In his catechesis at the Wednesday general audience, Pope Francis reflects on how the first Christians resolve their differences at the Council of Jerusalem under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

By Francesca Merlo (vaticannews)

Pope Francis began his catechesis by saying that the Book of Acts recounts the long journey of the Word of God. “This journey,” said the Pope, began after a “strong persecution.” During this persecution, Christians were forced to flee taking the Word with them, rather than being discouraged from evangelising.

Among those fleeing persecution were Paul and Barnabas, who took the Word of the Gospel to the Jewish community of Antioch in Syria.

“The book of Acts reveals the nature of the Church,” who is “not a stronghold, but a tent, capable of widening her space” so that all may enter. The Church is “outgoing. … She is either walking and expanding or she is not Church.”

The Pope then used the example of certain churches he has seen both in Rome and in Buenos Aires in Argentina with their doors closed, describing it as a “bad sign,” because the Church’s doors must be always open.

Pope Francis then went on to explain that these “open doors” are the cause of some controversy, because many people ask themselves “open to whom?”

The Pope recalled that some of the Jews who had converted stressed the necessity to perform ancient Jewish rituals, such as circumcision, before baptism “in order to be saved.”

Reject idolatry
Therefore, Paul goes to Jerusalem to consult with Peter and James, who were considered the “columns” of the early Christian Church. At the “Council of Jerusalem,” the Apostles find a middle way, saying that non-Jewish members are not required to be circumcised but must reject idolatry and all its expressions.

Pope Francis said this way of addressing differences offers us a key to resolving conflict. “It reminds us that the ecclesial method of resolving conflicts is based on dialogue through careful and patient listening and discernment in the light of the Spirit.”

In concluding, Pope Francis invited the faithful gathered to live in dialogue, listening and encounter in faith, with our brothers and sisters around the world.

At the end of the audience catecheses and language greetings to groups present, the Pope said he was following events in Chile: “I hope that, by putting an end to the violent demonstrations, dialogue will be used to find solutions to the crisis and to deal with the difficulties that have generated it, for the benefit of the entire population.”

Rioting, arson attacks and violent clashes wracked Chile for a fifth day Tuesday, as the government raised the death toll to 15 in an upheaval that has almost paralyzed the South American nation.

The unrest was sparked last week when the government announced a rise in subway fares. Anger flared with demands for improvements in education, health care and wages.

President Sebastian Pinera announced a program Tuesday night calling for modest boosts to the lowest incomes and increased taxes on the wealthiest as he sought to calm anger in the streets.

About half of Chile’s 16 regions remained under an emergency decree and some are a under military curfew.