradict this definition of Ours, which may God forbid: Among the principal duties of bishops the preaching of the Gospel occupies an eminent place.
For bishops are preachers of the faith, who lead new disciples to Christ, and they are authentic teachers, that is, teachers endowed with the authority of Christ, who preach to the people committed to them the faith they must believe and put into practice, and by the light of the Holy Spirit illustrate that faith. They bring forth from the treasury of Revelation new things and old, making it bear fruit and vigilantly warding off any errors that threaten their flock.
Bishops, teaching in communion with the Roman Pontiff, are to be respected by all as witnesses to divine and Catholic truth. In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent. This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown so that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will.
His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking. And this is the infallibility which the Roman Pontiff, the head of the College of Bishops , enjoys in virtue of his office, when, as the supreme shepherd and teacher of all the faithful, who confirms his brethren in their faith, by a definitive act he proclaims a doctrine of faith or morals.
And therefore his definitions, of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church, are justly styled irreformable, since they are pronounced with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, promised to him in blessed Peter, and therefore they need no approval of others, nor do they allow an appeal to any other judgment. For then the Roman Pontiff is not pronouncing judgment as a private person, but as the supreme teacher of the universal Church, in whom the charism of infallibility of the Church itself is individually present, he is expounding or defending a doctrine of Catholic faith.
The infallibility promised to the Church resides also in the body of Bishops, when that body exercises the supreme magisterium with the successor of Peter. To these definitions the assent of the Church can never be wanting, on account of the activity of that same Holy Spirit, by which the whole flock of Christ is preserved and progresses in unity of faith. A principal source of present-day stagnation lies in misunderstanding and abuse affecting the exercise of authority in our Church. The pope's official seat or cathedral is the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran , and his official residence is the Apostolic Palace.
He also possesses a summer residence at Castel Gandolfo , situated on the site of the ancient city of Alba Longa. Until the time of the Avignon Papacy , the residence of the pope was the Lateran Palace , donated by the Roman emperor Constantine the Great. The pope's ecclesiastical jurisdiction the Holy See is distinct from his secular jurisdiction Vatican City.
It is the Holy See that conducts international relations; for hundreds of years, the papal court the Roman Curia has functioned as the government of the Catholic Church. The names "Holy See" and " Apostolic see " are ecclesiastical terminology for the ordinary jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome including the Roman Curia ; the pope's various honors, powers, and privileges within the Catholic Church and the international community derive from his Episcopate of Rome in lineal succession from the Apostle Saint Peter see Apostolic succession.
Consequently, Rome has traditionally occupied a central position in the Catholic Church, although this is not necessarily so. The pope derives his pontificate from being Bishop of Rome but is not required to live there; according to the Latin formula ubi Papa, ibi Curia , wherever the pope resides is the central government of the Church, provided that the pope is Bishop of Rome.
As such, between and , the popes lived in Avignon , France see Avignon Papacy , a period often called the Babylonian captivity in allusion to the Biblical narrative of Jews of the ancient Kingdom of Judah living as captives in Babylonia. Though the pope is the diocesan Bishop of the Diocese of Rome , he delegates most of the day-to-day work of leading the diocese to the Cardinal Vicar , who assures direct episcopal oversight of the diocese's pastoral needs, not in his own name but in that of the pope.
Though the progressive Christianisation of the Roman Empire in the 4th century did not confer upon bishops civil authority within the state, the gradual withdrawal of imperial authority during the 5th century left the pope the senior imperial civilian official in Rome, as bishops were increasingly directing civil affairs in other cities of the Western Empire. This status as a secular and civil ruler was vividly displayed by Pope Leo I 's confrontation with Attila in The first expansion of papal rule outside of Rome came in with the Donation of Sutri , which in turn was substantially increased in , when the Frankish ruler Pippin the Younger gave to the pope the land from his conquest of the Lombards.
The pope may have utilized the forged Donation of Constantine to gain this land, which formed the core of the Papal States. This document, accepted as genuine until the 15th century, states that Constantine the Great placed the entire Western Empire of Rome under papal rule.
In , Pope Leo III crowned the Frankish ruler Charlemagne as Roman Emperor , a major step toward establishing what later became known as the Holy Roman Empire ; from that date onward the popes claimed the prerogative to crown the Emperor, though the right fell into disuse after the coronation of Charles V in As mentioned above, the pope's sovereignty over the Papal States ended in with their annexation by Italy.
Popes like Alexander VI , an ambitious if spectacularly corrupt politician, and Pope Julius II , a formidable general and statesman, were not afraid to use power to achieve their own ends, which included increasing the power of the papacy. Papal bulls , interdict , and excommunication or the threat thereof have been used many times to increase papal power. In , Innocent III placed England under interdict until King John made his kingdom a fiefdom to the Pope, complete with yearly tribute , saying, "we offer and freely yield The Bull Regnans in Excelsis in excommunicated Elizabeth I of England and declared that all her subjects were released from all allegiance to her.
The Bull, Inter gravissimas , in established the Gregorian calendar. Under international law, a serving head of state has sovereign immunity from the jurisdiction of the courts of other countries, though not from that of international tribunals. International law treats the Holy See , essentially the central government of the Catholic Church, as the juridical equal of a state. It is distinct from the state of Vatican City , existing for many centuries before the foundation of the latter.
It is common for publications and news media to use "the Vatican", "Vatican City", and even "Rome" as metonyms for the Holy See. Most countries of the world maintain the same form of diplomatic relations with the Holy See that they entertain with other states. Even countries without those diplomatic relations participate in international organizations of which the Holy See is a full member.
It is as head of the state-equivalent worldwide religious jurisdiction of the Holy See not of the territory of Vatican City that the U. Justice Department ruled that the pope enjoys head-of-state immunity. It was in relation to the latter that, in November , the United States Court of Appeals in Cincinnati decided that a case over sexual abuse by Catholic priests could proceed, provided the plaintiffs could prove that the bishops accused of negligent supervision were acting as employees or agents of the Holy See and were following official Holy See policy.
In April , there was press coverage in Britain concerning a proposed plan by atheist campaigners and a prominent barrister to have Pope Benedict XVI arrested and prosecuted in the UK for alleged offences, dating from several decades before, in failing to take appropriate action regarding Catholic sex abuse cases and concerning their disputing his immunity from prosecution in that country.
The pope's claim to authority is either disputed or not recognised at all by other churches. The reasons for these objections differ from denomination to denomination. Primacy is regarded as a consequence of the pope's position as bishop of the original capital city of the Roman Empire , a definition explicitly spelled out in the 28th canon of the Council of Chalcedon.
These churches see no foundation to papal claims of universal immediate jurisdiction , or to claims of papal infallibility. Several of these churches refer to such claims as ultramontanism. In calling the pope the "Antichrist", the early Lutherans stood in a tradition that reached back into the eleventh century.
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Not only dissidents and heretics but even saints had called the bishop of Rome the "Antichrist" when they wished to castigate his abuse of power. What Lutherans understood as a papal claim to unlimited authority over everything and everyone reminded them of the apocalyptic imagery of Daniel 11 , a passage that even prior to the Reformation had been applied to the pope as the Antichrist of the last days.
Protestant denominations of Christianity reject the claims of Petrine primacy of honor, Petrine primacy of jurisdiction, and papal infallibility. These denominations vary from simply not accepting the pope's claim to authority as legitimate and valid, to believing that the pope is the Antichrist  from 1 John 2: This sweeping rejection is held by, among others, some denominations of Lutherans: Confessional Lutherans hold that the pope is the Antichrist, stating that this article of faith is part of a quia "because" rather than quatenus "insofar as" subscription to the Book of Concord.
The WELS still holds to this statement. Historically, Protestants objected to the papacy's claim of temporal power over all secular governments, including territorial claims in Italy,  the papacy's complex relationship with secular states such as the Roman and Byzantine Empires, and the autocratic character of the papal office.
Groups sometimes form around antipopes , who claim the Pontificate without being canonically and properly elected to it. Traditionally, this term was reserved for claimants with a significant following of cardinals or other clergy. The existence of an antipope is usually due either to doctrinal controversy within the Church heresy or to confusion as to who is the legitimate pope at the time schism. Briefly in the 15th century, three separate lines of popes claimed authenticity see Papal Schism. Even Catholics do not all agree whether certain historical figures were popes or antipopes.
Though antipope movements were significant at one time, they are now overwhelmingly minor fringe causes. In the earlier centuries of Christianity, the title "Pope", meaning "father", had been used by all bishops. Some popes used the term and others did not. Eventually, the title became associated especially with the Bishop of Rome. In a few cases, the term is used for other Christian clerical authorities. In English, Catholic priests are still addressed as "father", but the term "pope" is reserved for the head of the church hierarchy.
This name, based on the black colour of his cassock, was used to suggest a parallel between him and the "White Pope" since the time of Pope Pius V the popes dress in white and the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples formerly called the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith , whose red cardinal's cassock gave him the name of the "Red Pope" in view of the authority over all territories that were not considered in some way Catholic. In the present time this cardinal has power over mission territories for Catholicism, essentially the Churches of Africa and Asia,  but in the past his competence extended also to all lands where Protestants or Eastern Christianity was dominant.
Some remnants of this situation remain, with the result that, for instance, New Zealand is still in the care of this Congregation. Some new religious movements within Christianity, especially those that have disassociated themselves from the Catholic Church yet retain a Catholic hierarchical framework, have used the designation "pope" for a founder or current leader. The Cao Dai , a Vietnamese faith that duplicates the Roman Catholic hierarchy, is similarly headed by a pope. Although the average reign of the pope from the Middle Ages was a decade, a number of those whose reign lengths can be determined from contemporary historical data are the following:.
However, since he is regarded as an anti-pope , he is not mentioned in the list above. There have been a number of popes whose reign lasted about a month or less. In the following list the number of calendar days includes partial days. Thus, for example, if a pope's reign commenced on 1 August and he died on 2 August, this would count as having reigned for two calendar days.
Stephen 23—26 March died of stroke three days after his election, and before his consecration as a bishop. He is not recognized as a valid pope, but was added to the lists of popes in the 15th century as Stephen II , causing difficulties in enumerating later popes named Stephen. On the death of Zachary the Roman priest Stephen was elected; but, since four days later he died, before his consecratio , which according to the canon law of the time was the true commencement of his pontificate, his name is not registered in the Liber Pontificalis nor in other lists of the popes.
Published every year by the Roman Curia , the Annuario Pontificio attaches no consecutive numbers to the popes, stating that it is impossible to decide which side represented at various times the legitimate succession, in particular regarding Pope Leo VIII , Pope Benedict V and some midth-century popes.
Patriarch of Constantinople 4th century. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article is about the leader of the Catholic Church.
For the popes of other churches, and other uses, see Pope disambiguation. For the incumbent, see Pope Francis. For previous popes, see List of popes. Acolyte Consecrator Lector Reader Subdeacon. Administrative and pastoral titles. Consecrated and professed titles. History of the papacy. Primacy of Simon Peter. The signature of Pope Francis. Papal regalia and insignia. Primacy of the Bishop of Rome and Papal infallibility. Cardinal Secretary Section for Relations with States. Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People. Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See.
Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See. Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff. Politics of Vatican City. Antipope and Western Schism. Pope portal Christianity portal Religion portal Biography portal. Archived from the original on 6 June Retrieved 11 August Retrieved 18 February The episcopal college and its head, the pope".
Catechism of the Catholic Church. Retrieved 14 April Archived from the original on 22 July The scope and limits of this Exhortation. I was happy to take up the request of the Fathers of the Synod to write this Exhortation. Countless issues involving evangelization today might be discussed here, but I have chosen not to explore these many questions which call for further reflection and study. Nor do I believe that the papal magisterium should be expected to offer a definitive or complete word on every question which affects the Church and the world.
It is not advisable for the Pope to take the place of local Bishops in the discernment of every issue which arises in their territory. Here I have chosen to present some guidelines which can encourage and guide the whole Church in a new phase of evangelization, one marked by enthusiasm and vitality. In this context, and on the basis of the teaching of the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium , I have decided, among other themes, to discuss at length the following questions:.
I have dealt extensively with these topics, with a detail which some may find excessive. All of them help give shape to a definite style of evangelization which I ask you to adopt in every activity which you undertake. In this way, we can take up, amid our daily efforts, the biblical exhortation: Evangelization takes place in obedience to the missionary mandate of Jesus: In these verses we see how the risen Christ sent his followers to preach the Gospel in every time and place, so that faith in him might spread to every corner of the earth. Abraham received the call to set out for a new land cf.
To Jeremiah God says: The Gospel joy which enlivens the community of disciples is a missionary joy. The seventy-two disciples felt it as they returned from their mission cf. Jesus felt it when he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and praised the Father for revealing himself to the poor and the little ones cf. This joy is a sign that the Gospel has been proclaimed and is bearing fruit. Yet the drive to go forth and give, to go out from ourselves, to keep pressing forward in our sowing of the good seed, remains ever present.
Once the seed has been sown in one place, Jesus does not stay behind to explain things or to perform more signs; the Spirit moves him to go forth to other towns. The Gospel speaks of a seed which, once sown, grows by itself, even as the farmer sleeps Mk 4: The Church has to accept this unruly freedom of the word, which accomplishes what it wills in ways that surpass our calculations and ways of thinking.
The joy of the Gospel is for all people: That is what the angel proclaimed to the shepherds in Bethlehem: Taking the first step, being involved and supportive, bearing fruit and rejoicing. An evangelizing community knows that the Lord has taken the initiative, he has loved us first cf. Let us try a little harder to take the first step and to become involved. Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. The Lord gets involved and he involves his own, as he kneels to wash their feet. He tells his disciples: An evangelizing community is also supportive, standing by people at every step of the way, no matter how difficult or lengthy this may prove to be.
It is familiar with patient expectation and apostolic endurance. Evangelization consists mostly of patience and disregard for constraints of time. An evangelizing community is always concerned with fruit, because the Lord wants her to be fruitful. It cares for the grain and does not grow impatient at the weeds.
The sower, when he sees weeds sprouting among the grain does not grumble or overreact. He or she finds a way to let the word take flesh in a particular situation and bear fruits of new life, however imperfect or incomplete these may appear. Finally an evangelizing community is filled with joy; it knows how to rejoice always.
It celebrates every small victory, every step forward in the work of evangelization. Evangelization with joy becomes beauty in the liturgy, as part of our daily concern to spread goodness. The Church evangelizes and is herself evangelized through the beauty of the liturgy, which is both a celebration of the task of evangelization and the source of her renewed self-giving. Pastoral activity and conversion.
I am aware that nowadays documents do not arouse the same interest as in the past and that they are quickly forgotten. Nevertheless, I want to emphasize that what I am trying to express here has a programmatic significance and important consequences. I hope that all communities will devote the necessary effort to advancing along the path of a pastoral and missionary conversion which cannot leave things as they presently are.
Paul VI invited us to deepen the call to renewal and to make it clear that renewal does not only concern individuals but the entire Church. Let us return to a memorable text which continues to challenge us. There are ecclesial structures which can hamper efforts at evangelization, yet even good structures are only helpful when there is a life constantly driving, sustaining and assessing them.
An ecclesial renewal which cannot be deferred. The renewal of structures demanded by pastoral conversion can only be understood in this light: The parish is not an outdated institution; precisely because it possesses great flexibility, it can assume quite different contours depending on the openness and missionary creativity of the pastor and the community. We must admit, though, that the call to review and renew our parishes has not yet sufficed to bring them nearer to people, to make them environments of living communion and participation, and to make them completely mission-oriented.
Other Church institutions, basic communities and small communities, movements, and forms of association are a source of enrichment for the Church, raised up by the Spirit for evangelizing different areas and sectors. Frequently they bring a new evangelizing fervour and a new capacity for dialogue with the world whereby the Church is renewed. But it will prove beneficial for them not to lose contact with the rich reality of the local parish and to participate readily in the overall pastoral activity of the particular Church. Each particular Church, as a portion of the Catholic Church under the leadership of its bishop, is likewise called to missionary conversion.
Its joy in communicating Jesus Christ is expressed both by a concern to preach him to areas in greater need and in constantly going forth to the outskirts of its own territory or towards new sociocultural settings. The bishop must always foster this missionary communion in his diocesan Church, following the ideal of the first Christian communities, in which the believers were of one heart and one soul cf.
To do so, he will sometimes go before his people, pointing the way and keeping their hope vibrant. At other times, he will simply be in their midst with his unassuming and merciful presence. At yet other times, he will have to walk after them, helping those who lag behind and — above all — allowing the flock to strike out on new paths.
In his mission of fostering a dynamic, open and missionary communion, he will have to encourage and develop the means of participation proposed in the Code of Canon Law,  and other forms of pastoral dialogue, out of a desire to listen to everyone and not simply to those who would tell him what he would like to hear. Yet the principal aim of these participatory processes should not be ecclesiastical organization but rather the missionary aspiration of reaching everyone. Since I am called to put into practice what I ask of others, I too must think about a conversion of the papacy.
It is my duty, as the Bishop of Rome, to be open to suggestions which can help make the exercise of my ministry more faithful to the meaning which Jesus Christ wished to give it and to the present needs of evangelization. The papacy and the central structures of the universal Church also need to hear the call to pastoral conversion.
Pastoral ministry in a missionary key seeks to abandon the complacent attitude that says: I invite everyone to be bold and creative in this task of rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelization in their respective communities. A proposal of goals without an adequate communal search for the means of achieving them will inevitably prove illusory. I encourage everyone to apply the guidelines found in this document generously and courageously, without inhibitions or fear. The important thing is to not walk alone, but to rely on each other as brothers and sisters, and especially under the leadership of the bishops, in a wise and realistic pastoral discernment.
From the heart of the Gospel. If we attempt to put all things in a missionary key, this will also affect the way we communicate the message. We need to be realistic and not assume that our audience understands the full background to what we are saying, or is capable of relating what we say to the very heart of the Gospel which gives it meaning, beauty and attractiveness. Pastoral ministry in a missionary style is not obsessed with the disjointed transmission of a multitude of doctrines to be insistently imposed.
When we adopt a pastoral goal and a missionary style which would actually reach everyone without exception or exclusion, the message has to concentrate on the essentials, on what is most beautiful, most grand, most appealing and at the same time most necessary. The message is simplified, while losing none of its depth and truth, and thus becomes all the more forceful and convincing.
All revealed truths derive from the same divine source and are to be believed with the same faith, yet some of them are more important for giving direct expression to the heart of the Gospel. In this basic core, what shines forth is the beauty of the saving love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ who died and rose from the dead. First, it needs to be said that in preaching the Gospel a fitting sense of proportion has to be maintained.
This would be seen in the frequency with which certain themes are brought up and in the emphasis given to them in preaching. For example, if in the course of the liturgical year a parish priest speaks about temperance ten times but only mentions charity or justice two or three times, an imbalance results, and precisely those virtues which ought to be most present in preaching and catechesis are overlooked.
Just as the organic unity existing among the virtues means that no one of them can be excluded from the Christian ideal, so no truth may be denied. The integrity of the Gospel message must not be deformed. What is more, each truth is better understood when related to the harmonious totality of the Christian message; in this context all of the truths are important and illumine one another. When preaching is faithful to the Gospel, the centrality of certain truths is evident and it becomes clear that Christian morality is not a form of stoicism, or self-denial, or merely a practical philosophy or a catalogue of sins and faults.
Before all else, the Gospel invites us to respond to the God of love who saves us, to see God in others and to go forth from ourselves to seek the good of others. Under no circumstance can this invitation be obscured! All of the virtues are at the service of this response of love. It would mean that it is not the Gospel which is being preached, but certain doctrinal or moral points based on specific ideological options.
A mission embodied within human limits. The Church is herself a missionary disciple; she needs to grow in her interpretation of the revealed word and in her understanding of truth. For those who long for a monolithic body of doctrine guarded by all and leaving no room for nuance, this might appear as undesirable and leading to confusion. But in fact such variety serves to bring out and develop different facets of the inexhaustible riches of the Gospel. With the holy intent of communicating the truth about God and humanity, we sometimes give them a false god or a human ideal which is not really Christian.
In this way, we hold fast to a formulation while failing to convey its substance. This is the greatest danger. All of this has great relevance for the preaching of the Gospel, if we are really concerned to make its beauty more clearly recognized and accepted by all. Faith always remains something of a cross; it retains a certain obscurity which does not detract from the firmness of its assent. Some things are understood and appreciated only from the standpoint of this assent, which is a sister to love, beyond the range of clear reasons and arguments.
In her ongoing discernment, the Church can also come to see that certain customs not directly connected to the heart of the Gospel, even some which have deep historical roots, are no longer properly understood and appreciated. Some of these customs may be beautiful, but they no longer serve as means of communicating the Gospel. We should not be afraid to re-examine them. It ought to be one of the criteria to be taken into account in considering a reform of the Church and her preaching which would enable it to reach everyone. Moreover, pastors and the lay faithful who accompany their brothers and sisters in faith or on a journey of openness to God must always remember what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches quite clearly: A small step, in the midst of great human limitations, can be more pleasing to God than a life which appears outwardly in order but moves through the day without confronting great difficulties.
We see then that the task of evangelization operates within the limits of language and of circumstances. It constantly seeks to communicate more effectively the truth of the Gospel in a specific context, without renouncing the truth, the goodness and the light which it can bring whenever perfection is not possible.
It never closes itself off, never retreats into its own security, never opts for rigidity and defensiveness. It realizes that it has to grow in its own understanding of the Gospel and in discerning the paths of the Spirit, and so it always does what good it can, even if in the process, its shoes get soiled by the mud of the street. A mother with an open heart. Going out to others in order to reach the fringes of humanity does not mean rushing out aimlessly into the world. Often it is better simply to slow down, to put aside our eagerness in order to see and listen to others, to stop rushing from one thing to another and to remain with someone who has faltered along the way.
At times we have to be like the father of the prodigal son, who always keeps his door open so that when the son returns, he can readily pass through it. The Church is called to be the house of the Father, with doors always wide open. One concrete sign of such openness is that our church doors should always be open, so that if someone, moved by the Spirit, comes there looking for God, he or she will not find a closed door.
There are other doors that should not be closed either. Everyone can share in some way in the life of the Church; everyone can be part of the community, nor should the doors of the sacraments be closed for simply any reason. The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak. Frequently, we act as arbiters of grace rather than its facilitators. But the Church is not a tollhouse; it is the house of the Father, where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems. If the whole Church takes up this missionary impulse, she has to go forth to everyone without exception.
But to whom should she go first? When we read the Gospel we find a clear indication: There can be no room for doubt or for explanations which weaken so clear a message. We have to state, without mincing words, that there is an inseparable bond between our faith and the poor. May we never abandon them. Let us go forth, then, let us go forth to offer everyone the life of Jesus Christ.
I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. I do not want a Church concerned with being at the centre and which then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures.
If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life. More than by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us: Before taking up some basic questions related to the work of evangelization, it may be helpful to mention briefly the context in which we all have to live and work.
Nor would we be well served by a purely sociological analysis which would aim to embrace all of reality by employing an allegedly neutral and clinical method. What I would like to propose is something much more in the line of an evangelical discernment. This involves not only recognizing and discerning spirits, but also — and this is decisive — choosing movements of the spirit of good and rejecting those of the spirit of evil. I take for granted the different analyses which other documents of the universal magisterium have offered, as well as those proposed by the regional and national conferences of bishops.
In our time humanity is experiencing a turning-point in its history, as we can see from the advances being made in so many fields. At the same time we have to remember that the majority of our contemporaries are barely living from day to day, with dire consequences. A number of diseases are spreading. The hearts of many people are gripped by fear and desperation, even in the so-called rich countries.
The joy of living frequently fades, lack of respect for others and violence are on the rise, and inequality is increasingly evident. It is a struggle to live and, often, to live with precious little dignity. This epochal change has been set in motion by the enormous qualitative, quantitative, rapid and cumulative advances occuring in the sciences and in technology, and by their instant application in different areas of nature and of life. We are in an age of knowledge and information, which has led to new and often anonymous kinds of power.
Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?
This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world.
Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase.
In the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us. One cause of this situation is found in our relationship with money, since we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies. The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: We have created new idols.
The worship of the ancient golden calf cf. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation.
Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. Debt and the accumulation of interest also make it difficult for countries to realize the potential of their own economies and keep citizens from enjoying their real purchasing power. To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits.
In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule. No to a financial system which rules rather than serves. Behind this attitude lurks a rejection of ethics and a rejection of God. Ethics has come to be viewed with a certain scornful derision.
It is seen as counterproductive, too human, because it makes money and power relative. It is felt to be a threat, since it condemns the manipulation and debasement of the person. In effect, ethics leads to a God who calls for a committed response which is outside the categories of the marketplace. When these latter are absolutized, God can only be seen as uncontrollable, unmanageable, even dangerous, since he calls human beings to their full realization and to freedom from all forms of enslavement. Ethics — a non-ideological ethics — would make it possible to bring about balance and a more humane social order.
With this in mind, I encourage financial experts and political leaders to ponder the words of one of the sages of antiquity: A financial reform open to such ethical considerations would require a vigorous change of approach on the part of political leaders. I urge them to face this challenge with determination and an eye to the future, while not ignoring, of course, the specifics of each case.
Money must serve, not rule! The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor. I exhort you to generous solidarity and to the return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favours human beings. No to the inequality which spawns violence. Today in many places we hear a call for greater security. But until exclusion and inequality in society and between peoples are reversed, it will be impossible to eliminate violence.
The poor and the poorer peoples are accused of violence, yet without equal opportunities the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and eventually explode. When a society — whether local, national or global — is willing to leave a part of itself on the fringes, no political programmes or resources spent on law enforcement or surveillance systems can indefinitely guarantee tranquility.
This is not the case simply because inequality provokes a violent reaction from those excluded from the system, but because the socioeconomic system is unjust at its root. Just as goodness tends to spread, the toleration of evil, which is injustice, tends to expand its baneful influence and quietly to undermine any political and social system, no matter how solid it may appear. If every action has its consequences, an evil embedded in the structures of a society has a constant potential for disintegration and death.
It is evil crystallized in unjust social structures, which cannot be the basis of hope for a better future. Inequality eventually engenders a violence which recourse to arms cannot and never will be able to resolve. It serves only to offer false hopes to those clamouring for heightened security, even though nowadays we know that weapons and violence, rather than providing solutions, create new and more serious conflicts.
All this becomes even more exasperating for the marginalized in the light of the widespread and deeply rooted corruption found in many countries — in their governments, businesses and institutions — whatever the political ideology of their leaders. We also evangelize when we attempt to confront the various challenges which can arise.
In many places, the problem is more that of widespread indifference and relativism, linked to disillusionment and the crisis of ideologies which has come about as a reaction to any-thing which might appear totalitarian. This not only harms the Church but the fabric of society as a whole. We should recognize how in a culture where each person wants to be bearer of his or her own subjective truth, it becomes difficult for citizens to devise a common plan which transcends individual gain and personal ambitions.
In the prevailing culture, priority is given to the outward, the immediate, the visible, the quick, the superficial and the provisional. What is real gives way to appearances. In many countries globalization has meant a hastened deterioration of their own cultural roots and the invasion of ways of thinking and acting proper to other cultures which are economically advanced but ethically debilitated. This fact has been brought up by bishops from various continents in different Synods.
The Catholic faith of many peoples is nowadays being challenged by the proliferation of new religious movements, some of which tend to fundamentalism while others seem to propose a spirituality without God. This is, on the one hand, a human reaction to a materialistic, consumerist and individualistic society, but it is also a means of exploiting the weaknesses of people living in poverty and on the fringes of society, people who make ends meet amid great human suffering and are looking for immediate solutions to their needs.
These religious movements, not without a certain shrewdness, come to fill, within a predominantly individualistic culture, a vacuum left by secularist rationalism. We must recognize that if part of our baptized people lack a sense of belonging to the Church, this is also due to certain structures and the occasionally unwelcoming atmosphere of some of our parishes and communities, or to a bureaucratic way of dealing with problems, be they simple or complex, in the lives of our people. In many places an administrative approach prevails over a pastoral approach, as does a concentration on administering the sacraments apart from other forms of evangelization.
The process of secularization tends to reduce the faith and the Church to the sphere of the private and personal. Furthermore, by completely rejecting the transcendent, it has produced a growing deterioration of ethics, a weakening of the sense of personal and collective sin, and a steady increase in relativism. These have led to a general sense of disorientation, especially in the periods of adolescence and young adulthood which are so vulnerable to change.
Such claims usually follow from a form of moral relativism that is joined, not without inconsistency, to a belief in the absolute rights of individuals. In response, we need to provide an education which teaches critical thinking and encourages the development of mature moral values.
Despite the tide of secularism which has swept our societies, in many countries — even those where Christians are a minority — the Catholic Church is considered a credible institution by public opinion, and trusted for her solidarity and concern for those in greatest need. Again and again, the Church has acted as a mediator in finding solutions to problems affecting peace, social harmony, the land, the defence of life, human and civil rights, and so forth.
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And how much good has been done by Catholic schools and universities around the world! This is a good thing. Yet, we find it difficult to make people see that when we raise other questions less palatable to public opinion, we are doing so out of fidelity to precisely the same convictions about human dignity and the common good. The family is experiencing a profound cultural crisis, as are all communities and social bonds. In the case of the family, the weakening of these bonds is particularly serious because the family is the fundamental cell of society, where we learn to live with others despite our differences and to belong to one another; it is also the place where parents pass on the faith to their children.
Marriage now tends to be viewed as a form of mere emotional satisfaction that can be constructed in any way or modified at will. But the indispensible contribution of marriage to society transcends the feelings and momentary needs of the couple. The individualism of our postmodern and globalized era favours a lifestyle which weakens the development and stability of personal relationships and distorts family bonds.
Pastoral activity needs to bring out more clearly the fact that our relationship with the Father demands and encourages a communion which heals, promotes and reinforces interpersonal bonds. Today too, various associations for the defence of rights and the pursuit of noble goals are being founded.
This is a sign of the desire of many people to contribute to social and cultural progress. The Christian substratum of certain peoples — most of all in the West — is a living reality. Here we find, especially among the most needy, a moral resource which preserves the values of an authentic Christian humanism. Seeing reality with the eyes of faith, we cannot fail to acknowledge what the Holy Spirit is sowing. It would show a lack of trust in his free and unstinting activity to think that authentic Christian values are absent where great numbers of people have received baptism and express their faith and solidarity with others in a variety of ways.
The immense importance of a culture marked by faith cannot be overlooked; before the onslaught of contemporary secularism an evangelized culture, for all its limits, has many more resources than the mere sum total of believers. An evangelized popular culture contains values of faith and solidarity capable of encouraging the development of a more just and believing society, and possesses a particular wisdom which ought to be gratefully acknowledged.
It is imperative to evangelize cultures in order to inculturate the Gospel. In countries of Catholic tradition, this means encouraging, fostering and reinforcing a richness which already exists. In countries of other religious traditions, or profoundly secularized countries, it will mean sparking new processes for evangelizing culture, even though these will demand long-term planning.
We must keep in mind, however, that we are constantly being called to grow. Each culture and social group needs purification and growth. In the case of the popular cultures of Catholic peoples, we can see deficiencies which need to be healed by the Gospel: Popular piety itself can be the starting point for healing and liberation from these deficiencies. It is also true that at times greater emphasis is placed on the outward expressions and traditions of some groups, or on alleged private revelations which would replace all else, than on the impulse of Christian piety.
Some people promote these expressions while not being in the least concerned with the advancement of society or the formation of the laity, and in certain cases they do so in order to obtain economic benefits or some power over others. Nor can we overlook the fact that in recent decades there has been a breakdown in the way Catholics pass down the Christian faith to the young.
It is undeniable that many people feel disillusioned and no longer identify with the Catholic tradition. Growing numbers of parents do not bring their children for baptism or teach them how to pray. There is also a certain exodus towards other faith communities. The causes of this breakdown include: The new Jerusalem, the holy city cf. We need to look at our cities with a contemplative gaze, a gaze of faith which sees God dwelling in their homes, in their streets and squares.
He dwells among them, fostering solidarity, fraternity, and the desire for goodness, truth and justice. This presence must not be contrived but found, uncovered. God does not hide himself from those who seek him with a sincere heart, even though they do so tentatively, in a vague and haphazard manner. In cities, as opposed to the countryside, the religious dimension of life is expressed by different lifestyles, daily rhythms linked to places and people. In their daily lives people must often struggle for survival and this struggle contains within it a profound understanding of life which often includes a deep religious sense.
We must examine this more closely in order to enter into a dialogue like that of our Lord and the Samaritan woman at the well where she sought to quench her thirst cf. New cultures are constantly being born in these vast new expanses where Christians are no longer the customary interpreters or generators of meaning. Instead, they themselves take from these cultures new languages, symbols, messages and paradigms which propose new approaches to life, approaches often in contrast with the Gospel of Jesus.
A completely new culture has come to life and continues to grow in the cities. The Synod noted that today the changes taking place in these great spaces and the culture which they create are a privileged locus of the new evangelization. Through the influence of the media, rural areas are being affected by the same cultural changes, which are significantly altering their way of life as well. What is called for is an evangelization capable of shedding light on these new ways of relating to God, to others and to the world around us, and inspiring essential values. It must reach the places where new narratives and paradigms are being formed, bringing the word of Jesus to the inmost soul of our cities.
Cities are multicultural; in the larger cities, a connective network is found in which groups of people share a common imagination and dreams about life, and new human interactions arise, new cultures, invisible cities. Various subcultures exist side by side, and often practise segregation and violence.