Pope urges balance between personal faith and community

While personal faith in Jesus is essential in a Christian's life, Jesus also came to gather his disciples into a new people of God - the community of the church, Pope Benedict XVI said.

Catholic News Service reports that the pope said yesterday at his weekly general audience: "A slogan in vogue a few years ago, 'Jesus, yes; the church, no,' is completely irreconcilable with the intention of Christ".

The audience, held in St Peter's Square, marked the beginning of a series of audience talks on "The Mystery of Christ and his Church."

"In the catechesis that begins today, I want to demonstrate how the light of Christ's face is reflected in the face of the church, despite the limits and shadows of our fragile and sinful humanity," the pope said.

Pope Benedict criticised the "individualistic interpretation" of Christ's ministry espoused by "liberal theologians" such as the late German theologian Adolf von Harnack.

The idea of von Harnack that Jesus' mission is addressed only to individuals, he said, "is a typically modern" interpretation of relationships and does not fit in with the biblical description of God establishing a covenant with an entire people and sending Jesus to establish a new covenant and save all humanity.

Setting aside his prepared text, the pope said, "this individualistic Jesus is a Jesus of fantasy. We cannot have Jesus without the reality (of the church) he created and through which he communicates himself."

Even if Jesus' preaching "always was an appeal to personal conversion, he constantly aimed at the formation of the people of God which he came to gather, unify and save," the pope said.

"Christ is present today among his people, especially through those who are the successors of the apostles," the pope said. "And his continuing presence in the community is a motive for our joy."

Pope says personal faith is essential, but so is church community (Catholic News Service 15/3/06)

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16 Mar 2006