During his general audience on 5 April in St Peter's Square in the presence of 30,000 people, Benedict XVI developed themes raised in his recent encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, including the inseparable roles of love and truth in building communion - the unified body of believers.
"The source of the communion of the disciples, both with one another and with God, is the Spirit that pours the love of God into our hearts," the Pope began. "Where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God, and where the Spirit is, there is the Church and all grace," he said, quoting the words of St Irenaeus.
However, he continued, "This intimate link with the Spirit does not eliminate our humanity with all its weaknesses, as the community of disciples is well aware." Proof of this has been shown "above all by the contrasts concerning the truth of faith and the subsequent lacerations of communion."
The early Church, he pointed out, was also aware of these potential tensions within the experience of communion as is evident in the First Letter of John. "No voice in the New Testament," he said, "rises with greater force to highlight the reality and the duty of fraternal love between Christians; yet the same voice addresses itself with drastic severity to the adversaries who were members of the community but are so no longer."
In other words, "the Church of love is also the Church of truth, primarily understood as being faithfulness to the Gospel that Christ entrusted to His followers ... The Apostles and their successors are thus the custodians and authoritative witnesses of the deposit of faith entrusted to the Church, just as they are also ministers of the charity revealed and donated by the Lord Jesus."
The charity which the Church's members "live and promote", the Pope said, "is inseparable from the truth they defend and transmit". Truth and love are therefore "two faces of the same gift that comes from God and that, thanks to the apostolic ministry, is safeguarded within the Church, reaching down to our own time."
Benedict's words are timely today, when love often tends to be emphasised at the expense of truth. The guiding principle for Catholics should be "truth in charity".
Michael Gilchrist: Editor (email - firstname.lastname@example.org)