Ideological fanatics divide the Christian community, pope says

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Christians who turn doctrine into
ideology commit a grave mistake that upsets souls and divides the church, Pope
Francis said.

From the beginning, there have been people in the church who
preach “without any mandate” and become “fanatics of things that
aren’t clear,” the pope said May 19 in his homily during Mass at Domus
Sanctae Marthae.

“This is the problem: When the doctrine of the church,
the one from the Gospel, the one inspired by the Holy Spirit — because Jesus
said, ‘He will
teach you and remind you of what I have taught!’ — when that doctrine becomes
ideology. And this is the greatest mistake of these people,” he said.

The pope reflected on the day’s first reading from the Acts
of the Apostles (15:22-31), in which, after much debate, the apostles and
presbyters send representatives to allay the concerns of the gentile converts
after they were ordered by overzealous believers to follow Jewish practices if they
wished to be saved.

However, the apostles ruled that “it is the decision of
the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond” abstaining
from meat sacrificed to idols and from strangled animals, blood and unlawful

The initial debate about how to deal with the gentiles, the pope said,
was between “the group of the apostles who wanted to discuss the problem
and the others who go and create problems.”

“They divide, they divide the church, they say that
what the apostles preach is not what Jesus said, that it isn’t the truth,” he explained.

Those who sow discord and “divide the Christian
community,” the pope said, do so because their “hearts are closed to
the work of the Holy Spirit.”

These individuals, he added, “weren’t believers, they
were ideologues.”

Pope Francis said the exhortation sent to the gentiles by Peter and the
other apostles encourages all Christians to be unafraid before “the opinions of the
ideologues of doctrine.”

“The church has its own magisterium, the magisterium of
the pope (and) the
bishops,” and
it must follow along the path “that comes from Jesus’ preaching and the
teaching and assistance of the Holy Spirit,” the pope said.

Doctrine, he said, unites the Christian community because it
is “always open, always free” while “ideology divides.”

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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