Vatican City, 25 June 2014 (VIS) – This morning in St. Peter's Square the Holy Father, in his general audience, continued to speak about the People of God, a theme that he began to explore last Wednesday. Today he highlighted the importance for a Christian of belonging to this people, and reiterated that we are not isolated Christians. “Belonging is our identity”, he said. “We are Christians because we belong to the Church. It is like a surname: if our name is 'I am Christian', our surname is 'I belong to the Church'.
“No-one becomes a Christian alone; we must think first, with gratitude, of all those who have preceded us”, he continued. “If we believe, if we pray, if we know the Lord and are able to listen to His Word, we feel close to Him and recognise Him in our brethren, and because others before us have lived faith and transmitted it to us, have taught us. The Church is a family in which one is welcomed and learns to live as believers and disciples of the Lord Jesus”. The Pope explained that this is a path that one may undertake not thanks to others, but rather united with others, and emphasised that a “do-it-yourself Church” does not exist.
“How many times did Benedict XVI describe the Church as an ecclesiastical 'we'? Often we hear people say, 'I believe in God, I believe in Jesus, but I am not interested in the Church...”. There are those who believe they can have a personal relationship, direct and immediate, with Jesus Christ removed from communion and the mediation of the Church. They are dangerous and damaging temptations. They are, as the great Paul VI said, absurd dichotomies. It is true that to walk together is challenging and difficult. … But the Lord has entrusted his message of salvation to human beings, to all all of us, as witnesses; and it is in our brothers and sisters, with their gifts and their limits, that it comes towards us and is revealed to us. And this is what belonging to the Church means. Remember: being Christian means belonging to the Church”.
Before concluding, the Pope asked that the Lord, by the intercession of the Virgin Mary, might grant us the grace never to give in to the temptation to think we can do without other people, that we can do without the Church and save ourselves alone, that we can be 'laboratory Christians'. On the contrary, it is not possible to love God without loving one's brethren, it is not possible to love God outside the Church; it is not possible to be in communion with God without being in communion with the Church, and we cannot be good Christians other than by staying together with those who follow the Lord Jesus, as one people, a single body”.
Following his catechesis, the Pope greeted a delegation from the Bethlehem University, the first university founded in the West Bank and inspired by the principles of the schools established by the De La Salle Christian brothers, which celebrates its fortieth anniversary this year. He gave special thanks to them for their “laudable academic activity in support of the Palestinian people”.