Pope: Church key to understanding Jesus
"To separate Jesus from the Church would introduce an 'absurd dichotomy,'" Pope Francis told those were present in St Peter's Basilica for his 1 January Mass celebrating the solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God.
"(The Church) is like a mother who tenderly holds Jesus and gives him to everyone with joy and generosity ... Without the Church, Jesus Christ ends up as an idea, a moral teaching, a feeling," he said. Without the Church and her guidance, our relationship with Christ "would be at the mercy of our imagination, our interpretations, our moods".
It is not possible to understand the salvation offered by Jesus without also appreciating the motherhood of the Church, he explained, adding that it is also impossible to love and belong to Christ without loving and belonging to the Church, because the Church is God's family who brings Christ to humanity.
"Our faith is not an abstract doctrine or philosophy, but a vital and full relationship with a person: Jesus Christ" who lives among us and can be encountered inside the Church through her sacraments.
"No manifestation of Christ, even the most mystical, can ever be detached from the flesh and blood of the Church, from the historical concreteness of the Body of Christ."
Latest worldwide Catholic statistics
The world's Catholic population increased by 15 million in the past year, with some growth on every continent, according to new statistics from the Fides news service.
The latest figures, which date to the end of 2012, show a worldwide Catholic population of 1.2 billion, accounting for 17.49% of the world's overall population.
The number of Catholics grew most rapidly in Africa and the Americas (which are treated as one continent in Vatican statistics), with Asia following and Europe and Oceania lagging behind.
The number of Catholic priests was up slightly, to 414,313. That growth was very irregular, however the numbers were significantly up in Asia (1,364) and Africa (1,076), but down sharply in Europe (-1,375). A similar pattern was evident in the number of female religious.
Catholic World News
How Church combats AIDS in Africa
Catholic leaders in Uganda and Malawi have issued largely positive informal progress reports on local Church efforts to combat HIV/AIDS in the African nations.
A report from the Uganda Episcopal Conference stressed "the contributions that the Catholic Church has made through one of its currently running projects to the Elimination of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV."
It explained that the Ugandan bishops' AIDS Care and Treatment project provided care to more than 54,700 clients from September to the beginning of December. Seven percent of those clients were children under the age of 15.
Catholic health facilities in Uganda have reported providing care for 90,646 clients, though the Ugandan bishops said the actual numbers may be much larger since some Catholic health facilities have not yet switched over to a new reporting software program.
The report stated Catholic bishops in Uganda were involved "from the very outbreak of the epidemic in the country" in 1982. Today, all 19 dioceses have established HIV/AIDS offices to work alongside local health coordinators. In their report, the bishops said every Ugandan is responsible for helping the nation reach its goal of zero new HIV infections.
Recent estimates suggest some 1.6 million people in Uganda are living with AIDS. The Ugandan bishops warned that progress against HIV/AIDS is slowed by factors including complacent behaviour, a lack of proper knowledge about HIV prevention, and non-disclosure of HIV status among couples.
A Monfort missionary in Malawi also issued an informal update on the battle against HIV/AIDS.
Father Piergiorgio Gamba told Fides Agency that there is a lot to be thankful for in Malawi. The number of HIV positive children is decreasing, along with the number of casualties from the virus. However, he said that the number of HIV-positive young people is increasing and teenage women account for more than half the population of HIV-positive persons.
Recent estimates suggest some 1.1 million people in Malawi are living with AIDS which is a six percent decrease from previous years.
Catholic News Agency