Pope Francis: “it is not possible to find Jesus outside the Church”

Dissenters and liberals are not going to like this.

Today in the Pauline Chapel of the Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis celebrated Mass for his Name Day, the Feast of St. George.   There is a transcript.

Among the things the Holy Father said is this.

And so the Church was a Mother, the Mother of more children, of many children. It became more and more of a Mother. A Mother who gives us the faith, a Mother who gives us an identity. But the Christian identity is not an identity card: Christian identity is belonging to the Church, because all of these belonged to the Church, the Mother Church. Because it is not possible to find Jesus outside the Church. The great Paul VI said: “Wanting to live with Jesus without the Church, following Jesus outside of the Church, loving Jesus without the Church is an absurd dichotomy.” And the Mother Church that gives us Jesus gives us our identity that is not only a seal, it is a belonging. Identity means belonging. This belonging to the Church is beautiful.

He then speaks of the Church’s mission to evangelize.

And at the end…

And let us ask the Lord for this “parresia”, this apostolic fervor that impels us to move forward, as brothers, all of us forward! Forward, bringing the name of Jesus in the bosom of Holy Mother Church, and, as St. Ignatius said, “hierarchical and Catholic.” So be it.


Within hours of his election, Pope Francis said that those who do not pray to the Lord, are praying to the Devil.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Geoffrey says:

    His Holiness doesn’t mince words, does he? Deo gratias!

  2. merlk says:

    And today he used ferula of BXVI again. :)

  3. McCall1981 says:

    Besides this one, he has recently had homilies on not using the Church for personal promotion, how Christ is the only door to God, and how ideology falsifies the Gospel. I wonder if any of these was inspired by his meeting about the LCWR? [ROFL! Good one.]

  4. eulogos says:

    How does his fit with his having told Anglican Archbishop Venables that the Ordinariate was not necessary, and “We need you as Anglicans.” ?
    Susan Peterson [I don’t believe that report.]

  5. Eugene says:

    to the Post by McCall:
    “I wonder if any of these was inspired by his meeting about the LCWR?” – NO they have moved BEYOND Jesus to God, according their catechism, poor Pope Francis he is not as up to date as they are,
    Seriously I love his words…may he continue to speak clearly and with force!

  6. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    How does, or would, the Holy Father dilate upon this in the specific context of Lumen gentium 15 ? (I think especially of, “For there are many who honor Sacred Scripture, taking it as a norm of belief and a pattern of life, and who show a sincere zeal. They lovingly believe in God the Father Almighty and in Christ, the Son of God and Saviour. They are consecrated by baptism, in which they are united with Christ. They also recognize and accept other sacraments within their own Churches or ecclesiastical communities. Many of them rejoice in the episcopate [“hierarchical”?!], celebrate the Holy Eucharist and cultivate devotion toward the Virgin Mother of God. They also share with us in prayer and other spiritual benefits. Likewise we can say that in some real way they are joined with us in the Holy Spirit, for to them too He gives His gifts and graces whereby He is operative among them with His sanctifying power.”)

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  8. TNCath says:

    Listen! Can you hear it? Can you hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth over at ncronline.com and praytellblog.com?

  9. w0343009 says:

    That Chapel was reconstructed by Pope Benedict to face east. Is there any way to find pictures of the Mass?

  10. GordonB says:

    So, this is the fruition of the Catholic identity spawned by liturgical renewal — belong to Jesus. He’s encouraging us to look through the liturgy — the gift of the liturgy — to the giver of the gift, Christ.

  11. Back pew sitter says:

    w0343009: the Mass was said facing the people (mainly concelebrating Cardinals in the pews). It was broadcast live on EWTN so it may be repeated later today. Unlike some people I am not adverse to the JPII ferula/staff, but I was pleased to see that he used the BXVI one today.

  12. fizzwizz says:

    Well he is all Catholic today but tomorrow who knows……….he is all over the place [wow]

  13. Jean Marie says:

    I’m liking Pope Francis more and more.

  14. VexillaRegis says:

    McCall: But the LCWR aren’t looking for Jesus!

  15. McCall1981 says:

    @ Eugene and VexillaRegis,
    Good points, someone better tell Pope Francis quick so he doesn’t offend them…

  16. aandreassi says:

    I consider myself a progressive Catholic and find these words of the pope to be right now. No, one cannot find the fullness of Christ outside of communion with the Church

  17. eulogos says:

    I know people who know people who know Anglican Archbishop Venables. The citation first appeared at Stand Firm, from someone to whom Venables had spoken directly. I think we have to conclude, at least, that this is what Venables believes Pope Francis said to him. The actual words spoken are of course inaccessible.
    Susan Peterson

  18. eulogos says:

    And of course it all depends on what “outside the Church” means. Which depends upon what “inside the Church” means. Anglicans, by virtue of their baptism, do belong in an imperfect sense, to the Church. I would not, myself, say that that degree of imperfect communion means that they cannot know Jesus. Jesus can reveal Himself to whom He will reveal Himself, by what means He chooses. The Catholic Church and her sacraments are the ordinary means, but that doesn’t mean that those who have only the sacrament of baptism and the scriptures to bind them to the Church, do not know Him at all.
    Susan Peterson

  19. JimGB says:

    Pope Francis also seems to be wearing new mitres that are in the style he apparently favors but with slightly more decoration. Another one was used for the recent priestly ordination Mass, along with vestments used by Pope John Paul II. I could not make out whether the Pope’s coat of arms was on the lappets of the mitre (as would be customary) but they seemed to have some additional decoration.

  20. Jeannie_C says:

    Venerator Sti Lot, read Lumen Gentium 14: “…..Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.” Also – LG 16: “Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve eternal salvation.”

    I understand the above from Lumen Gentium, as well as the quotation you provide, which is the quotation that fits in between the two I cite to mean that those who are ignorant of Christ, or who are born into other Christian faith communities may also be saved, but – here’s the kicker – once they become aware that the R.C. Church is the original Church founded by Christ upon Peter, they are bound to come into the fold, otherwise there is no salvation for them. These explanations are found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church 820 and onward discussing ecumenism and unity.

    Here’s the problem I have with ecumenism and keep bumping up against it – most who belong to faith communities separated from the R.C. Church believe that ecumenism means finding a middle ground where we can meet, means our giving up some of our beliefs and core traditions, in short our (R.C.) becoming less and becoming more like them. I don’t believe ecumenism translates into relativism, rather it means finding a middle ground in which to engage discussion, but the end goal is to bring the schismatics and heretics back to Christ’s church. Nothing less, and it is our mandate as Roman Catholics to evangelize protestants as well as those who don’t know Christ.

    Of course, I’m not Pope Francis and can’t speak for him, but I don’t believe he would see our faith watered down in order to accommodate those outside the church, but does see those outside the church who have at least some faith and understanding as being on the right track. Again, it is our responsibility to pull them in.

  21. Johnno says:

    Here’s hoping Pope Francis will remember this when 2017 rolls around and we ecumenistically join the Lutherans to ‘celebrate’ the Protestant Revolt that tore the Church in two, dragged Europe into bloody warfare and doomed numerous souls to hell. [That’s I “no” vote, I guess.]

  22. mamajen says:

    Another winner. It’s fascinating to me how often his sermons directly contradict the nasty rumors people have been spreading about him.

  23. Pingback: Logos and Muse: Pope Francis: Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Iesu

  24. O. Possum says:

    This is very good to hear. The “interfaith dialogue” and backpedaling from Extra Ecclesia Nulla Salus we often see is very troubling to me. It’s very encouraging for me to hear Pope Francis stress the importance of the One True Church. :)

  25. Tim Capps says:

    I thought that was a great homily. Catholic identity is what we have lost, and what we, and the West, desperately need to revive. The Pope could not have been more clear that he was talking about the actual, real, historical, Church, “hierarchical and Catholic.” St. Ignatius Loyola, a no-nonsense military man, referred to the Church as “the hierarchical Church” in his famous Spiritual Exercises. And San Jorge rescued the maiden dressed as a bride from the dragon. Pope Francis has no lack of dragons, both inside and outside of the Church. It was nice to feel good about being Catholic after hearing a homily.

  26. CharlesG says:

    @Susan Paterson: If the then Cardinal Bergoglio said this to Anglican bishop Venables in a private conversation, my guess is that it is likely addressing only the local Argentinian situation. My understanding is that the Anglicans of the “Southern Cone” are still recognizably Christian, unlike the Christianity-destroying, world-worshipping heretics running the US Episcopalian Church, and increasingly the old C of E. And besides, even if the Pope was more broadly sceptical about Anglicanorum Coetibus at the time, he may also have changed his mind on this now he is responsible for both “Urbi et Orbi” (I know, not correct case in Latin, but I never properly learned that language).

  27. Norah says:

    As someone who watches The Journey Home on EWTN regularly I can’t believe that one can’t find Jesus outside of the Catholic Church. Those converts to the Faith found Jesus from their parents and in their former ecclesial communities. Because they loved Jesus they came into the fullness of God’s revelation when they entered the Catholic Church. The love those converts actively demonstrate for Jesus puts many Catholics, including myself, to shame.

    Does Pope Francis’ remark not contradict what the Catechism has to say about those not members of the Church?

  28. Ralph says:

    The Holy Father is sure keeping me on my toes.
    I can’t seem to get a feel for him.
    I am praying for him none the less.

  29. Medjugorje Man 07 says:

    All are so desperate for anything but reality. I AM VERY CONCERNED. The Americanized Franciscan order near me in Minneapolis is nothing short of total liberal decay!

  30. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Jeannie_C, thank you for your observations!

    Lumen gentium 15 clearly “fits in between” chapters 14 and 16 in terms of its matter.

    Your quotation from 16 reminds me of what Jean Danielou says about the Epistle to the Hebrews, ch. 11, and St. Thomas Aquinas’s reference to it in the Summa (II, II, 1, 7) in his Holy Pagans of the Old Testament (as the 1960 translation of his 1956 book is entitled).

    Among the notable things about Lumen gentium 15 (however they are correctly to be understood) is that it speaks not only of “multi” as “in […] communitatibus ecclesiasticis” but also of (as I take it, some of these) “in propriis Ecclesiis”, who “amanter credunt […] in Christum, Flilum Dei Salvatorem, baptismo signatur, quo Christo coniuguntur”, and adds “accedit […] vera quaedam in Spiritu Sancto coniunctio”.

    Of course, “baptsimo signatur’ could be said of all sorts of people, including, say, Julian the Apostate and Heinrich Himmler, but the content of the first part of the same long (Latin) sentence includes “who honor Sacred Scripture, taking it as a norm of belief and a pattern of life, and who show a sincere zeal. They lovingly believe in God the Father Almighty and in Christ, the Son of God and Saviour.” This, as context, certainly does not translate “into relativism” or “see our faith watered down in order to accommodate” anyone (as far as I can see). This would seem to refer to ‘Evangelium’ consciously embraced (which need not exclude in some sense a “mandate […] to evangelize protestants”).

    Before the reference to “Likewise we can say that in some real way they are joined with us in the Holy Spirit,” comes the notable “Many of them rejoice in the episcopate, celebrate the Holy Eucharist”. Whom is this meant justly to include? Even some ‘Anglicans’, among others?

  31. Parasum says:

    “it is not possible to find Jesus outside the Church”

    ## If by that he means that J. H. Newman – to name only one convert to Catholicism – was in fact a Godless pagan until his reception, and that he had absolutely no genuine, let alone fruitful, Christian experience of any kind whatever until the moment he was received on October 9 1845, then the present Pope is going to have his work cut out reconciling that with what his predecessor said. That Newman was Christless until his reception, is logically entailed by the natural meaning of the Pope’s words.

    The Popes have to make up their minds up, and leave no doubt whatever on this very serious matter:


    1. there can be, and often in fact is, genuine spiritual good outside the visible bounds of the CC, so that it is not antecedently or actually impossible, but is actually possible, & is even a fact, that the grace of God can genuinely be at work, & is, in non-Catholic bodies (such as the C of E) –


    2. the position of the Pope[s ?] is that, the C of E (for example) is a wholly Christ-free zone.

    If the latter is true, then it is impossible for any who die in the C of E to be saved; they are infallibly damned, every last single one of them, without exception. Therefore, C. S. Lewis, an Anglican, must be damned – having had (apparently) no more knowledge of Christ than a stone. Regardless of the great good fruit of his life and works.

    If the Pope is in effect saying that all non-Catholic bodies are inhabited solely by Christless heathens, he needs to say so plainly, and put an end to all ecumenism, and stop giving non-Catholics the impression that Rome thinks that a great many of them are in fact Christians. When Rome speaks with a forked tongue, as it often does, by saying X & doing not-X, it cannot blame others for the confusion it causes. It is wrong, if someone is not a Christian, to give them the impression one thinks they are Christian. This is where so many anti-Catholics are a breath of fresh air: if they don’t believe a Catholic is a Christian, they say so. With them, one knows where one stands. They are honest men, who do not indulge in polite insincerities. Their love of truth is greater than any temptation they may have to give the false impression that they think Catholics are Christians, for they think no such thing. This frankness, however painful, is praiseworthy. And it is a wonderful change from the meaningless civilities that are far too common in ecumenism. If the Pope believe non-Catholics are heathens, fair enough – but then the problem arises: how does he propose to square that with the teaching & acts of his recent predecessors ? Or is he unaware of the existence of (say) ARCIC ?

    The Pope’s words are doctrinally very difficult indeed. They imply that the Christ is not faithful to the Church, so much as imprisoned in it, so that He is not able to bless & save non-Catholics, even if He would like to. That is heretical. Or perhaps He is unwilling to save non-Catholics ? That too is heretical. If God is so small that He is the property or prisoner of the CC, and is unable to bless & sanctify even a single soul unless the Church allows Him so to do, He is not God, but an idol for the Church to chastise when He displeases her, or to honour when He does her Will. That is to make God & Church change places, and it is less Christian than the highest flights of OT theology – the Prophets knew better than to think that God was theirs to command. Do the Pope not know that ?

    So what does the Pope mean ? On the face of it, it is impossible to give his words any meaning that is not a very bad one. If his words are patient of a good sense – what is that sense ? In their natural sense, they are simply untrue :(

  32. Supertradmum says:

    This is his best sermon yet, and I have read many including the Angelus ones.

    Norah, I think you are misunderstanding the teaching of the Church. All grace for those who are not in the Catholic Church comes from the merit of the Catholic Church. If we Catholics are not meriting grace, being excellent Catholics, that affects our Christian brothers and sisters in Christ.

    As to finding Jesus, it is not through our own efforts that we find Christ. He finds us, through the Church. Now, those who seek Him, will find Him and those who seek Him sincerely, facing conversion from false teachings regarding the sacraments or contraception, will find Christ in the Catholic Church.

    Sadly, even our Evangelical friends believe in many things which are contrary to the Faith, and because of this, they struggle and even finally give up the path of perfection, without which no one sees God at death.

    How important it is for us Catholics not only to preach, as our Holy Father just did, but to lead others into the Church, the one, true, holy and apostolic Church.

    As to the CCC, there is no contradiction, as again, the grace of conversion is from the Church as well. Here are some references for you.

    2010 Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life. Even temporal goods like health and friendship can be merited in accordance with God’s wisdom. These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions.

    2011 The charity of Christ is the source in us of all our merits before God. Grace, by uniting us to Christ in active love, ensures the supernatural quality of our acts and consequently their merit before God and before men. The saints have always had a lively awareness that their merits were pure grace.

    After earth’s exile, I hope to go and enjoy you in the fatherland, but I do not want to lay up merits for heaven. I want to work for your love alone. . . . In the evening of this life, I shall appear before you with empty hands, for I do not ask you, Lord, to count my works. All our justice is blemished in your eyes. I wish, then, to be clothed in your own justice and to receive from your love the eternal possession of yourself.63


    2012 “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him . . . For those whom he fore knew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.”64

    2013 “All Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity.”65 All are called to holiness: “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”66

    In order to reach this perfection the faithful should use the strength dealt out to them by Christ’s gift, so that . . . doing the will of the Father in everything, they may wholeheartedly devote themselves to the glory of God and to the service of their neighbor. Thus the holiness of the People of God will grow in fruitful abundance, as is clearly shown in the history of the Church through the lives of so many saints.67

    And, there is more in those sections. Pax.

  33. Mary T says:

    Eulogos said “I know people who know people who know Anglican Archbishop Venables. The citation first appeared at Stand Firm, from someone to whom Venables had spoken directly. I think we have to conclude, at least, that this is what Venables believes Pope Francis said to him.”

    Umm, no, we don’t have to conclude anything based on hearsay. This reminds me of a scene from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”:

    Economics Teacher: Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?
    Simone: Um, he’s sick. My best friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s brother’s girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who’s going with the girl who saw Ferris pass out at 31 Flavors last night. I guess it’s pretty serious.

  34. Clinton R. says:

    Pope Francis: St. Ignatius said, “hierarchical and Catholic.”

    And on the same point we can quote another St. Ignatius, St. Ignatius of Antioch:

    “Wherever the bishop appears, there let the people be; as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.” Letter to the Smyrnaeans 107 AD

  35. jbosco88 says:

    How very Catholic of him. Anyone would think he was the Pope!!

    So far as the grumblings go about ‘we need you as Anglicans’ maybe the good Cardinal was right – the Roman Catholic Church can do without all the nay-saying and extreme infighting that goes on in the Anglican fellowship. I have used this line on many people who want to convert so they can change the Catholic Church to their ideals from the inside out. Indeed, these people are needed as Anglicans. And we should pray for them!

  36. Mightnotbeachristiantou says:

    from romereports.com
    youtube clip

  37. catholicmidwest says:

    2.6% of the members of the Church in the US are currently converts. The great majority of those converted preparatory to marriage to a Catholic. However, the number of people coming into the Church, who were not born into the Church, is dropping. It’s down by 1/3 since the year 2000. One of the leading drivers of this dynamic is the drop in Catholic marriages.

    The few converts who come in alone, not for the sake of marriage to a Catholic, is very small, and dropping. Many of them leave during RCIA or shortly afterward. There are many reasons for this. Virtually none of them are doctrinal, but rather have to do with how the faith is lived out, or not, as the case may be. If we want to have converts AND keep them, we have to do something about this. Otherwise, all this is just talk.

  38. Katylamb says:

    I don’t think Pope Francis contradicts the catechism. The catechism says that all salvation comes from Christ through the Catholic Church.
    If the Protestants you speak of truly “found” Jesus before coming into the Church, than they already were partly within the Church. But I don’t believe they found him. I think he was calling and they were responding- and he calls through the Church, even if they didn’t/don’t realize it. All real knowledge of Jesus comes through the Catholic Church because that is the way Jesus makes himself known. Besides that, if it was enough to “find” Jesus as a Protestant, than why did they join the Catholic Church?
    I guess we all know “good” people who seem to love Jesus and yet are not within the Catholic Church. We want to think they go to heaven and maybe they do. God’s ways are not our ways and we just can’t know. They may obtain salvation, as the catechism says. On the other hand, maybe they don’t really know Jesus at all but know and love some Jesus of their own making. Jesus said to eat his body and drink his blood or you will have no life in you. He gave the apostles the ability to forgive sins- or not to. He talked about listening to the Church, and he gave Peter the keys to the kingdom. I have to wonder how all this escapes non-Catholic Christians who say that they know Jesus? I suppose that is the “absurd dichotomy” the holy father refers to.

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