Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Church is a people

from St. Ignatius of Antioch's 'Letter to the Smyrnaens':
«(8) Shun schisms, as the source of troubles. Let all follow the bishop as Jesus Christ did the Father, and the priests, as you would the Apostles. Reverence the deacons as you would the command of God. Apart from the bishop, let no one perform any of the functions that pertain to the Church. Let that Eucharist be held valid which is offered by the bishop or by one to whom the bishop has committed this charge. Wherever the bishop appears, let the people be; as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful to baptize or give communion without the consent of the bishop. On the other hand, whatever has his approval is pleasing to God. Thus, whatever you do will be safe and valid.» (CIMA Publishing, 1947)

Citing Vatican II's Lumen Gentium, the Responses to Some Questions says that:
«This Church, constituted and organised in this world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the successor of Peter and the Bishops in communion with him.”»

In both cases, the Church is described as a society, a people. The reality of this people is not merely institutional, but is grounded in history and in relationship to particular persons: the bishops and the pope.
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