For the broader picture,
I would refer to two quotations from the Second Vatican
Council which are very well known but would seem to me to
sum up the self-understanding of the Catholic Church in the
modern world. One is the beginning of Gaudium et Spes:
"The joy and hope, the
grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially of
who are poor or afflicted
in any way, are the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of
followers of Christ as
The Church is in the world and part of it. We do not live in
a different world from that of all our fellow men and women.
Since the Council the world has become a smaller place, a
"global village" and the Church is at the heart of it. Hence
my second quotation which is from the beginning of Lumen
Gentium, which describes the Church as "in the nature of
a sacrament - a sign and instrument, that is, of communion
with God and unity among all people." Because of the
presence of the Church in the world, we know in faith that
there is the possibility of a personal and communal
relationship with God for all people and, therefore, of the
deepest bonds of communion between men and women.
I propose these
quotations since they should be a source of pride, of
confidence and of peace. They tell us who and what we are.
They should be a stimulus to outreach: to mission, to
dialogue, to charity and to justice.