Pope Francis: A Church Without Sacraments ‘Is Not the Church’

Priests give the communion during an open-air mass officiated by Pope Francis at Bicentennial Park in Quito, on July 7, 2015. Pope Francis celebrates his second open air mass in as many days in Ecuador on Tuesday, this time in Quito, the capital city roiled for the past month by …
MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP/Getty Images

ROME — Pope Francis has urged Catholics not to get used to video-streaming the sacraments, saying it can lead to a disembodied, “gnostic” spirituality.

“Christians’ familiarity with the Lord is always communal. Yes, it is intimate, it is personal but in community,” the pope declared in his Friday morning Mass live-streamed for the faithful.

“A familiarity without community, a familiarity without the Bread, a familiarity without the Church, without the people, without the sacraments is dangerous,” he continued. “It can become a ‘gnostic’ familiarity, a familiarity for me alone, detached from the people of God. The apostles’ familiarity with the Lord was always communal, always at the table, a sign of the community. It was always with the sacrament, with Bread.”

The pontiff said that the pandemic is not only dangerous for people’s physical health but for their spiritual health as well, since it leads to isolation, separation, and the absence of the communal and physical nature of true worship.

“I say this because someone has made me reflect on the danger of this moment that we are experiencing, this pandemic that has made us all communicate even religiously through the media, mediatically, even this Mass, we are all communicating, but not together, spiritually together,” he said. “The congregation is small. There is a bigger congregation with whom we are together, but not together.”

“Even the Sacrament of the Eucharist: today you have it, but the people who are connected with us only have a spiritual communion,” the pope added. “And this is not the Church: this is the Church in a difficult situation, which the Lord allows, but the ideal of the Church is always with the people and with the sacraments. All the time.”

Francis said that he has come to this realization thanks to a “scolding” from a good bishop, who reproached him for not having more faithful at Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica on Easter Sunday.

“Before Easter, when the news came out that I would celebrate Easter in an empty St. Peter’s, a bishop – a good bishop – wrote to me and he scolded me: ‘But how can it be? St. Peter’s is so big, why don’t you have 30 people at least, so people can see that there is a congregation there? There will be no danger,’” Francis related.

“I thought to myself, ‘But, what is this bishop thinking, to tell me this?’ I didn’t understand at the time. But since he is a good bishop, very close to the people, there must be something he wants to tell me. When I see him, I will ask him,” the pope said.

Then I realized what he was saying to me, he continued. “He was saying: ‘Be careful not to viralize the Church, not to viralize the sacraments, not to viralize the people of God.’ The Church, the sacraments, the people of God are concrete. It is true that at this moment we must live our familiarity with the Lord in this way, but so as to get out of the tunnel, not to remain there.”

“And this was the familiarity of the apostles: not gnostic, not viralized, not selfish for each of them, but a concrete familiarity, in the people,” he said. “Familiarity with the Lord in daily life, familiarity with the Lord in the sacraments, among the people of God.”

“May the Lord teach us this intimacy with Him, this familiarity with him, but in the Church, with the sacraments, with the holy faithful people of God,” he said.

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