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Let the Holy Spirit Create the Unity and Diversity the Church Needs, Pope Says

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Pope Francis celebrates Mass in Istanbul's Catholic cathedral.

Pope Francis celebrated Mass on Saturday at Istanbul’s Latin Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Spirit and in his homily reflected on the need for Christians to be guided by the Holy Spirit who is able to kindle diversity, multiplicity and, at the same time, bring about unity.  

The Pope warned that the temptation is always within us to resist the Holy Spirit because he takes us out of our comfort zone and unsettles us.  We must throw off our defensiveness, the Pope said, not remain entrenched within our ideas and unchanging ways and allow ourselves to be led by the Spirit. 

Here is an English translation of Pope Francis’ homily:
 

In the Gospel, Jesus shows himself to be the font from which those who thirst for salvation draw upon, as the Rock from whom the Father brings forth living waters for all who believe in him (cf. Jn 7:38).  In openly proclaiming this prophecy in Jerusalem, Jesus heralds the gift of the Holy Spirit whom the disciples will receive after his glorification, that is, after his death and resurrection (cf. v. 39).

The Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church.  He gives life, he brings forth different charisms which enrich the people of God and, above all, he creates unity among believers: from the many he makes one body, the Body of Christ.  The Church’s whole life and mission depend on the Holy Spirit; he fulfils all things.

The profession of faith itself, as Saint Paul reminds us in today’s first reading, is only possible because it is prompted by the Holy Spirit: “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 12:3b).  When we pray, it is because the Holy Spirit inspires prayer in our heart.  When we break the cycle of our self-centredness, and move beyond ourselves and go out to encounter others, to listen to them and help them; it is the Spirit of God who impels us to do so.  When we find within a hitherto unknown ability to forgive, to love someone who doesn’t love us in return, it is the Spirit who has taken hold of us.  When we move beyond mere self-serving words and turn to our brothers and sisters with that tenderness which warms the heart, we have indeed been touched by the Holy Spirit.

It is true that the Holy Spirit brings forth different charisms in the Church, which at first glance, may seem to create disorder.  Under his guidance, however, they constitute an immense richness, because the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of unity, which is not the same thing as uniformity.  Only the Holy Spirit is able to kindle diversity, multiplicity and, at the same time, bring about unity.  When we try to create diversity, but are closed within our own particular and exclusive ways of seeing things, we create division.  When we try to create unity through our own human designs, we end up with uniformity and homogenization.  If we let ourselves be led by the Spirit, however, richness, variety and diversity will never create conflict, because the Spirit spurs us to experience variety in the communion of the Church.
 
The diversity of members and charisms is harmonized in the Spirit of Christ, whom the Father sent and whom he continues to send, in order to achieve unity among believers.  The Holy Spirit brings unity to the Church: unity in faith, unity in love, unity in interior life.  The Church and other Churches and ecclesial communities are called to let themselves be guided by the Holy Spirit, and to remain always open, docile and obedient.

Ours is a hopeful perspective, but one which is also demanding.  The temptation is always within us to resist the Holy Spirit, because he takes us out of our comfort zone and unsettles us; he makes us get up and drives the Church forward.  It is always easier and more comfortable to settle in our sedentary and unchanging ways.  In truth, the Church shows her fidelity to the Holy Spirit inasmuch as she does not try to control or tame him.  We Christians become true missionary disciples, able to challenge consciences, when we throw off our defensiveness and allow ourselves to be led by the Spirit.  He is freshness, imagination and newness. 

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