Pope: Diversity in the Church must be embraced, not feared

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Pope Diversity church
A deacon prays in front of an icon as Pope Francis visits the Eastern Catholic Protection of the Mother of God Church in Budapest, Hungary, April 29, 2023. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Different ways of living out the Catholic faith, including different liturgical rites, should not be seen as threats to the unity of the Catholic Church but embraced as expressions of the Body of Christ, Pope Francis said.

“You don’t have to be afraid of the diversity of charisms in the Church,” the pope said in a video released Jan. 2, sharing his prayer intention for the month of January: “For the gift of diversity in the Church.”

“We are not all the same,” he said, and Catholics should “rejoice in living this diversity.”

Pope Francis recalled how in the first Christian communities, “diversity and unity were very present and in a tension that had to be resolved at a higher level.”

Need for dialogue

The pope also noted that “to move forward on the path of faith we also need ecumenical dialogue with brothers and sisters from other confessions and Christian communities.”

Dialogue, he said, is not “something that confuses or bothers, but a gift God gives to the Christian community so that it may grow as one body, the Body of Christ.”

Pope Francis pointed to Eastern Catholic churches, who, he said, “have their own traditions (and) some characteristic liturgical rites but maintain the unity of the faith. They reinforce it, they do not divide it.”

The two-minute video shows several scenes from Eastern Catholic liturgical celebrations, such as using a spoon to distribute Communion and giving a blessing with large liturgical candlesticks.

Although they have their own liturgical and legal system, each Eastern Church is considered fully equal in dignity to the Latin tradition within the Catholic Church.

Never provokes conflicts

The pope added that if the Church lets itself be guided by the Holy Spirit, “richness, variety, diversity never provoke conflicts.”

The Holy Spirit, he said, “reminds us that before all we are children of God, all the same in the love of God and all different.”

Pope Francis ended the video asking people to pray to the Holy Spirit “so that it may help us recognize the gift of different charisms of Christian communities and to discover the wealth of different ritual traditions within the Catholic Church.”

Justin McLellan

Justin McLellan is a journalist based in Rome with Catholic News Service. He holds a bachelor's degree in philosophy and theology from the University of Notre Dame.