Every effort to weaken Ebola
· At the General Audience the Pope makes an appeal to the international community in the face of the worsening epidemic ·
The Pope is close in love and prayer to those struck by ebola and to those who are “working heroically to help our ill brothers and sisters”. At the General Audience on 29 October, Francis returned to express his “deep concern about this relentless disease that is spreading especially on the African continent, especially among the more disadvantaged groups”. He called on the International Community to find effective measures to alleviate those so sorely tried by the epidemic. In his catechesis the Holy Father spoke of the immeasurable mystery that is the Church, the body of Christ. His message was one of hope. Even “the visible reality of the Church cannot measurable, cannot be known in her fullness: how can we know all the good that is done? So many works of love, so much fidelity in families, so much toil to educate children, to transmit the faith, so much suffering among the sick who offer their suffering up to the Lord”. The following is a translation of the Pope’s catechesis which was delivered in Italian.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In preceding catecheses we showed how the Church has a spiritual nature: it is the body of Christ, built up by the Holy Spirit. When we refer to the Church, however, the mind immediately turns to our communities, our parishes, our dioceses, to the structures where we usually gather and, obviously, to the more institutional components and figures who administer, who govern her.
This is the most visible reality of the Church. We must ask ourselves, then: are these two different things or the one single Church? And, if it is one single Church, how should we understand the relationship between the visible reality and the spiritual?
1. First of all, when we speak of the visible reality of the Church, we shouldn’t just think of the Pope, Bishops, priests, sisters and all the consecrated people. The visible reality of the Church is made up of the many baptized brothers and sisters who, in the world, believe, hope and love. But many times we hear: "But, the Church doesn’t do this, The Church does not do something else...” — “But, tell me, who is the Church?" — “They are the priests, the bishops, the Pope...” — the Church is us all, us! All baptized persons are the Church, Jesus' Church. Made up of: all those who follow the Lord Jesus and who, in his name, come close to the least and the suffering, seeking to offer a little relief, comfort and peace: all those who do what the Lord commanded of us are the Church. We understand also, then, that the visible reality of the Church is not measurable, she cannot be known in her fullness: how can we know all the good that is done? So many works of love, so much fidelity in families, so much effort to educate children, to transmit the faith, so much suffering among the sick who offer their suffering up to the Lord.... But this cannot be measured and it is so very great! How can we know all the marvels that, through us, Christ manages to work in the heart and life of every person? You see: even the visible reality of the Church is beyond our control, beyond our power, and it is a mysterious reality because it comes from God.
Dear brothers and sisters, often as Church we experience our own weakness and of our limits. We all have them. We are all sinners. None of us can say: “I’m not a sinner”. If someone among us feels that he is not a sinner, raise your hand. We are all. And this weakness, these limitations, these sins of ours... it is right that they stir great sorrow in us, especially when we give a bad example and we notice we have to become a source of scandal. How many times have we heard in the neighbourhood: “That person there is always going to the Church but he/she slanders everyone...”. This is not Christian, it is a bad example: it is a sin. And this is how we give a bad example: “and, in short, if this person or that is a Christian, then I shall become an atheist”. Our witness is to make others understand what it means to be Christian. Let us ask not be a source of scandal. Let us ask for the gift of faith, so that we can understand how, despite our smallness and our poverty, the Lord has made us a true vehicle of grace and a visible sign of his love for all humanity. We can become a cause of scandal, yes. But we can also become a cause of witness, by saying with our life what Jesus wants of us.
In the face of the worsening Ebola epidemic, I would like to express my deep concern about this relentless disease that is spreading especially on the African continent, especially among the more disadvantaged groups. I am close with love and prayer to those stricken, as well as to the doctors, nurses, volunteers, religious institutes and associations, who are working heroically to help our ill brothers and sisters. I renew my appeal that the International Community exert all necessary effort to weaken this virus, effectively alleviating the hardship and suffering of all those so sorely tried. I invite you to pray for them and for those who have lost their lives.
I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, including the various groups from the United Kingdom, Ireland, Sweden, Denmark, Nigeria, India, Canada and the United States of America. Upon all of you, and your families, I invoke joy and peace in the Lord Jesus. God bless you all!
Lastly I address a special thought to young people, to the sick and to newlyweds. As we approach the Solemnity of All Saints. Dear young people, look to the Saints as models for your life; dear sick people, offer your suffering for those who are in need of conversion; and you, dear newlyweds, attend to the growth of faith in your marriage home.
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