During his catechesis at the General Audience with pilgrims in St Peter's Square today, Pope Francis reflected on how the first Christians resolved their differences at the Council of Jerusalem, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
The Book of Acts, he said. recounts the long journey of the Word of God. This journey began after a strong persecution. During this persecution, Christians were forced to flee, taking the Word with them, rather than being discouraged from evangelising.
Amongst those fleeing persecution were Paul and Barnabas, who took the Word of the Gospel to the Jewish community of Antioch in Syria.
"The book of Acts reveals the nature of the Church," said the Pope. He explained that she is "not a stronghold, but a tent, capable of widening her space" so that all may enter.
The Church is "outgoing", continued the Pope. She is either walking and expanding "or she is not Church."
The Pope then used the example of certain churches he has seen both in Rome and in Buenos Aires in Argentina with their doors closed, describing it as a "bad sign", because the Church's doors must be always open.
Pope Francis then went on to explain that these "open doors" are the cause of some controversy, because many people ask themselves 'open to whom?'
The Pope recalled that some of the Jews who had converted stressed the necessity to perform ancient Jewish rituals, such as circumcision, before baptism "in order to be saved."
Therefore, Paul goes to Jerusalem to consult with Peter and James, who were considered the 'columns' of the early Christian Church. At the Council of Jerusalem, the Apostles find a middle way, saying that non-Jewish members are not required to be circumcised but must reject idolatry and all its expressions.
Pope Francis said this way of addressing differences offers us a key to resolving conflict. "It reminds us that the ecclesial method of resolving conflicts is based on dialogue through careful and patient listening and discernment in the light of the Spirit," said the Pope.
Finally, Pope Francis invited the faithful gathered to live in dialogue, listening and encounter in faith, with our brothers and sisters around the world.
The official English-language summary of Pope Francis' words follows below:
Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles, we now consider Saint Paul's first missionary journey. Following a fierce persecution, Paul and Barnabas - prompted by the Holy Spirit - set off to spread the Gospel abroad. As a result, the Good News was also preached to the Gentiles. This initially caused a lively controversy, as to whether a strict adherence to the Mosaic Law was required of these converts. To discern God's will in these matters, the Apostles gathered in Jerusalem, and came to a new and shared understanding. The Council of Jerusalem shows us that the way of resolving issues among Christians is an attentive listening to others, yet always under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Let us pray that God will strengthen in us the desire to embrace the path of dialogue, and to listen patiently to one another, and to the voice of the Lord.
The Pope also greeted the various English-speaking groups present at the Audience:
I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today's Audience, especially the groups from England, Hungary, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Indonesia, Israel, Malaysia, the Philippines, and the United States of America. Upon all of you, and your families, I invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ. May God bless you!
Source: Vatican News
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