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Reflections: Vatican View (Visible Church)

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Vatican View Section:

The Visible Church

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The Visible Church



The Visible Church

"Above all, it is absolutely necessary that the Supreme Head, that is, the Vicar of Jesus Christ on earth, be visible to the eyes of all, since it is He who gives effective direction to the work which all do in common in a mutually helpful way towards the attainment of the proposed end. As the Divine Redeemer sent the Paraclete, the Spirit of Truth, who in His name should govern the Church in an invisible way, so, in the same manner, He commissioned Peter and his successors to be His personal representatives on earth and to assume the visible government of the Christian community." (Pope Pius XII, "Mystici Corporis Christi", 1943)

"The Archangel Gabriel told Mary, in the Annunciation, that the Son who was to be born of her should be a King, and that of his Kingdom there should be no end. Hence, when the Magi were led from the East to the Crib of Jesus, they proclaimed it in Jerusalem that they came to seek a King. But this new Empire needed a capital; and whereas the King, who was to fix his throne in it, was, according to the eternal decrees, to re-ascend into heaven, it was necessary that the visible character of his Royalty should be left here on earth, and this even to the end of the world. He that should be invested with this visible character of Christ our King would be the Vicar of Christ." (Gueranger)

"Thus it is that the divine Founder of the Church, who willed that she should be a city seated on a mountain (Mt. v. 14), gave her visibility; it was an essential requisite; for since all were called to enter her pale, all must be able to see her. But He was not satisfied with this. He moreover willed that the spiritual power exercised by her pastors should come from a visible source, so that the faithful might have a sure means of verifying the claims of those who were to guide them in His name. Our Lord (we say it reverently) owed this to us; for, on the last day, He will not receive us as His children, unless we shall have been members of His Church, and have lived in union with Him by the ministry of pastors lawfully constituted. Honor, then, and submission to Jesus in His vicar! Honor and submission to the vicar of Christ in the pastors he sends!" (Gueranger)

"But we must not think that He rules only in a hidden or extraordinary manner. On the contrary, our Redeemer also governs His Mystical Body in a visible and normal way through His Vicar on earth. You know, Venerable Brethren, that after He had ruled the 'little flock' Himself during His mortal pilgrimage, Christ our Lord, when about to leave this world and return to the Father, entrusted to the Chief of the Apostles the visible government of the entire community He had founded. Since He was all wise He could not leave the body of the Church He had founded as a human society without a visible head. Nor against this may one argue that the primacy of jurisdiction established in the Church gives such a Mystical Body two heads. For Peter in virtue of his primacy is only Christ's Vicar; so that there is only one chief Head of this Body, namely Christ, who never ceases Himself to guide the Church invisibly, though at the same time He rules it visibly, through him who is His representative on earth. After His glorious Ascension into heaven this Church rested not on Him alone, but on Peter, too, its visible foundation stone. That Christ and His Vicar constitute one only Head is the solemn teaching of Our predecessor of immortal memory Boniface VIII in the Apostolic Letter Unam Sanctam; and his successors have never ceased to repeat the same." (Pope Pius XII, "Mystici Corporis Christi", 1943)

"If we would define and describe this true Church of Jesus Christ - which is the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and Roman Church - we shall find nothing more noble, more sublime, or more divine than the expression 'the Mystical Body of Christ' - an expression which springs from and is, as it were, the fair flowering of the repeated teaching of the Sacred Scriptures and the Holy Fathers. That the Church is a body is frequently asserted in the Sacred Scriptures. 'Christ,' says the Apostle, 'is the Head of the Body of the Church.' If the Church is a body, it must be an unbroken unity, according to those words of Paul: 'Though many we are one body in Christ.' But it is not enough that the Body of the Church should be an unbroken unity; it must also be something definite and perceptible to the senses as Our predecessor of happy memory, Leo XIII, in his Encyclical Satis Cognitum asserts: 'the Church is visible because she is a body. Hence they err in a matter of divine truth, who imagine the Church to be invisible, intangible, a something merely 'pneumatological' as they say, by which many Christian communities, though they differ from each other in their profession of faith, are united by an invisible bond. But a body calls also for a multiplicity of members, which are linked together in such a way as to help one another. And as in the body when one member suffers, all the other members share its pain, and the healthy members come to the assistance of the ailing, so in the Church the individual members do not live for themselves alone, but also help their fellows, and all work in mutual collaboration for the common comfort and for the more perfect building up of the whole Body. Again, as in nature a body is not formed by any haphazard grouping of members but must be constituted of organs, that is of members, that have not the same function and are arranged in due order; so for this reason above all the Church is called a body, that it is constituted by the coalescence of structurally united parts, and that it has a variety of members reciprocally dependent. It is thus the Apostle describes the Church when he writes: 'As in one body we have many members, but all the members have not the same office: so we being many are one body in Christ, and everyone members one of another.'" (Pope Pius XII, "Mystici Corporis Christi", 1943)

Also See: The Church Rests on St. Peter | History | Necessity of a Teaching Authority | The Papacy is Indestructible / Perpetual | Papal Primacy / Supremacy | Preservation of Truth / Unity | Rome / Italy / The Vatican | Vatican Facts | Pope / Papacy (Topical Scripture) | Catholic Basics | Priests & Vocations | Non-Catholics Section (apologetics)

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