In follow up to my last post regarding salvation through Jesus Christ and the Church, I read this morning excerpts from Pope Francis’ homily for today, the memorial of St. George, the pope’s name day (Jorge translates George in English).
The pope said,
“It is not possible to find Jesus outside the church…. The great Paul VI said it is ‘an absurd dichotomy’ to want to live with Jesus without the church, to follow Jesus outside the church, to love Jesus without the church.”
He also said that Christian identity is not a bureaucratic state, but it is
“belonging to the church…. the mother church, because it is not possible to find Jesus outside the church…. It is the mother church who gives us Jesus, gives us identity.”
I hope no one takes surprise with his words. He is simply reiterating what has been constant Church teaching throughout its history. It is defined dogma, actually.
No, this does not mean that grandmother is condemned because she is not Catholic. As the Council Fathers during the Second Vatican Council said, belonging to the church may not be necessarily defined as enrolled in the Roman Catholic Church, for other Christian churches and communities share, though not fully, in the truth of the Gospel and the Father’s revelation of himself in Jesus his Son. If, by no fault of their own, men and women sincerely seek the truth and follow it but never come to know formal membership in the Catholic Church, they can and often are saved. This is what I believe Pope Francis meant when he said Christian identity is not a “bureaucratic state” but rather a “belonging” to the church.
Yes, Christian identity is bound to the Christian community, i.e., the Catholic Church. We cannot rightfully call ourselves “Christian” without the Christian community, i.e., the Church. One’s journey of faith and the road to salvation are intimately connected to the Body of Christ which is the Church.