Vatican City, 2 October 2013 (VIS) – The holiness of the Church was the theme chosen by Francis for his catechesis during today's general audience, which took place in St. Peter's Square and was attended by more than 50,000 people.

(Vatican Radio) “Do not be afraid to aim for holiness and turn yourselves over to the love of God. Holiness does not mean performing extraordinary things but carrying out daily things in an extraordinary way – that is, with love, joy and faith.” That’s what Pope Francis told pilgrims gathered in Saint Peter’s square on Wednesday for the weekly General Audience.
Speaking in Italian, the Pope said the Church is not without sin because it is made up of sinners. Priests, sisters, bishops, cardinals and even Popes are sinners. ‘Who, among the pilgrims gathered in the square, he asked, is not a sinner?’ ‘We are all sinners!’ He exclaimed. 
Throughout its two thousand year history, he said, the Church went through many “trials, problems (and) moments of darkness.” But how can a Church “made up of human beings, of sinners,” he asked, “be holy?”

Recalling Christ, who gave himself up for the Church, he said this ultimate sacrifice is what renders the Church holy. The Church, he went on, is holy for three reasons: firstly because it is faithful to God, who does not abandon it to the “powers of death and evil.” Secondly, because it “is united in an everlasting way to Jesus Christ,”and thirdly, because “it is led by the Holy Spirit who purifies, transforms and renews it.”

The Church, he concluded, does not renounce sinners, but opens its doors to everyone so they may find God’s tender mercy and forgiveness. 

Below, we publish Pope Francis’ remarks read out in English by an assistant:
Dear Brothers and Sisters: In the Creed, we confess our faith that the Church is “holy”. But how can we say that the Church is holy when she is all too evidently made up of sinners? Saint Paul helps us to see things aright when he tells us that “Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, to make her holy” (Eph 5:25-26). The Church is inseparably one with Christ, and the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. It is not ourselves, or our merits, which make the Church holy, but God himself, through the infinite merits of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. God calls all of us, as sinners, to be redeemed, renewed and made holy in the communion of the Church. So the Church constantly welcomes everyone, even the greatest sinners, to trust in God’s offer of loving mercy, and to encounter Christ in the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist. Let us not be afraid to respond to Christ’s call, to trust in the working of the Holy Spirit and to pray and strive for that holiness which brings true joy to our lives.
I cordially greet the members of the delegation from the International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue in Vienna. I also welcome the Buddhist visitors from Japan, including the delegations from the Tendai denomination and the Nakano Dharma Center of Rissho Kosei-kai. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience, including those from Scotland, Benin, Australia, India, Japan, Canada and the United States I invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace!