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Saints, not structures, show the character of the Church, Pope tells Portuguese faithful

May 11, 2010

In a subtle but powerful message to the people of Portugal, Pope Benedict XVI made a distinction between the failures of Catholic leadership and the enduring power of Christ's message.

"In the living river of ecclesial tradition, Christ is not 2,000 years distant from us, but is really present among us," the Pope said during his homily at a Mass on May 11. He added that the same living tradition unites the Catholics of today's Portugal with the great saints that the Church there has produced over the centuries. "Portugal has gained a glorious place among the nations for the service rendered to the spreading of the faith: in all five continents there are local churches that owe their origin to Portuguese missionary activity," he reminded the congregation.

During the Mass that he celebrated in Lisbon on the first day of his visit to Portugal, the Pope observed that the Church "has quarrelsome and even rebellious sons and daughters, but it is in the saints that the Church recognizes her most characteristic features."

Today, the Pope continued, the Church faces new challenges. "Perhaps we have placed an excessive trust in ecclesial structures and programs," he said. The necessary antidote, he said, is "to proclaim anew, with vigor and joy, the event of the death and resurrection of Christ-- the heart of Christianity, the fulcrum and mainstay of our faith, the firm lever of our certainties, the strong wind that sweeps away all fear and indecision, all doubt and human calculation."


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