A ZENIT DAILY DISPATCH

Church as "Mystery" or "People of God"

Cardinal Ratzinger Against Much Post-Conciliar Theology on Church

VATICAN CITY 26 JUL 1999 (ZENIT).

Since its creation, the meaning and role of the Church has been one of the most debated topics both within and outside the Catholic world. The Pontifical Salesian University has just published a book entitled "Dilexit Ecclesiam," which is Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's contribution to the debate. Cardinal Ratzinger is prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The Cardinal wrote: "Sadly, the Council's view [of the Church] has not been kept in mind by a good part of post-Conciliar theology, and has been replaced by an idea of the 'people of God' that, in not a few cases, is almost banal, reducing it to an a-theological and purely sociological view."

"This banalization of the Church is combined with a reduced and politicized Christology," noted the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. "Thus, for many, the Church is a human invention, an institution created by the Christian community, which could easily be reorganized according to the needs of the historical and cultural variables of the time. The message is precisely to recover the persuasion of faith that the Church is not ours, but the Lord's; to reconstitute a truly Catholic climate means to want to understand once again the meaning of the Church as Church of the Lord, as a place of the presence of the mystery of God and the Lord resurrected in the world."

Ratzinger explained that "this ecclesiastical truth in a certain sense was 'brought back to light' during the first half of our century, the result of enthusiastic reflection by numerous theologians, among whom were the exemplary and significant figures of thinkers like Casel, Guardini, De Lubac, Journet, and Congar. Later, Pius XII's encyclical 'Mystici Corporis,' confirmed the mysterious dimension of the Church. Making use of these antecedents, Vatican Council II put the reality of the 'mystery' at the center and heart of the ecclesiastical doctrine, exploring the 'divine plan' with eyes of faith. This plan was proposed and contemplated for the Church from all eternity and destined to be fulfilled historically and visibly. Vatican Council II's dogmatic constitution 'Lumen Gentium' is the authorized synthesis and fruit of this ecclesiastical rebirth of the preceding decades. The Church's dependence on the divine mystery -- the Christological mystery -- appears in the very first lines of the text, which refer to Christ's light shining on the Church's countenance."

Cardinal Ratzinger went on to say that "the idea of Jesus Christ, of his plan for salvation, of the image of man, of the interpretation of history, is reflected in the understanding of the Church."

"A decoration in the right side of the nave of the Norman Cathedral of Monreal [Sicily] is known as the picture of 'Jesus walking on the waters.' The mosaic expresses Jesus' love and tenderness toward his disciples, reflected in the figure of Peter," the Cardinal explained. "Because of the wind, Peter was filled with fear and about to drown in the Sea of Galilee. He calls on the Master's help, expressing his love and trust in Jesus and Jesus saves him, as he will save all the other disciples."

"The message and symbolism of the mosaic must be understood in light of the Apostle Paul's expression 'dilexit Ecclesiam,' which can be interpreted by the text that follows immediately after: 'And you, husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved his Church [dilexit Ecclesiam] and gave himself up for her to make her holy.' Jesus' initiative of love toward the disciples in difficulty on the sea is expressed in the Pauline text as an initiative of love for the whole Church. It is about sacrificial love because Christ gave his life, dying on the Cross, to make his Church holy. The meaning and importance of the message depicted in the mosaic are obvious." Therefore, Cardinal Ratzinger emphasized: "The Church is not just a human institution; because of its divine origin it is, above all, a 'mystery.' " ZE99072604

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