Pope Benedict XVI- General Audiences
"The Gift of Communion"
March 29, 2006
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.
The Apostle Paul was already referring to this supreme Trinitarian
source when he wished his Christians: "The grace of the Lord Jesus
Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be
with you all" (II Cor 13: 14).
These words, probably echoed in the worship of the newborn Church,
emphasize how the free gift of the Father in Jesus Christ is
realized and expressed in the communion brought about by the Holy
This interpretation, based on the close parallelism between the
three genitives that the text establishes: ("the grace of the
Lord Jesus Christ... the love of God... and the
fellowship of the Holy Spirit), presents "fellowship" as a
specific gift of the Spirit, the fruit of the love given by God the
Father and the grace offered by the Lord Jesus.
Moreover, the immediate context, marked by the insistence on
fraternal communion, guides us to perceiving the "koinonía"
of the Holy Spirit not only as "participation" in the divine life
more or less singularly, each one individually, but also, logically,
as the "communion" among believers that the Spirit himself kindles
as his builder and principal agent (cf. Phil 2: 1).
One might say
that grace, love and communion, referring respectively to Christ, to
the Father and to the Holy Spirit, are different aspects of the one
divine action for our salvation. This action creates the Church and
makes the Church - as St Cyprian said in the third century - "a
people brought into unity from the unity of the Father, the Son and
the Holy Spirit" (De Orat. Dom. 23; PL 4, 553, cit. in
The idea of communion as participation in Trinitarian life is
illuminated with special intensity in John's Gospel.
Here, the communion of love that binds the Son to the Father and to
men and women is at the same time the model and source of the
fraternal communion that must unite disciples with one another:
"Love one another as I have loved you" (Jn 15: 12; cf.
13: 34); "that they may all be one... even as we are one" (Jn
17: 21-22). Hence, it is communion of men and women with the
Trinitarian God and communion of men and women with one another.
During the time of his earthly pilgrimage, the disciple can already
share through communion with the Son in his divine life and that of
the Father: "our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son
Jesus Christ" (I Jn 1: 3).
This life of fellowship with God and with one another is the proper
goal of Gospel proclamation, the goal of conversion to
Christianity: "That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also
to you, so that you may have fellowship with us" (I Jn 1: 2).
Thus, this twofold communion with God and with one another is
inseparable. Wherever communion with God, which is communion with
the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, is destroyed, the root and
source of our communion with one another is destroyed. And wherever
we do not live communion among ourselves, communion with the
Trinitarian God is not alive and true either, as we have heard.
Let us now go a step further. Communion, a fruit of the Holy Spirit,
is nourished by the Eucharistic Bread (cf. I Cor 10: 16-17) and is
expressed in fraternal relations in a sort of anticipation of the
In the Eucharist, Jesus nourishes us, he unites us with himself,
with his Father, with the Holy Spirit and with one another. This
network of unity that embraces the world is an anticipation of the
future world in our time.
Precisely in this way, since it is an anticipation of the future
world, communion is also a gift with very real consequences. It
lifts us from our loneliness, from being closed in on ourselves, and
makes us sharers in the love that unites us to God and to one
It is easy to understand how great this gift is if we only think of
the fragmentation and conflicts that afflict relations between
individuals, groups and entire peoples. And if the gift of unity in
the Holy Spirit does not exist, the fragmentation of humanity is
"Communion" is truly the Good News, the remedy given to us by the
Lord to fight the loneliness that threatens everyone today, the
precious gift that makes us feel welcomed and beloved by God, in the
unity of his People gathered in the name of the Trinity; it is the
light that makes the Church shine forth like a beacon raised among
"If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we
lie and do not live according to the truth; but if we walk in the
light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another"
(I Jn 1: 6ff.).
Thus, the Church, despite all the human frailties that mark her
historical profile, is revealed as a marvelous creation of love,
brought into being to bring Christ close to every man and every
woman who truly desire to meet him, until the end of time. And in
the Church, the Lord always remains our contemporary. Scripture is
not something of the past. The Lord does not speak in the past but
speaks in the present, he speaks to us today, he enlightens us, he
shows us the way through life, he gives us communion and thus he
prepares us and opens us to peace.
To special groups
I am pleased to greet the English-speaking pilgrims present at this
Audience, particularly those from Japan and the United States of
America. I also extend a special welcome to the priests from the
Institute for Continuing Theological Education at the Pontifical
North American College and to the members of the National Conference
of Vicars for Religious. Upon all of you I invoke the Lord's
Blessings of peace and joy.
Lastly, my thoughts go to the sick, the newly-weds and
the young people, especially the students of the "Andrea
Bafile" High School in Collesapone dell'Aquila, as well as the young
people of the Diocese of Caserta who are gathered here with their
Pastor, Bishop Raffaele Nogaro. May the Lenten Season, with its
repeated invitations to conversion, lead you, dear young people,
to a love for Christ and his Church that is ever more aware; may it
increase in you, dear sick people, the awareness that the
Crucified Lord sustains us in trial; may it help you, dear
newly-weds, to make your family life a place of constant growth
in faithful and generous love.
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