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Local Churches have a missionary task

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Church
General Audience, Wednesday 14 June 1995 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. The Church was founded by Jesus Christ as one and universal. As we have seen in previous catecheses, these two dimensions are based on the will of Jesus Christ himself. Nevertheless the Acts of the Apostles and the epistles show that the local churches were formed within the one, universal Church through the work of the apostles or their co-workers, and afterward by their successors. Thus a distinction appears between the universal Church entrusted to the apostles under the guidance of Peter, and the local churches with their own pastors. We recall that of Jerusalem, to which elders were appointed (cf. Acts 11:30) with James (cf. Acts 12:17; 21:18; that of Antioch, with prophets and doctors, and the other communities in which Paul and Barnabas were "elders" (cf. Acts 14:23; 20:17) or "guardians" (cf. Acts 20:28).

2. The composition of the one Church in a plurality of local churches corresponds to Christ's institution. It is also in conformity with the sociological and psychological law of her localization and coexistence in local communities in which links remain strong and fruitful. At the religious and Christian level, the existence of the local churches is essential to the universal Church's life. Christ's disciples need communities where they can live the Gospel, which is identical for all, in conformity with their specific culture.

The Second Vatican Council recalls that the Church's two dimensions do not contradict one another. The universal Church subsists in the local churches, while they express the universal character of the Catholic Church in their life as individual communities. "Within the Church particular churches hold a rightful place; these churches retain their own traditions, without in any way opposing the primacy of the Chair of Peter, which presides over the whole assembly of charity" (LG 13).

3. Yet a third principle governs the mission of the local churches within the universal Church: that of the inculturation of the Good News. Evangelization takes place not only through its adaptation to the cultural expressions of the various peoples, but also through a vital integration of the Gospel into their thought, values, customs and prayer, thanks to research and respect for the core of truth, which can more or less be openly found there. This is the concept explained in Redemptoris Missio (cf. n. 52), in harmony with previous documents of the papal Magisterium and the Council, following the logic of the Incarnation.

The Incarnation is the model for every evangelization of culture. Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word, came into the world to redeem all humanity and to be "Lord of all" (Acts 10:36). Nonetheless, he was a part of and lived the religious tradition of Israel (cf. Lk 2:22-24, 39, 41; Mt 4:23; 17:27). He brought it to fulfillment however, in accordance with a new form of covenant which he inaugurated by surpassing some elements of the old law, as the New Testament writings state (cf. Mt 5:17-20; 15:1-6; Rom 8:1-4; Gal 4:4). However, Jesus also thought and spoke of the "other sheep" whom he, as the one shepherd, wanted to lead back to the one fold (cf. Jn 10:6). Further, St. Paul, called by Christ to be the "apostle to the Gentiles" (Rom 11:13; cf. Rom 1:5), established that the new Christians in "all the churches" should remain in the state in which they were at the time of their conversion (cf. 1 Cor 7:17, 20, 24). In other words, they were not to adopt the cultural practices of the Jews, but were to continue in their own culture and live their Christian faith within it.

4. This explains and justifies why Christian culture and civilization accepted the contributions of even pagan cultures and religious traditions belonging to peoples or nations foreign to Israel, but for which the spirituality of the Old Testament prepared the ground. This is a historical reality that should be considered in its profound religious dimension. The Gospel message, in its essence as the revelation of God through the life and teaching of Christ, should be presented to different cultures by fostering the development of the seeds, longings, expectations--it could be said, almost the presentiments of Gospel values--already present within them. Consequently a transformation can take place which does not result in the loss of peoples' cultural identity. On the contrary, precisely because this is a message of divine origin, it tends to enhance the local culture. It stimulates it and encourages it to yield new fruits at the highest level to which Christ's presence brings it, with the grace of the Holy Spirit and the light of the Gospel.

5. In fact this is an arduous undertaking and a "difficult process," as we read in the Encyclical Redemptoris Missio , "for it must in no way compromise the distinctiveness and integrity of the Christian faith" (n. 52). It will never be admissible to give up part of Christian teaching so that the truth proposed may be more easily assimilated. It will never be possible to embrace customs that contradict the decisions of the Gospel.

It would be an illusion to attempt a harmonization that would introduce foreign elements from other religions into Christ's teaching. This would be mere religious syncretism, an unacceptable solution. Instead, a true and elevating transformation is necessary. When it happens, it renews the cultures that receive Christian revelation and wish to be nourished by its life-giving content.

In this way, original expressions of Christian teaching and experiences of life can be produced, the variety of which is an enrichment for the universal Church. Thanks to inculturation in the local church, "The universal Church herself is enriched with forms of expression and values in the various sectors of Christian life, such as evangelization, worship, theology and charitable works. She comes to know and to express better the mystery of Christ, all the while being motivated to continual renewal" (RM 52). Rightly understood and carried out, inculturation expresses better the meaning of the Church's universality. This takes up and assimilates all cultural manifestations, as it accepts and incorporates all human realities in order to sanctify and transform them according to the plan of God.

In the particular churches that arise and develop in areas where the Gospel is preached, this work can and must be carried out as a valid and fruitful missionary task. The criterion everyone must follow is that in every culture it is possible to find and to discern authentic values, but in none is there absolute truth nor an infallible rule of life or prayer.

Thus it is necessary to recognize these values, as the Fathers already did in the first centuries with Greek and Latin culture, and then, gradually, with those of the peoples evangelized. Today, too, the local churches are called to exercise their missionary vocation in fostering the meeting between the Gospel and cultures, in order to achieve the unity and universality of God's family."

After the Catechesis, Papa Giovanni Paolo II greeted the pilgrims in various languages

Ai pellegrini di espressione tedesca

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder!

Nach dieser kurzen Betrachtung grüe ich Euch, liebe deutschsprachige Pilger und Besucher, sehr herzlich und wünsche Euch allen, Euch der besonderen Sendung der Kirche in Eurem Land bewut zu werden. Einen besonderen Gru richte ich an den Gesangverein aus Lachen–Neustadt in der Diözese Speyer sowie an den gemischten Chor aus Grandvillard in der Schweiz; ich danke für die Darbietungen.

Euch allen, Euren Lieben zu Hause sowie den mit uns über Radio Vatikan und das Fernsehen verbundenen Gläubigen erteile ich von Herzen meinen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai fedeli polacchi

Witam serdecznie pielgrzymów z Polski, wszystkich, których poprzednio już o. Konrad wymienił. W szczególności witam reprezentację Uniwersytetu Opolskiego i Wydziału Teologicznego tegoż Uniwersytetu. Ponadto pozdrawiam: z Krakowa – parafię św. Szczepana, duszpasterstwo lotników, z Libiaża – parafię Przemienienia Pańskiego, z Chrzanowa – parafię św. Mikołaja oraz Stowarzyszenie Rodzin Katolickich, duszpasterstwo księży pallotynów i parafię polsko–niemiecka św. Piotra z Dilingen. Witam grupy: z Ożarowa, Warszawy, Nowego Sącza, Gorzowa Wielkopolskiego, Miechowa, Bydgoszczy, Biłgoraja, Torunia, Grudziądza, Białegostoku, Bytomia, Lublina, Jeleniej Góry, Gdyni i Przasnysza.

...Pragnę w sposób szczególny uwydatnić to, że spotykamy się w przeddzień Bożego Ciała. Jutro w Polsce jest święto. Ruszają procesje eucharystyczne z wszystkich kościołów, kaplic i katedr. Ja sam pamiętam, ile w przeszłości musiałem się nawalczyć o to, ażeby procesja wawelska mogła wyruszyć z katedry na Rynek. I nie doczekałem się tego. Doczekał się mój następca. Ale teraz cieszę się z tego, że na ten Rynek wyruszaja. Jutro będa też na pewno czcili Pana Jezusa Eucharystycznego na Rynku głównym i na ulicach miasta Krakowa.

Ai pellegrini di espressione francese

Chers frères et sœurs,

Je souhaite la bienvenue aux pèlerins de langue française. Je salue en particulier les Sœurs de Marie Réparatrice ainsi que le groupe de pèlerins venus de l’Ile Maurice, la communauté du Verbe de vie d’Aubazine et tous les jeunes ici présents.

Dans la force de l’Esprit, que le Seigneur vous guide chaque jour vers Lui! Persévérez dans la prière, mes chers amis, et restez fermes dans la foi!

Que Dieu vous garde et qu’Il vous bénisse!

Ai fedeli di lingua inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am pleased to greet the international group of Benedictine monks visiting Rome for a programme of monastic renewal.

Upon all the English–speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially those from Ireland, India, Sri Lanka, Singapore and the United States, I cordially invoke the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ai pellegrini di espressione spagnola

Queridos hermanos y hermanas,

Saludo ahora cordialmente a los peregrinos de España y América Latina. En especial, al grupo de Frailes Franciscanos Menores, a las Religiosas de María Inmaculada, a la Coral infantil “Viva la Música” de Colombia, a los peregrinos de la Diócesis de Santa Cruz de Bolivia, así como a los demás grupos de Argentina, México, Colombia y España. A todos os exhorto a cultivar un profundo amor por vuestras Iglesias locales y una generosa apertura misionera a las necesidades de la Iglesia universal. Con estos sentimientos, os imparto de corazón la Bendición Apostólica.

Ai fedeli di lingua portoghese

Caríssimos Irmãos e Irmãs de língua portuguesa,

Saúdo, com votos de felicidades, paz e graça no Senhor, quantos me escutam. Em particular, os diversos grupos de Brasileiros: o “Grupo de Servos da Rainha”; o grupo de “Renovação do Espírito” de Cachoeira Paulista; e diversos peregrinos provenientes do Rio de Janeiro e de São Paulo. E os Portugueses provindos de Fátima. A todos desejo boa estada em Roma e que Deus vos abençoe!

Ai visitatori nipponici

Cari pellegrini del Collegio S. Paolo di Tokyo, voi, giovani studenti, siete la speranza nel futuro. Imparate da S. Paolo il vero scopo della vostra vita e del vostro studio.

Prego per voi, maestri dei giovani, affinché siate colmi di grazie del Signore in abbondanza. Rendiamo grazie a Dio!

Ai fedeli di lingua italiana

Porgo un cordiale benvenuto ai pellegrini di lingua italiana, in particolare ai Sacerdoti novelli della Diocesi di Brescia, qui presenti con i loro familiari. Mentre a questi esprimo compiacimento per il dono fatto alla Chiesa, auguro ai neo-presbiteri di conformare tutta la loro esistenza a Cristo Buon Pastore. Accolgo con gioia anche gli studenti di diversi paesi dell’Africa, dell’America Latina e dell’Asia, e benedico di cuore il loro impegno catechistico.

* * *

Saluto poi i fedeli di Massa d’Albe, Diocesi di Avezzano, in occasione del secondo centenario della Madonna “del Fulmine”. E accolgo con affetto il gruppo di cittadini dello Sri Lanka, che lavorano nella zona di Napoli, accompagnati dal loro Cappellano e dai familiari.

 * * *

Saluto inoltre i partecipanti all’Assemblea generale dell’Unione Nazionale Costruttori Macchine Agricole, ed esprimo apprezzamento per la decisione di destinare, in occasione del 50° di fondazione, macchine ed attrezzature in favore di paesi del terzo mondo.

Ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli

Rivolgo ora un pensiero ai giovani, ai malati e agli sposi novelli, ispirato alla prossima festa del “Corpus Domini”, che celebra l’Eucaristia, centro e fonte della vita della Chiesa.

Cari giovani, e particolarmente voi, carissimi bambini, che avete fatto quest’anno la vostra Prima Comunione: accostatevi con frequenza e con devozione a Gesù, Pane di vita che dona forza, luce e gioia, ed Egli diventerà la sorgente dei vostri pensieri, delle vostre scelte e delle vostre azioni. Voi, cari malati, unite spiritualmente le vostre sofferenze al Corpo e al Sangue del Signore, e troverete costante consolazione e conforto. E per voi, cari sposi novelli, l’Eucaristia, espressione massima dell’amore di Dio per l’uomo, sia il modello del vostro amore che mai vien meno e che si dona con gratuità.

L’esortazione ad essere testimoni di pace, araldi di speranza e costruttori della civiltà dell’amore viene rivolta da Giovanni Paolo II ai partecipanti alla “Staffetta della Pace” convenuti in Piazza San Pietro questo pomeriggio.
Questo il saluto del Santo Padre. 

Cari amici della “Staffetta della pace”, benvenuti in Piazza San Pietro! Vi saluto tutti cordialmente. Siete partiti dal Santuario di Pompei e vi dirigete a quello di Loreto, alla Santa Casa, di cui celebriamo quest’anno il settimo centenario. Avete voluto così congiungere i due Santuari che rappresentano in maniera significativa la fede e la cultura cristiana del popolo italiano, per elevare una speciale invocazione alla Vergine, Regina della Pace, in questo nostro tempo ancora segnato, purtroppo, da non pochi focolai di guerra.

Vi accompagnano numerosi ragazzi, giovani, dirigenti sportivi e atleti disabili. Insieme volete esprimere la volontà di onorare la Vergine Maria attraverso una manifestazione ricca di contenuti religiosi, culturali e sportivi, tesi a favorire lo sviluppo della persona umana secondo il disegno d’amore di Dio Creatore.

La vostra Staffetta porta il nome della pace e vuol essere un segno ed insieme un invito alla fraternità, all’unità e alla solidarietà tra gli individui e tra i popoli. Siate testimoni di pace; siate araldi di speranza e costruttori della civiltà dell’amore. Sia questo il vostro impegno sostenuto da costante ed intensa preghiera, alla quale unisco la mia. Possiate essere degni missionari della pace nel vasto mondo dello sport, affinché lo sport diventi sempre più tempo e luogo di fraternità, di festa e di pace.

A tutti la mia Benedizione!

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