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CANTALAMESSA-SPIRIT Mar-27-2009 (420 words) xxxi

Papal preacher says Spirit speaks to individuals as well as to church

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- When people forget that the Holy Spirit speaks directly to individual consciences and not only through the church, there is a risk that laypeople would be pushed to the margins of the church's life, the papal preacher told Pope Benedict XVI and top Vatican officials.

"The ideal is a healthy harmony between listening to that which the Spirit tells me, individually, and that which the Spirit tells the church as a whole and, through the church, what it tells individuals," said Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the papal household.

In his weekly Lenten meditation March 27 for the pope and his closest collaborators, Father Cantalamessa focused on a passage from St. Paul's Letter to the Romans: "Those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God."

The Holy Spirit, he said, speaks through individual consciences and through the church.

"It is a theme that has had a broad development in the tradition of the church: If Jesus Christ is 'the way' that leads to the Father, the Holy Spirit, according to the Fathers (of the Church), is 'the guide along the way,'" the Capuchin said.

Through the conscience, he said, "the guidance of the Holy Spirit extends even outside the church to all men and women," leading them to do good and avoid evil.

But the Holy Spirit also speaks through the church, he said. "The interior witness of the Holy Spirit (in consciences) must be joined to that external, visible and objective witness which is the apostolic teaching" of the popes and the church, he said.

Father Cantalamessa said Christian faith results only from the dual action of the Holy Spirit, who proclaims the truth through the church and guides individuals to accept it.

"When this is reduced only to the personal, private listening of an individual, the path is open to an unstoppable process of divisions and subdivisions because each person believes he or she is right," the preacher said.

"But we also must recognize that the opposite risk exists: that of absolutizing the external and public witness of the Spirit," he said.

"In other words, there is a risk of reducing the guidance of the Paraclete to only the official teaching of the church, impoverishing the varied action of the Holy Spirit. In this case the human, organizational and institutional elements prevail, the passivity of the members is encouraged and the door is opened to the marginalization of the laity and the excessive clericalization of the church," Father Cantalamessa said.

END


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