2013-09-11 L’Osservatore Romano
How many Christians remember the date of their baptism? Off the cuff, during the General Audience, this question sprang from the lips of Pope Francis, who then urged: “I would like to ask each of you here, and you can respond in your heart: how many of you remember the date of your baptism?”. The Pontiff was speaking about the motherhood of the Church and with this question went straight to the heart of matter of being Christian itself. And this is relevant and crucial for believers and non-believers alike.
It's a question that, from the earliest centuries, has excited curiosity and interest. It was recently the subject of two editorials by the founder of one of the most influential Italian Dailies, who posed a series of questions to the Pope. And the Pope decided to respond to Eugenio Scalfari with a long letter published in full by La Repubblica. This response was unusual, but it fits in perfect continuity with the Pope's search for dialogue with the world, a conversation defined by Francis as “open and without preconceptions”, inherent in the Gospel and renewed by Vatican II.
A gift from God, the faith is not inoculated “in a laboratory”, but handed down as in a family. That is why the Church, precisely as mother, generates and raises Christians. And this is the motive for which - explained the Pontiff – one does not belong to the Church as one adheres to a society, a party or an organization. In short, “it is not filling out a form that they give you, but an interior and vital bond”, just as “one has with one's mother”.
The Mother Church who gives birth to Christians is likewise constituted by them, by all of them. It would be contradicting oneself to want to separate faith in God from the Church. And by it's nature the community of believers – demonstrated every day by Pope Francis, just as at the Astalli Centre in Rome – cannot remain closed in self-reference, but must go out: to “bring Christ to everyone” and to testify to all of his merciful face.