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Do not fear the fire of the Spirit, Pope exhorts faithful

Catholic World News - May 24, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI reminded the faithful that "there is no Church without Pentecost," adding that "there is no Pentecost without the Virgin Mary," as he led celebrations for the feast day.

The first Pentecost constituted the "true 'baptism' of the Church," the Pope said at his midday audience, "but it does not finish there." He explained that "the Church experiences countless 'Pentecosts' which enliven local communities" in her Eucharistic liturgies.

Celebrating Mass earlier on Sunday in the Vatican basilica, the Holy Father said in his homily that the Holy Spirit brings unity to the faithful. "Thus unity is the sign of recognition, the calling card of the Church in the course of her universal history," he said. Commenting on the experience of the original apostles, who spoke in tongues on the first Pentecost, the Pope said that the Church always speaks to people of all nations. "The Church in never a prisoner of political, racial, or cultural boundaries," he said. "She must not be confused with other states or with federations of states." This fact has implications for all believers, the Pope continued. "When a person or a community close themselves inside their own way of thinking and acting, it is a sign they have distanced themselves from the Holy Spirit." The Church must always reach out to others and always allow for diversity among the faithful, he said.

Next the Pope contrasted the "fire" instilled by the Holy Spirit with earthly fire, or the fire wrought by warfare. Unlike those other kinds, he said, the fire of the Spirit "does not injure, and yet it achieves a transformation." Still, he acknowledged, fallen humans are fearful of this fire, too: "we are afraid of being scalded and would prefer to remain as we are." He exhorted all the faithful to be open to the transforming fire of the Holy Spirit.

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