Catholic World News News Feature

The Church is not a corporation but a body, Pope Benedict teaches December 10, 2008

"No one can become Christian by himself," Pope Benedict XVI told his weekly public audience on December 10, as he reflected on the teachings of St. Paul regarding the nature of the Church.

The Holy Father told a crowd of about 5,000 people in the Paul VI auditorium that "from St. Paul we have learned that there is a new beginning of history in Jesus Christ." Jesus enters into human history and transforms it, establishing the Church as "the beginning of a new humanity."

In the Church, the Pope continued, Jesus touches the lives of the faithful. However, he observed, "No one can baptize himself." The Pontiff explained: "We can only become Christian through the meditation of others, and this gives us the gift of faith." The community of faith-- the Church-- is absolutely essential to the life of any Christian, the Pope said. "Autonomous Christianity is a self-contradiction."

Pope Benedict continued his catechetical talk by reflecting on the nature of the Eucharist, as explained by St. Paul. He remarked that the Apostle emphasizes how the community is drawn together by sharing in the Body and Blood of Christ. "Christ unites Himself with each one of us, and with the men and women around us."

Because the Church is based upon the Eucharist, which is the ultimate reality of Christ's presence, the bond that holds together the Church is "much more profound and authentic than that of the nation State," the Pope said, "because Christ truly gives us his Body, converts us into his Body."

Therefore, Pope Benedict continued, it is important to recognize the Church as a unity. "The Church is not just a corporation, like a state," he said; "It is a body; it is not an organization but an organism."

St. Paul expresses this point when he compares Christ's union with the Church to the sacramental bond of matrimony, the Pope said. Just as the two married persons become one flesh, the faithful in the Church become one with Christ. In the same way, the Pope remarked, "Married love has as its model the love of Christ for his Church." Moreover, the Christian marriage is strengthened by the bonds of faith and the life of the sacraments. "Participating in the Body and the Blood of the Lord consolidates the union and makes it visible, a union that grace then makes indissoluble."