By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Second Vatican Council’s renewal of the Catholic Church was a sign of progress, not a sign of repudiating the past, Pope Benedict XVI said.
“We know that after the Second Vatican Council some people were convinced that everything was new, that there was a new church, that the pre-conciliar church was finished and that we would have a completely different church,” the pope said during his general audience March 10.
Their vision would have led to “a utopian anarchy,” he said, but the wise guidance of Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II “defended the new things brought by the council, while affirming the oneness and continuity of the church.”
The pope’s made his remarks about reactions to the Second Vatican Council during an audience talk focused on St. Bonaventure’s attempts in the mid-1200s to balance enthusiasm for the new form of religious life introduced by St. Francis of Assisi with continued fidelity to the hierarchal church.
St. Bonaventure taught the early Franciscans and continues to teach Catholics today that living the faith requires “discernment, sober realism and openness to new gifts” given to the church by the Holy Spirit, the pope said.
St. Bonaventure was superior of the Franciscans at a time when a large group of friars embraced the teaching of Joachim of Fiore, who taught that history followed a “Trinitarian rhythm,” in which the Old Testament age was the time of God the father, a time of severity; the New Testament and the first millennium of the church was the time of Jesus Christ and the “relative freedom” that came from no longer being bound to many of the Jewish laws; and the age of the Holy Spirit was to be a time “of complete freedom,” the pope said.
The group of Franciscans who saw St. Francis as initiating the age of the Holy Spirit believed it would be a time when “the hierarchical church was left behind in order to give birth to the new church of the Holy Spirit, no longer tied to the old structures,” the pope said.
“There was, therefore, a risk of a very serious misunderstanding of St. Francis’ message and of his humble fidelity to the Gospel and to the church,” the pope said.
After studying Joachim of Fiore in depth, St. Bonaventure presented his own theology of history, affirming that history is a progressive movement, but that it is directed by God, who is one and who has fully revealed himself to humanity in Jesus Christ, the pope said.
The Gospel is God’s final revelation to humanity and the church is where God wants people to live their faith, the pope said.
“This does not mean that the church is immobile, fixed in the past and that there can never be anything new in it,” the pope said, because as St. Bonaventure taught, “the works of Christ do not go backward, but progress.”
Greeting English speakers at the audience, Pope Benedict spoke of the “promising sign of hope” coming from the Northern Ireland Assembly’s vote March 9 to move oversight of the police and of the courts from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, furthering the process toward full local governance.
The pope said he prayed the move would “help consolidate the future of peace desired by all.”
And, at the end of the audience, the pope also expressed his condolences to the people of eastern Turkey where an earthquake March 8 left more than 50 people dead and left thousands homeless.
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Editor’s Note: The text of the pope’s audience remarks in English will be posted online at: www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2010/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20100310_en.html.
The text of the pope’s audience remarks in Spanish will be posted online at: www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2010/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20100310_sp.html.
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