Ecclesiam suam EN

Ecclesiam Suam

On the Ways in Which the Church Must Carry Out Its Mission in the Contemporary World

Encyclical of Pope Paul VI

August 6, 1964.

To Our Venerable Brothers the Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops and other Local Ordinaries in Peace and Communion with the Apostolic See, To the Clergy and Faithful of the Whole World, and to All Men of Good Will

Venerable Brothers and Beloved Children, Health and Apostolic Benediction

1 Since Jesus Christ founded His Church to be the loving mother of all men and the dispenser of salvation, it is obvious why she has always been specially loved and cherished by those with the glory of God and the eternal salvation of men at heart, among whom, as is fitting, the vicars of Christ on earth, vast numbers of bishops and priests and a wonderful host of saintly Christians have been conspicuous.

2 It will, then, not seem strange to anyone that, in addressing to the world this first encyclical after our elevation, in God's inscrutable design, to the Pontifical Throne, we should turn our thoughts with love and reverence towards Holy Church.

3 Consequently, we propose to ourself in this encyclical the task of showing more clearly to all men the Church's importance for the salvation of mankind, and her heartfelt desire that Church and mankind should meet each other and should come to know and love each other.


4 At the opening of the second session of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council on the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel of last year, through the goodness of God we had the opportunity of speaking to all of you as you were gathered in the Basilica of St. Peter. On that occasion we made clear our intention of addressing you also in writing, as is customary at the outset of each pontificate, with brotherly and fatherly words, in order to communicate to you some of the dominant thoughts in our heart which seem useful as practical guidelines at the beginning of our service as Pope.

5 It is truly difficult for us to specify such thoughts, because we ought to derive them from the attentive meditation of the teaching of God, we ourself always keeping in mind those words of Christ: "My doctrine is not so much mine as that of Him who sent Me." (Jn 7,16) Further, we ought to apply our thoughts to the present situation of the Church at a time when both energy and toil characterize its internal spiritual experience as well as its external apostolic efforts. Finally, we ought not to ignore the contemporary state of humanity in the midst of which our mission is to be accomplished.

6 But it is not our intention to express ideas that are either new or fully developed; the ecumenical council exists for that purpose; its work should not be disturbed by this simple conversational letter of ours; rather, it is to be commended and encouraged.

7 This encyclical intends neither to claim a solemn and strictly doctrinal function, nor to propose particular moral or social teachings, but merely to communicate a fraternal and informal message. In fact, through this document we wish simply to fulfill our duty of revealing our mind to you in order to impart closer cohesion and deeper joy to that unity in faith and charity which, thank God, binds us together.

We hope thereby to inject new vigor into our sacred work, to await more profitably the effective deliberations of the ecumenical Council, and to impart greater clarity to some doctrinal and practical norms which can give helpful guidance to the spiritual and apostolic activity, not only of the ecclesiastical hierarchy and of all who respond to it with obedience and collaboration, but also of all who regard it merely with kindly attention.

8 We will tell you without further delay, Venerable Brethren, that there are three thoughts which continually disturb our heart when we reflect on the exalted responsibility which, contrary to what we desire and out of all proportion to what we deserve, Providence has willed to entrust to us.

We bear the responsibility of ruling the Church of Christ because we hold the office of Bishop of Rome and consequently the office of Successor to the Blessed Apostle Peter, the bearer of the master keys to the Kingdom of God, the Vicar of the same Christ who made of him the supreme shepherd of His worldwide flock.

9 The first thought is that this is the hour in which the Church should deepen its consciousness of itself, in which it ought to meditate on that mystery which is peculiar to it, in which it ought to examine, for its own enlightenment and for its own development, a particular doctrine which it already knows and which it has formulated and made known during this past century.

That doctrine concerns the origin of the Church, its own nature, its own mission, its own ultimate destiny, a doctrine never sufficiently investigated and understood, inasmuch as it contains the
ępublication of a mystery, kept hidden from the beginning of time in the all-creating Mind of God ... in order that it may be made known ... through the Church." (
Ep 3,9-10) This teaching is a mysterious storehouse, or, in other words, a treasury of the mysterious plan of God which are to be revealed through the Church; it is today more than anything else conducive to meditation for everyone who wishes to be a docile follower of Christ and, to an even greater degree, for every man whom, like ourself and you, Venerable Brethren, the Holy Spirit has appointed as bishops to govern the very Church of God. (Cf. Ac 20,28)

10 From this enlightened and effective realization there arises the spontaneous desire to compare the ideal image of the Church just as Christ sees it, wills it, and loves it as his holy and immaculate spouse, (Ep 5,27) with the actual image which the Church projects today, faithful, through the grace of God, to the features which its Divine Founder imparted to it, and which, through the course of the centuries, the Holy Spirit has energized and developed in a way which is more comprehensive and more in accord with the initial concept of the Church and with the nature of the human race which it is continually evangelizing and elevating.

But the actual image of the Church is never as perfect, as lovely, as holy or as brilliant as that formative Divine Idea would wish it to be.

11 Hence there arises the unselfish and almost impatient need for renewal, for correction of the defects which this conscience denounces and rejects, as if, standing before a mirror, we were to examine interiorly the Image of Christ which He has left us.

To find the contemporary duty, so clearly incumbent on the Church, of correcting the defects of its own members and of leading them to greater perfection; to find the way to achieve wisely so sweeping a renovation, this is the second thought which burdens our heart and which we would like to reveal to you in order not only to find greater courage to undertake the necessary reforms, but also to secure from your collaboration both advice and support in so delicate and difficult an undertaking.

12 Our third thought, certainly shared by you, follows from the first two, and concerns the relationships which the Church of today should establish with the world which surrounds it and in which it lives and labors.

13 One part of this world, as everyone knows, has undergone the profound influence of Christianity and has assimilated it so completely that often it fails to realize that it owes the credit for its greatest gifts to Christianity itself, but, in recent times, has come to the point of separating and detaching itself from the Christian foundations of its culture. Another and larger part of the world extends to the boundless horizons of those who are termed emerging nations. But, taken as a whole, it is a world which offers the Church, not one, but a hundred forms of possible contacts, of which some are unimpeded and beckoning, some are sensitive and complex, and unfortunately in these days many are hostile and impervious to friendly dialogue.

14 Thus we meet what has been termed the problem of the dialogue between the Church and the modern world. This is a problem which it will be for the Council to determine in its vastness and complexity, and to solve, as far as possible, to the beset of its ability. But its existence and its urgency are such as to create a burden on our soul, a stimulus, a vocation, one might term it, which we would wish, both ourself and you, brothers, who are surely not less experienced than we in this apostolic anguish, to clarify in some way in order to prepare ourselves somehow for the discussions and deliberations which we shall try, together in the Council, to outline in our treatment of a matter so weighty and complex.

15 Surely you will notice that this summary outline of our encyclical does not envisage the treatment of urgent and serious topics which involve not only the Church but humanity itself, such as peace among nations and among social classes, the destitution and famine which still plague entire countries, the rise of new nations toward independence and civic progress, the currents of modern thought and Christian culture, the sad conditions of so many people and of so many segments of the Church where the very rights of free citizens and of human beings are being denied, the moral problems regarding birth, and so on.

16 Regarding the great and universal question of world peace, we say at once that we shall feel it specially incumbent upon us not merely to devote a watchful and understanding interest, but also to entertain a more assiduous and efficacious concern. This will be, of course, within the limits of our ministry and so utterly divorced from purely temporal interests and strictly political forms, but it will be eager to make its contribution in educating mankind to sentiments and ways of acting contrary to violent and deadly conflict, and in fostering rational and civilized agreements for peaceful relations between nations.

We shall also be solicitous to help by proclaiming higher human principles, that should serve to temper the passions and selfishness from which armed conflicts spring, and promote the harmonious relations and fruitful collaborations of all peoples, and we shall be ready to intervene, where an opportunity presents itself, in order to assist the contending parties to find honorable and fraternal solutions for their disputes.

We do not, indeed, forget that this loving service is a duty which the development, of doctrine on the one hand, and of international institutions on the other, has rendered all the more urgent in our awareness of our Christian mission in the world today. This mission is none other than making men brothers by virtue of the kingdom of justice and peace inaugurated by Christ's coming into the world.

17 But even if we now limit ourselves to some methodological considerations concerning the life of the Church, we do not therefore forget those great problems. To some of them the Council will devote its attention, while we personally will make them the objects of our study and of our action in the course of the exercise of our apostolic ministry, as it shall please the Lord to give us the inspiration and the strength for the task.


18 We think that it is a duty today for the Church to deepen the awareness that she must have of herself, of the treasure of truth which she is heir and custodian and of her mission in the world. Even before proposing for study any particular question, and even before considering what attitude to assume before the world around her, the Church in this moment must reflect on herself to find strength in the knowledge of her place in the Divine Plan; to find again greater light, new energy and fuller joy in the fulfillment of her own mission; and to determine the best means for making more immediate, more efficacious and more beneficial her contacts with mankind to which she belongs, even though distinguished from it by unique and unmistakable characteristics.

19 Indeed it seems to us that such an act of reflection can look to the very manner chosen by God to reveal Himself to men and to establish with them those religious bonds, of which the Church is both the instrument and the expression. Because if it is true t hat Divine Revelation was made "in many ways and by many means" (He 1,1) in a historical and incontestable context, nonetheless it entered into human life through ways proper to the Word and the Grace of God, Who communicates Himself interiorly to men by their listening to the message of salvation and by the act of Faith that follows and which is at the beginning of our justification.

20 We should wish this reflection on the origin and on the nature of the new and vital relationship which the religion of Christ establishes between God and man, to become an act of docility to the words of the Divine Teacher spoken to his listeners, and especially to His disciples, among whom even today, and with good reason, we ourself like to be considered.

21 From among so many we will choose one of the weightiest and most often repeated recommendations made to them by Our Lord and which is still valid today for whoever wishes to be His faithful follower, namely vigilance. It is true that this warning of Our Master has to do principally with man's final destiny, be it proximate or remote in time. But precisely because this vigilance should always be present and operative in the conscience of the faithful servant, it determines his every-day behavior, characteristic of the Christian in the world.

The Lord's reminder about vigilance is also made with reference to close and immediate things, that is, to the dangers and temptations which can threaten damage or ruin to man's conduct. (Cf.
Mt 26,41) Thus, it is easy to discover in the Gospel a continuous appeal to rectitude of thought and action.

Was this not perhaps the theme of the precursor's preaching, by which the public phase of the Gospel begins? And did not Jesus Christ Himself call for the Kingdom of God to be received interiorly? (Mt 17,21) Is not his whole pedagogy an exhortation, and initiation to the interior life? Psychological awareness and moral conscience are both called by Christ to a simultaneous maturity, as a condition for receiving the Divine Gifts of truth and of grace, as ultimately befits man. And this awareness of the disciple will later become his recollection (Cf. Mt 26,75; Lc 24,8; Jn 14,26; Jn 16,4) of what Jesus had taught and of what had taken place around Him; it will develop and grow in understanding who He was and what He taught and did.

22 The birth of the Church and the enlightening of her prophetic consciousness are the two characteristic events which coincide with Pentecost. Together they will progress: The Church in her organization and in the development of her hierarchy and of the body of the faithful; the awareness of her own vocation, of her own mysterious nature, of her own doctrine, of her own mission will accompany this gradual development. This will be according to the desire of St. Paul: "And this is my prayer for you; may your love grow richer and richer yet, in the fullness of its knowledge and the depth of its perception." (Ph 1,9)

23 We could express this invitation in another way, which we address to each of those who wish to receive it--that is, to each of you, Venerable Brothers, and to your followers, as also the ęgathering of the faithful" considered as a whole, which is the Church. And thus we could invite all men to make a living, profound and conscious act of faith in Jesus Christ Our Lord.

We should mark this moment of our religious life by such a profession of Faith, firm and resolute, though always humble and timorous, similar to the one we read about in the Gospel, uttered by the man born blind, whose eyes Jesus Christ had opened with a goodness equal to His power: "I do believe, Lord!" (
Jn 9,38) Or that of Martha in the same Gospel: "Yes, Lord, I have learned to believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, He who has come into this world"; (Jn 11,27) or that, specially dear to us, of Simon, who was later to become Peter: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (Mt 16,16) Why do we have the boldness to invite you to this act of ecclesiastical awareness? To this explicit, though interior, act of faith?

24 Many are the reasons, in our opinion, and they all derive from the profound and key demands of the unique moment reached by the life of the Church.

25 The Church needs to reflect on herself. She needs to feel the throb of her own life. She must learn to know herself better, if she wishes to live her own proper vocation and to offer to the world her message of brotherhood and of salvation.

She needs to experience Christ in herself, according to the words of the Apostle Paul: "May Christ find a dwelling place, through faith, in your hearts." (
Ep 3,17)

26 It is known to all that the Church has her roots deep in mankind, that she is part of it, that she draws her members from it, that she receives from it precious treasures of culture, that she suffers from its historical vicissitudes, that she favors its progress.

Now, it is likewise known that at present mankind is undergoing great transformations, upheavals, and the developments which are profoundly changing not only its exterior modes of life but also its way of thinking. Mankind's range of thought, culture, and spirit have been intimately modified either by scientific, technical and social progress or by the currents of philosophical and political thought which overwhelm or pass through it. All of his, like the waves of an ocean, envelopes and agitates the Church itself. Men committed to the Church are greatly influenced by the climate of the world; so much so that a danger bordering almost on vertiginous confusion and bewilderment can shake the Church's very foundations and lead men to embrace most bizarre ways of thinking, as though the Church should disavow herself and take up the very latest and untried ways of life.

Was not the phenomenon of modernism, for example, which still crops up in the various attempts at expressing what is foreign to the authentic nature of the Catholic religion, an episode of abuse exercised against the faithful and genuine expression of the doctrine and criterion of the Church of Christ by psychological and cultural forces of the profane world? Now it seems to us that to check the oppressive and complex danger coming from many sides, a good and obvious remedy is for the Church to deepen her awareness of what she really is according to the Mind of Christ, as preserved in Sacred Scripture and in Tradition, and interpreted and developed by the authentic tradition of the Church. The Church is, as we now, enlightened and guided by the Holy Spirit, Who is still ready, if we implore Him and listen to Him, to fulfill without fail the promise of Christ: "The Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send on my account, will in His turn make everything plan, and recall to your minds everything I have said to you. (
Jn 14,26)

27 We could make a similar discourse concerning errors which circulate even within the Church and into which fall those who have but a partial understanding of its nature and of its mission, and who do not pay close enough attention to the documents of Divine Revelation and of the teaching body established by Christ Himself.

28 Moreover, this need to consider in reflection things that are known, in order to contemplate them in the interior mirror of his own mind, is characteristic of the mentality of modern man. His thought easily turns back upon itself and finds certitude and fullness in the light of its own conscience. We do not say that this habit is without serious danger. Philosophical movements of great renown have studied and extolled this form of man's spiritual activity as something definitive and supreme, as though it were the measure and source of reality, urging thought on to conclusions that are abstruse, barren, contradictory and radically fallacious.

But this does not mean that an education aiming at the search for reflex truth within man's consciousness is not in itself highly appreciated and today quite widespread as a refined expression of modern culture. Just as this habit, carefully coordinated with the development of thought for the purpose of discovering truth where it coincides with objective reality, does not prevent the exercise of the conscience from manifesting to the one who undertakes the same, the fact of his own existence, of his own spiritual dignity and of his own ability to know and act.

29 It is well known, moreover, that in recent years the Church has undertaken a deeper study of herself through the work of outstanding scholars, of great and profound minds, of competent theological schools, of pastoral and missionary endeavors, of remarkable experiences in the field of religion, and above all, of noteworthy teachings of the popes.

30 It would take too long even to allude to the abundant theological literature dealing with the Church and produced by her during the last and the present centuries. It would also take too long to recall the documents which the Episcopacy and this Apostolic See have issued on this so vast and important subject. From the time the Council of Trent sought to repair the consequences of the crisis which separated from the Church many of her members in the 16th century, the doctrine concerning the Church herself was studied by eminent scholars and consequently made great progress.

Suffice it for us here to refer to the teachings of the First Ecumenical Vatican Council in this field to understand how studies on the Church are a subject that claims the attention of pastors and teachers, of the faithful and of all Christians. Thus they are made to dwell on a theme which is a necessary step on the path leading to Christ and His work. So much so that, as has already been said, the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council is but a continuation and a complement of the first, precisely because of the task incumbent upon it to take up again for study and definition the doctrine dealing with the Church. And if out of a desire for brevity, we say no more, inasmuch as we are addressing those who are well acquainted with this subject of instruction and of spirituality currently of wide interest throughout the Church, there are two documents which we cannot fail to honor with specific mention: the encyclical SATIS COGNITUM of Pope Leo XIII (1896) and the encyclical MYSTICI CORPORIS of Pope Pius XII (1943). These documents offer us ample and clear things on the Divine Institution by which Christ continues His work of salvation in the world, and which today is the subject matter of these wordfs of ours.

Let it be enough to cite the opening words of the second of these encyclicals which has become, one might say, a highly authoritative text on the theology of the Church and a rich source of spiritual meditations on this work of Divine Mercy which concerns us all. Let it suffice to recall these masterful words of our great predecessor:

We first learned of the Mystical Body of Christ, which
is the Church, from the lips of the Redeemer Himself.
Illustrating, as it does, the great and inestimable
privilege of our intimate union with a Head so exalted,
this doctrine is certainly calculated by its sublime
dignity to draw all spiritually minded men to deep and
serious study, and to give them, in the truths which it
unfolds to the mind, a strong incentive to such virtuous
conduct as is conformable to its lessons. (15)

15. A.A.S., XXXV, p. 193; 1943.

31 It is an answer to such an invitation, which we consider still vital and meaningful and expressive of one of the fundamental needs of the Church in our times, that we propose it again today. With an ever-growing knowledge of this same Mystical Body we may come to appreciate its God-given importance, and in this way strengthen our souls with this incomparable source of consolation and always increase our ability to fulfill the duties of our mission and to meet the needs of mankind.

Nor does it seem to us a difficult thing to do, when on the one hand we notice, as we have said, a vast renascence of studies on the Church, and, on the other, we know that it is the principal object of attention of the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council.

We should like to pay special tribute to those scholars who, especially during these last years, with perfect docility to the teachng authority of the Church and with outstanding gifts of research and expression, have with great dedication undertaken many difficult and fruitful studies of the Church. These scholars, both in theological schools and in scientific and literary discussions, as well as in apologetics and in the popularization of dogma, in the spiritual assistance rendered to the faithful and in conversations with the separated brethren, have offered many and diverse illustrations of the teaching on the Church. Some of these are of great value and utility.

32 And so we are confident that the work of the Council will be assisted by the light of the Holy Spirit. It will be carried out and brought to a happy conclusion with such docility to His Divine Inspirations, with so much effort made to undertake fuller and deeper investigations into the pristine thinking of Christ and into the necessary and legitimate developments which have followed in the course of time, with such eagerness to make of Divine Truth an argument for union and not a reason to divide men in sterile discussions or regrettable divisions. It will rather lead them to greater understanding and concord; the result will be a source of glory for God, joy for the Church, and edification for the world.

33 In this encyclical we are deliberately refraining from passing any judgment of our own on doctrinal points concerning the Church which are at present under examination by the Council itself over which we have been called to preside. It is our desire to leave full liberty of study and discussion to such an important and authoritative assembly. In virtue of our office of Teacher and Pastor, and placed at the head of the Church of God, we reserve to ourself the choice of the proper moment and manner of expressing our judgment. We are most happy if we can present it in perfect accord with that of the conciliar Fathers.

34 However, we cannot avoid alluding rapidly to the results we hope will derive from the Council itself, and from the efforts we mentioned above, which the Church must make to come to a fuller and firmer awareness of herself. These results are the aims we have set for our Apostolic Ministry as we undertake its consoling and tremendous responsibilities. They are, so to speak, the program of our pontificate. We tell you this, Venerable Brethren, briefly but in all sincerity, so that you will be willing to help us put it into effect by your advice, by your support, by your collaboration. We think that by opening our heart to you, we are opening it not only to all the faithful of the Church of God, but especially to those whom our voice can reach beyond the wide limits of the Flock of Christ.

35 The first benefit to be reaped from a deepened awareness of herself by the Church is a renewed discovery of her vital bond of union with Christ. This is something that is very well known, but is something that is fundamental and indispensable and never sufficiently understood, meditated upon, and honored.

What should we not say about this central theme of all our religious inheritance? Fortunately, you already have an excellent grasp of this doctrine. We will say no more at this time except to urge you to keep it always before your eyes as a directive principle both in your spirituality and in your preaching. Rather than to our words, listen to the exhortation of our predecessor already mentioned in his encyclical MYSTICI CORPORIS: "We must accustom ourselves to see Christ in the Church. It is Christ who lives in the Church, who teaches, governs and sanctifies through it. It is Christ, too, who manifests Himself differently in different members of His society." (16) How we should like to dwell on the thoughts that come to mind from Sacred Scripture, from the Fathers, the Doctors and the Saints when we consider this enlightening truth of our Faith. Did not Jesus Himself tell us that He is the Vine and we the branches? (
Jn 15,1ss) Do we not have before us all the riches of St. Paul's teaching, who never ceases to remind us: "You are all One Person in Jesus Christ"? (Ga 3,28) And to recommend to us "... let us grow up, in everything, into a due proportion with Christ, who is our head; on Him all the body depends"? (Ep 4,15-16) And to admonish us: "There is nothing but Christ in any of us." (Col 3,11) Suffice it to recall St. Augustine as the one teacher among many who could be cited: "Let us rejoice and give thanks that we have become not only Christians but Christ. My brothers, do you understand the Grace of God our Head? Stand in admiration, rejoice; we have become Christ. For if He is the Head, we are the members; He and we are the complete Man ... therefore, the fullness of Christ is constituted by the Head and Members. What is the Head and athe Members? Christ and the Church." (21)

A.A.S., Ib. p. 238.
In jo. Tract. 21,8--P.L. 35, 1568.

36 We know well that this is a mystery. It is the mystery of the Church. And if, with the help of God, we fix our gaze on this mystery we will receive many spiritual benefits, the very ones we believe the Church today stands in greatest need of. The presence of Christ, His very life will become operative in each one and in the whole of the Mystical Body by reason of the working of a living and life-giving faith, according to the words of the Apostle: "May Christ find a dwelling-place, through Faith, in your hearts." (Ep 3,17) Indeed, awareness of the mystery of the Church is a result of a mature and living faith. From such a faith comes that "feeling for the Church," which fills the Christian who has been raised in the school of the Divine Word. He has been nourished by the Grace of the Sacraments and of the ineffable inspirations of the Paraclete, has been trained in the practice of the virtues of the Gospel, has been imbued with the culture and community life of the Church, and is profoundly happy to find himself endowed with that Royal Priesthood proper to the people of God. (Cf. 1P 2,9)

37 The mystery of the Church is not a mere object of theological knowledge; it is something to be lived, something that the faithful soul can have a kind of conatural experience of, even before arriving at a clear notion of it. Moreover, the community of the faithful can be profoundly certain of its participation in the Mystical Body of Christ when it realizes that by divine institution, the ministry of the Hierarchy of the Church is there to give it a beginning, to give it birth, (Cf. Ga 4,19 1Co 4,15) to teach and sanctify and direct it. It is by means of this divine instrumentality that Christ communicates to His mystical members the marvels of His truth and of His grace, and confers to His Mystical Body as it travels its pilgrim's way through time its visible structure, its sublime unity, its ability to function organically, its harmonious complexity, its spiritual beauty.

Images do not suffice to translate into meaningful language the full reality and depth of this mystery. However after dwelling on the image of the Mystical Body, which was suggested by the Apostle Paul, we should especialy call to mind one suggested by Christ Himself, that of the edifice for which He is the Architest and the Builder, an edifice indeed founded on a man who of himself is weak but who was miraculously transformed by Christ into solid rock, that is, endowed with marvelous and everlasting indefectibility: "It is upon this rock that I will build my church." (Mt 16,18)

38 If we can awaken in ourselves such a strength-giving feeling for the Church and instill it in the faithful by profound and careful instruction, many of the difficulties which today trouble students of Ecclesiology, for example, how the Church can be at once both visible and spiritual, at once free and subject to discipline, communitarian and hierarchical, already holy and yet still being sanctified, contemplative and active, and so on, will be overcome in practice and solved by those who, after being enlightened by sound teaching, experience the living reality of the Church herself.

But above all, the Church's spirituality will come forth enriched and nourished by the faithful reading of Sacred Scripture, of the Holy Fathers and Doctors of the Church and by all that brings about in the Church such an awareness. We mean systematic and accurate instruction, participation in that incomparable school of words, signs and divine inspirations which constitute the Sacred Liturgy and by silent and fervent meditation on divine truths and finally by wholehearted dedication to contemplative prayer.

The interior life still remains the great source of the Church's spirituality, her own proper way of receiving the illuminations of the Spirit of Christ, the fundamental and irreplaceable manifestation of her religious and social activity, an impregnable defense as well as an inexhaustible source of energy in her difficult contacts with the world.

39 It is necessary to restore to Holy Baptism, that is, to the fact of having been incorporated by means of this Sacrament into the Mystical Body of Christ, which is the Church, all of its significance. It is specially important that the baptized person should have a highly conscious esteem of his elevation, or, rather, of his rebirth to the most happy reality of being an adopted Son of God, to the dignity of being a Brother of Christ, to the good fortune, we mean to the grace and joy of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, to the vocation to a new life. It has lost nothing human save only the unhappy fate of original sin and, because it is human, is capable of the finest manifestations and the most precious and sublime acts.

To be Christians, to have received Holy Baptism, must not be looked upon as something indifferent or of little importance, but it must be imprinted deeply and happily in the conscience of every baptized person. He must truly look upon it, as did the Christians of old, as an "Illumination," which, by drawing down upon him the life-giving ray of Divine Truth, opens heaven to him, sheds light upon earthly life and enables him to walk as a child of the light towards the vision of God, the spring of eternal happiness.

40 It is easy to see what practical program this consideration imposes on us and our ministry. We are happy to see that this program is already being put into practice throughout the whole Church and that it is being furthered with prudent and ardent zeal. We encourage this activity, we commend it, we bless it.


Ecclesiam suam EN