Pope says Christian community needs commitment to Gospel

The love and unity that are essential marks of a truly Christian community cannot endure without a strong commitment to truth and fidelity to the Gospel, Benedict XVI said.

According to Catholic News Service the pope said at his weekly general audience that those who believe in Christ and want to live in communion with his church have "a precise obligation" to "interrupt communion with those who have moved themselves away from the doctrine that saves."

Differences and divisions have marked the history of the church since its beginning, he said, "and we should not be surprised that it exists today as well."

Preserving the unity of the church requires a firm commitment to loving others and to holding fast to the truth, the pope said during an audience talk marked by repeated departures from his prepared text.

"Truth and love are two sides of the same gift that comes from God and is preserved in the church thanks to the apostolic ministry," he said.

With some 30,000 people gathered in a windblown St Peter's Square, Pope Benedict explained that, while the church was born of the Holy Spirit and lives by the Spirit's grace, Jesus also gave the church a structure with the apostles and their successors, the bishops, to be "authentic custodians and witnesses of the deposit of truth."

The First Letter of John, he said, contains the Bible's strongest admonition about the obligation of believers to love one another, but it also "addresses with drastic severity those adversaries who were once members of the community, but are no longer."

"The family of the children of God, in order to live in unity and peace, need someone who safeguards them in truth and guides them with wise and authoritative discernment," the pope said.

The bishops are called to protect and promote the truth while also serving as "ministers of love - they always must be aware of the inseparability of this double service of truth and love," he said.

Pope Benedict ended his main talk in Italian by asking his audience to pray for their bishops and for him, asking God to ensure that through their ministry "the light of truth and love will never be extinguished in the church and the world."

Photo credit: Stefano Spaziani

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6 Apr 2006