The preacher, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, mentioned in particular St. Catherine of Siena who, in imitation of Christ, gave her life for the renewal of the Church.
"If Christ loved the Church, in spite of the iniquities she would commit, pretending to overlook them, who are we to see in the weaknesses and miseries of the Church a reason not to love her and even to judge her? Precisely we, who are so full of sin?" Father Cantalamessa asked today.
"Do we not think that Jesus knew the sins of the Church better than us?" the Capuchin continued. "Did he not know who he was dying for? Did he not know that among his disciples, one was betraying him, another denying him, and all fleeing?"
"But he loved this real Church, not the imaginary and ideal one. He died 'to make her holy and immaculate,' not because she was already holy and immaculate," Father Cantalamessa said in the presence of John Paul II and the Curia members gathered in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel in the Apostolic Palace.
The preacher added: "To Luther, who reproached him for remaining in the Catholic Church despite her 'corruption,' Erasmus of Rotterdam replied one day: 'I endure this Church in the hope that she will improve, given that she also has to endure me in the hope that I will improve.'"
"We must all ask Christ for forgiveness for so many inconsiderate judgments and so many offenses to his bride and, consequently, to him. The affirmation in the Letter to the Ephesians contains an implicit question: 'Christ loved the Church; do you?'" Father Cantalamessa exhorted.
The Papal Household preacher encouraged those present to unite themselves to St. Catherine of Siena's prayer: "O most gentle love, you saw in yourself the need of the Holy Church, and the remedy she needs, and you gave it to her, that is, the prayer of your servants, of which you would like a wall to be built on which the wall of the holy Church will be supported; and to your servants the clemency of your Holy Spirit infuses ardent desires for her renewal."