Renewal But Not Betrayal

Author: Pope Paul VI


Pope Paul VI

This week’s General Audience was held on Thursday, April 25 as it was a national holiday in Italy. St. Peter'sBasilica was crowded with pilgrims from many parts of Italy and also from other countries The Popetook as the theme of his discourse "Joy and Hope".

Beloved children:

Your visit fills Us with joy and hope. We can make Our own the words of the title of the famous Council Constitution: gaudium et spes. Joy because you are so numerous. Today St. Peter's is not large enough to hold Our visitors, to the extent that we are obliged to subdivide them into three separate audiences. This concourse of people is reason for joy. We see in it almost a biblical reflexion: "All these are gathered together, they are come to thee: thy sons shall come from afar, and thy daughters shall rise up at thy side. Then shalt thou see and abound, and thy heart shall wonder and be enlarged. " (Is. 60, 4-5).

There is something that transcends a tourist attraction in this gathering here today. You did not find it easy or comfortable, and it offers you nothing except the pleasant awareness of being here, that is, not merely at the geographical centre of the Church, but at the historical, visible, spiritual and mystical centre of its marvellous and moving unity. Here we have the tomb of the Apostle whom Christ chose as the foundation of His mysterious edifice, the Church. Here it is so pleasant to meet people from every country knowing they are all brethren, all believers united in the same faith and charity, i.e. all Catholics. You did not come here by chance, nor is your presence here something organised. You came here freely and spontaneously, not indeed to take part in or witness a show, but to pray and to hear what We had to say and to receive Our blessing. It is in circumstances such as these that we feel the insufficiency of Our human person and the greatness of Our title as Vicar of Christ. Therefore you are a source of great joy for Us. Never tiring of admiring the vision of Our pilgrims and Our visitors; we give thanks to the Lord with the words of David: "I have seen with great joy thy people which are here present, offer thee their offerings" (1 Par. 29, 17): the gifts of their faith and piety.

With joy there is hope—the hope that this presence will be worth much for the cause of the Kingdom of God, that is, that of Christ, of His Church and of yourselves. We shall tell you something which will make you reflect: We need you! You certainly have come here to make an act of faith, to give the Church proof of your filial devotion, to bear witness to your purpose of Christian life. We have great need of these spiritual gifts. We need your awakened Catholic conscience,your loyalty to the Holy Church of God. This seems obvious ad already proved by the religious devotion and by the sincerity of sentiments that brings you here. This is Our hope for you.

In many countries the Church, as you know, is going through troubled historical and spiritual times. It is a source of apprehension and fear to the pastors of the Church and to Us. The whole modern world is getting away from the sense of God, all taken up as it is by the wealth of its conquests in the scientific and technical field; not that this postulates the "death of God" as some have expressed it so unhappily, nor does it demand an atheistic attitude of mind far removed from all religion. This characteristic progress of the modern world would rather demand a more elevated, more penetrating and more adoring sense of the Divine, a religion more pure and alive reaching to the heights of human wisdom: not only, shall we say, for this widespread religious apostasy, but also and in relation to the sensitivity of those who have responsible positions in the Church, especially for the restlessness which troubles certain sectors of the Catholic world itself. It is not something unknown. After the Council the Church enjoyed, and is stillenjoying, a magnificent re-awakening that We are pleased to recognise and encourage. But the Church has suffered and is still suffering from ideas and facts that are certainly not in accordance withthe Holy Spirit, and give no promise of that vital renewal promoted and promised by the Council. An idea with a twofold meaning has made strides even in Catholic circles. This is the idea of change, which to, many has taken the place of the idea of "aggiornamento", presaged by Pope John of venerable memory.

In the face of the evidence and contrary to all justice they attribute to that most faithful Shepherd of the Church ideas, which are not ideas of reform, but which are even destructive of the teaching and discipline of the Church. There are many things that can be corrected and modified in Catholic life, many doctrines that can be studied more deeply, completed and expressed in more comprehensible terms, many rules that can be simplified and better adapted to the needs of our times. But there are two matters beyond argument; the truth of the Faith, authoritatively sanctioned by tradition and by the ecclesiastical magisterium, and the constitutional law of the Church. Obedience must be given to the ministry of pastoral government, that Christ established, and that the wisdom of the Church has developed and extended in the various members of the mystical and visible body of the Church, to guide and strengthen the many component parts that make up the People of God. Therefore: renewal, yes. Arbitrary change, no. History of the Church, ever living and new, yes. Historicism destructive of traditional dogma, no. Theological integration according to the teaching of the Council, yes. Theology deriving from arbitrary subjective theories often borrowed from hostile sources, no. A Church open to ecumenical charity, to responsible dialogue, to the recognition of Christian values among our separated brethren, yes. An irenic theology that betrays the truth of the Faith, and adopts certain negative principles which have contributed to the separation of so many Christians from the centre of unity of the Catholic communion, no. Religious liberty for all in civilized society, and liberty of personal adherence to religion according to the well- considered choice of the individual conscience, yes. Liberty of conscience as the criterion of religious truth, without reference to the authenticity of serious and authorized teaching, no. And so on.

Discernmentand loyalty

Therefore, dearest children, the Church today needs your discernment and your loyalty. And this is the hope that your visit brings to Us, to Our great consolation. The Church needs the clear-mindedness of her children, their loving and steady faithfulness. Have you come to Us with clear ideas of the renewal of life within the Church, dear children? Have you brought Us the great, the precious, the dearest gift of your fidelity? This is Our fatherly hope. And so, with Our heart full of joy and hope, We bless you with all Our heart.  

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
2 May 1968, page 1

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