to a crowd of some 52,000 people in St. Peter‘s Square today, Pope
Benedict XVI explained that through apostolic tradition, the Word of
God is passed down from Christ himself through the apostles and their
successors--in its full integrity--to members of the Church today.
The Holy Father’s regular Wednesday audience earlier today was dedicated to the idea of apostolic tradition, a theme he called of "great relevance in the life of the Church".
"The Vatican Council”, he began, “affirms that the [Church’s] Tradition is 'apostolic', above all in its origins.” He added that “God ... willed to reveal it so that the salvation of souls may be integrally transmitted to all generations ... For this, Christ, in Whom the will of God is completed, sent the apostles to preach ... the Gospel as a source of all truth and moral law".
He explained that the apostles, "heads of an eschatological Israel were twelve, as were the tribes of the chosen people", and this number "not only expresses the continuation of the holy race, the twelve tribes of Israel, but also the universal destiny of its ministry".
"The community,” he said, “born from the pronouncement of the Gospel by those who were first with the Lord ... can rely on the leadership of the twelve, as did those who little by little united themselves with the successors in the ministry of the Word and service toward the community.”
“Nevertheless,” the Pope stressed however, “one feels compelled to transmit to others the 'Good News' of the Lord's presence".
He went on, saying that the Tradition the Church rests on "is the living Gospel pronounced in its integrity by the apostles ... through their work the faith was communicated to others and has arrived to us, until the end of the world.”
“The Tradition”, he said is “the history of the Spirit, working in the life of the Church through the apostles and their successors, in faithful continuity with the original experience".
The Holy Father used the Gospel of St. Matthew to help illustrate his point, saying that the apostolic mandate "implies a pastoral service ('make disciples of all nations'), a liturgical service ('baptizing them'), and a prophetic service ("teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you') guaranteeing closeness to the Lord until the end of the ages ('I am with you always until the end of time')".
He said that "Thanks to the apostolic ministry, Christ Himself comes to one who is called to the faith, overcoming the distance of the ages and offering Himself, living and working, today in the Church and the world".