15-February-2013 -- Vatican Information Service |

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Benedict XVI: Joy of the Council

Vatican City, 15 February 2013 (VIS) - Following are ample extracts from the Holy Father's warm and friendly chat yesterday with the clergy of Rome, which was held in the Paul VI Hall.

"We went to the Council not just with joy, but enthusiastically. There was an incredible expectation. We hoped that everything would be renewed, that a new Pentecost, a new era in the Church, had truly arrived, ... rediscovering the bond between the Church and the world's best elements, to open humanity's future, to begin real progress. We began to get to know one another ... and it was an experience of the Church's universality and of the Church's concrete reality, which wasn't limited to receiving orders from on high but of growing and advancing together, under the direction of the Successor of Peter naturally." The questions put to the Council Fathers dealt with "the reform of the liturgy, ... ecclesiology, ... the Word of God, Revelation, ... and, finally, ecumenism."

"In retrospect, I think that it was very good to begin with the liturgy, showing God's primacy, the primacy of adoration. ... The Council spoke of God and this was its first act: speaking of God and opening everything to the people, opening the adoration of God to the entire holy people, in the common celebration of the liturgy of the Body and Blood of Christ. ... The principles came later: comprehensibility, so as not to be locked in an unknown and unspoken language, and active participation. Unfortunately, sometimes these principles are misunderstood. Comprehensibility does not mean triviality because the great texts of the liturgy?even when they are, thanks be to God, in one's mother tongue?are not easily understandable. Ongoing formation is necessary for Christians to grow and enter more deeply into the mystery so they might understand."

"The second theme: the Church. ... We wanted to say and to understand that the Church is not an organization, not just some structural, legal, or institutional thing?which it also is?but an organism, a living reality that enters into my soul and that I myself, with my very soul, as a believer, am a constitutive element of the Church as such. ... The Church isn't a structure. We ourselves, Christians together, we are the living Body of the Church. Of course, this is true in the sense that we, the true 'we' of believers, together with the 'I' of Christ, are the Church; each one of us is not 'a we' but a group that calls itself Church."

"The first idea was to present the ecclesiology in a theological format, but continuing structurally, that is to say, alongside the succession of Peter, in its unique role, to better define the role of bishops and the episcopal body. In order to do this we found that the word 'collegiality' was very intensely debated, somewhat exaggeratedly I would say. But it was the word ... to express that the bishops, together, are the continuation of the Twelve, of the group of Apostles. We said: only one bishop, the bishop of Rome, is the successor of the particular apostle, Peter ... Thus the group of Bishops, the College, is the continuation of the Twelve and has its needs, its role, its rights, and its duties."

"Another question in the ecclesiastical sphere was the definition of the concept of the 'people of God', which implies the continuity of the Testaments, the continuity of the history of God with the world, with humanity, and also implies the 'Christological element'. Only through Christology are we converted into the People of God and thus two concepts are united. The council decided to create a Trinitarian structure to the ecclesiology: the People of God the Father, the Body of Christ, and the Temple of the Holy Spirit. ... The link between the People of God and the Body of Christ is, effectively, communion with Christ in the Eucharistic union. Thus we become the Body of Christ, that is, the relationship between the People of God and the Body of Christ creates a new reality: communion."

"On the question regarding Revelation, the fulcrum was the relationship between Scripture and Tradition. ... Certainly, what is important is that the Scriptures are the Word of God and the Church is subject to the Scriptures, obeys the Word of God, and is not above Scripture. Nevertheless, the Scriptures are only such because there is a living Church, its living subject. Without the living subject of the Church, Scripture is only a book open to different interpretations and gives no definitive clarity." In this sense, "Pope Paul VI's intervention was decisive," with his proposal of the formula "nos omnis certitudo de veritatibus fidei potest sumi ex Sacra Scriptura", that is, "the Church's certainty on the faith is not only born of an isolated book, but needs the enlightened subject of the Church, which brings the Holy Spirit. Only thus can Scripture speak and from this springs all its authority."

"And, finally, ecumenism. I don't want to go into these problems now, but it was obvious that?especially after the 'passion' of Christians during the age of Nazism?that Christians could find unity, or could at least look for it, but it was also clear that only God can give unity. And we are still continuing along this path."

"The second part of the Council was much broader. The theme, arising with great urgency, was today's world, the modern age and the Church, and with it issues of the responsibility of the construction of this world, of society, responsibility for the future of this world and eschatological hope; Christian ethical responsibility ... as well as religious freedom, progress, and relations with other religions. At that time, the entire Council, not just the United States, whose people are very concerned with religious freedom, really joined in the discussion ... Latin America also joined in strongly, knowing the misery of the people of a Catholic continent and the responsibility of the faith for the situation of these persons. And thus Africa, Asia likewise saw the need for interreligious dialogue. ... The great document 'Gaudium et Spes' analysed the problem between Christian eschatology and worldly progress, including the responsibility of tomorrow's society and Christian responsibilities in the face of eternity, and also the renewal of Christian ethics. ... The basis for dialogue is in difference, in diversity, in the faith of the uniqueness of Christ who is one, and it is not possible for a believer to think that religions are variations on the same theme. No. There is a reality of the living God who has spoken and who is one God, an incarnate God, therefore one word of God who is truly the Word of God. But there is also a religious experience, with a certain human light on creation, and therefore it is necessary and possible to enter into dialogue and so to open oneself to others and to open all to God peace, all His children, all His family."

"I would like to add still a third point... the Council of the media. It was almost a Council itself and the world saw the Council through it. The 'Council of the journalists', of course was not carried out within the faith but within the categories of today's media. That is to say, it was outside of the faith, with a different hermeneutic ... a political hermeneutic. For the media, the Council was a political struggle, a power struggle between the Church's different strands. ... There was a triple problem: the Pope's power transferred to the power of the bishops and to the power of all: popular sovereignty. The same thing happened with the liturgy. They were not interested in the liturgy as an act of faith but as something where things are made understandable, a type of communal activity. ... These translations, the trivialization of the idea of the Council were virulent in the practice of applying liturgical reform; a vision of the Council outside of its proper interpretation, that of faith, was born."

"We know that this Council of the media was accessible to all. Thus it was the dominant one, the most efficient one, and it created a lot of calamities, problems, and misfortunes. ... The true Council found it difficult to make its thought concrete and actual. The virtual Council was stronger than the real council. But the Council's strength was present and, little by little, it became more and more actual, becoming the true force that is, after true reform, the Church's true renewal. It seems to me that, after 50 years, we see how the virtual Council has broken down, been lost, and the authentic Council appears in all its spiritual strength."

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