Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In these Catecheses we wish to understand a little more what the Church is. The last time we meditated on the theme of Apostolic Tradition. We saw that it is not a collection of things or words, like a box of dead things. Tradition is the river of new life that flows from the origins, from Christ down to us, and makes us participate in God's history with humanity.

This topic of Tradition is so important that I would like to reflect upon it again today:  indeed, it is of great importance for the life of the Church.

The Second Vatican Council pointed out in this regard that Tradition is primarily apostolic in its origins:  "God graciously arranged that the things he had once revealed for the salvation of all peoples should remain in their entirety, throughout the ages, and be transmitted to all generations.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Thank you for your affection! In the new series of catecheses, recently begun, we are seeking to understand the original plan of the Church which the Lord desired, in order to understand better our place, our Christian life, in the great communion of the Church.

So far we have understood that ecclesial communion is inspired and sustained by the Holy Spirit and preserved and promoted by the apostolic ministry. And this communion, which we call "Church", does not only extend to all believers in a specific historical period, but also embraces all the epochs and all the generations. Thus, we have a twofold universality:  a synchronic universality - we are united with believers in every part of the world - and also a so-called diachronic universality, that is:  all the epochs belong to us, and all the believers of the past and of the future form with us a single great communion.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the new series of Catecheses that began a few weeks ago, we are considering the origins of the Church so as to understand Jesus' original plan and thereby grasp the essential of the Church that lives on through the changing times. Thus, we also understand the reason for our being in the Church and how we must strive to live it at the dawn of a new Christian millennium.

In thinking about the newborn Church, we can discover two aspects:  a first aspect is strongly highlighted by St Irenaeus of Lyons, a martyr and great theologian of the end of the second century, the first to have given us a theology that was to a certain extent systematic. St Irenaeus wrote:  "Wherever the Church is, God's Spirit is too; and wherever God's Spirit is, there is the Church and every grace; for the Spirit is truth" (Adversus Haereses, III, 24, 1:  PG 7, 966).

Thus, a deep bond exists between the Holy Spirit and the Church. The Holy Spirit builds the Church and gives her the truth; he pours out love, as St Paul says, into the hearts of believers (cf. Rom 5: 5).

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Through her apostolic ministry the Church, a community gathered by the Son of God who came in the flesh, will live on through the passing times, building up and nourishing the communion in Christ and in the Holy Spirit to which all are called and in which they can experience the salvation given by the Father.

The Twelve - as Pope Clement, the third Successor of Peter, said at the end of the first century - took pains, in fact, to prepare successors (cf. I Clem 42: 4), so that the mission entrusted to them would be continued after their death. The Church, organically structured under the guidance of her legitimate Pastors, has thus continued down the ages to live in the world as a mystery of communion in which, to a certain extent, the Trinitarian Communion itself is mirrored.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Letter to the Ephesians presents the Church to us as a structure built "upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone" (Eph 2: 20). In the Book of Revelation the role of the Apostles, and more specifically, of the Twelve, is explained in the eschatological perspective of the heavenly Jerusalem, presented as a city whose walls "had twelve foundations, and on them the twelve names of the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb" (21: 14).

The Gospels agree in mentioning that the call of the Apostles marked the first steps of Jesus' ministry, after the baptism he received from John the Baptist in the waters of the Jordan.