Question 260:

It is said that Jesus opposed private property and money. He opened up Christianity merely for the poor, declared women as equals and it is said that he was a reformer of his times. The following statements are given in evidence: It is said that it says in the New Testament (indschīl) that he is the prophet of women and slaves. He said that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The first words of the Saints: During his temptation in the wilderness he rejected Satan’s offer (the devil offers him riches and fame, therefore these things are connected with the devil). There is even an example where Jesus described Satan as the ruler of the world and said that he had removed himself from the goods of the word. What is your opinion on this? 

In this context I would like to ask another question: The Catholic Church uses golden accessories (although there are so many poor in the world). What is your view on the fact that the church is largely seen as politically right (national socialism, supporting capital, patriarchal political movements)? In the New Testament we read that Jesus said “You have turned my father’s house into a shop” and that he forced the traders from the temple. We also read that the Catholic church controls a vast capital. How can these things be squared? 



It is necessary to quote the foundational text “Lumen Gentium” No. 8, because it explains the principal importance of the role of the poor within the mystery of the church:

Just as Christ carried out the work of redemption in poverty and persecution, so the Church is called to follow the same route that it might communicate the fruits of salvation to men. Christ Jesus, "though He was by nature God . . . emptied Himself, taking the nature of a slave”, (Philippians 2:6) and "being rich, became poor"(78) for our sakes (2 Corinthians 8:9). Thus, the Church, although it needs human resources to carry out its mission, is not set up to seek earthly glory, but to proclaim, even by its own example, humility and selfsacrifice.  Christ was sent by the Father "to bring good news to the poor, to heal the contrite of heart”,(Luke 4:18) "to seek and to save what was lost”. (Luke 19:10). Similarly, the Church encompasses with love all who are afflicted with human suffering and in the poor and afflicted sees the image of its poor and suffering Founder. It does all it can to relieve their need and in them it strives to serve Christ.”

[...] This mystery [i.e. of the church] is expressed in two forms which the text explicitly differentiates: On the one hand the church is required to overcome all temptation of power and to live in poverty as a witness to the poverty of Christ; the “church of the poor” is mentioned in that context. On the other hand the first priority of the church must be the poor to whom it must proclaim the message of liberation by the Messiah. “I have come to serve, not to be served”: Church must be about service and not primarily about power.

One of the aims of the last two sessions of the Council was to emphasise, in particular for the editors of the second Constitution of “on the church in the modern world”, the increasingly effective participation of bishops in the developing countries in order to emphasise this mystical view and to highlight its concrete demands.”

From: Marie-Dominique Chenu, “Kirche der Armen” [Church of the poor]  auf dem Zweiten Vatikanischen Konzil, in: Concilium 13 (1977), Vol. 4, pages 232-235. (s.

The call for each Christian and for the community of the church as a whole to follow this ideal the Second Vatican Council stressed to strongly, must always be heard and followed anew. Our attachment to wealth and power has always been the greatest stumbling block to the coming of the Kingdom of God. 

“Following Pope Benedict XVI., the church has been given a new helmsman, Pope Francis, who acts powerfully and with courage. However, some local churches are still hesitating to come on board. There is a strange calm across the land.

The new Pope brings with him characteristics that open the hearts of willing people to his words: his approach is unconventional and warm and he embodies the church’s option for the poor. Like St Francis he loves creation. There is hope emanating from him.

His election derailed the opponent of the church somewhat. But this won’t continue for long. Because the piece that’s being played out on the world stage is the piece between God and the adversary and it cannot be assumed that he allowed himself to be converted by the election of Pope Francis.

Pope Francis commanded his church to free itself from all baggage that prevents it from fulfilling its main task, the proclamation of the gospel. He has ordered detachment from the world. The church shall approach people with apostolic enthusiasm and not egocentrically circle around itself.

Pope Francis’s other target is the option for the poor. What does mean it mean and what does it signify for the local church in Germany?

Poverty means deficit, a lack of that which is needed to live. It can be a lack of material or spiritual goods. Of course there is material poverty here too [the author talks largely about Christians in Europa], and the poor are fortunately being looked after by the welfare state, by charitable organisations and through self help organisations.

The spiritual need is far greater: The lack of awareness of the importance of the right to life of the unborn, protection for the disabled and for old people who depend on our support. There is a widespread spiritual need in those who exist without a purpose in life because they no longer know God. They were not introduced to him by their parents when they were children. In school they learned about religion but did not encounter God. Subsequently, they left the church just as they left their parent’s home. Now there are only found at the margins of the church.

Is this religious poverty in society the big topic of the bishops’ conferences, the lay organisations, the Catholic associations and the parishes?

If the local church does not take up the issue of spiritual poverty for which it is responsible, the old tedious topics ranging from celibacy to women priests etc. etc. will soon come to the fore again, because proponents aren’t likely to go where they would get everything they want. They know exactly that they would lose their pots of flesh and sink into irrelevance.

Of course the church, following the principle of “Ecclesia semper reformanda”, meaning “the ever reforming church”, needs reforms. But these have to be of a spiritual nature, just like St Francis of Assisi converted himself first and then reformed the church from the inside through the example he set.

With the election of Pope Francis the local church has been given another opportunity. If it can grasp it, faith in the old continent could revive again.

If this does not happen the vitality and power centre of the world wide church will continue to shift towards the southern hemisphere. But this would not be an inevitable development or one willed by God.

Because even today change is possible.” 

(Hubert Gindert, the first chair of the “German Catholic Forum”, founded by him in Sept. in 2000. The text here quoted was written in Mai 2013, published  online in and accessed on June2, 2013.) 

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