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Vatican II did not create a new Church, Pope reminds audience

March 10, 2010

At his public audience on March 10, Pope Benedict XVI argued that the Church remains the same throughout history. While new movements and reforms frequently arise, he said, they are born out of the heart of the same Church. "The uniqueness of Christ is also a guarantee of novelty and renewal in the future," he said.

The Pope's address to the weekly audience continued the reflections on St. Bonaventure that he had begun the previous Wednesday. In this second talk, the Holy Father concentrated on St. Bonaventure's response to Joachim of Fiore and the "spiritual" Franciscans, who had taught that a new phase of history was beginning, in which the Church hierarchy would disappear and the enlightened faithful would be guided only by the Holy Spirit.

St. Bonaventure opposed that error, the Pope observed, and in rebutting it he upheld the true teaching of St. Francis of Assisi. The faithful should not follow radical new teachings, but should recognize that "there is no other Gospel, no other Church to be awaited." The Franciscans, St. Bonaventure insisted, should work within the structure of the hierarchical Church.

Genuine reform always follows the same pattern, working with the Church rather than seeking to replace it, the Pope said. But he pointed out that the temptation to conceive an entirely new institution endures today. Pope Benedict said:

Following Vatican Council II some people were convinced that all was new, that a new Church existed, that the pre-conciliar Church had come to an end and that there would be another, completely different Church, an anarchic utopia.
Pope John Paul II was a powerful force against that interpretation of the Council, Pope Benedict observed; the late Pontiff"on the one hand defended the novelty of the Council and at the same time, the oneness and continuity of the Church."

Because of an overflow crowd the March 10 papal audience was held in two segments: one in St. Peter's basilica, the other in the Paul VI auditorium.

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  • Posted by: HKS - Mar. 10, 2010 11:50 PM ET USA

    How right Pope Benedict XVI is! That we would learn to cooperate with the Spirit more so we can hear such messages rightly.