The Vatican is rich! Shouldn't we sell the treasures?
How can you explain the fact that the Vatican is so rich when so many people are poor in the world?
One day a long time ago, some Church persecutors enjoined Deacon Lawrence to hand over to them the Church's riches. Saint Lawrence, pointing to the poor around him, simply replied: "Here are the riches of the Church!" Even today, the poor are the Church's wealth. Every year, the Vatican and all the Catholic parishes in the world make a generous effort to help the needy, especially those of the Third World.
The wealth of the Vatican... what wealth? All I know is that the Vatican has trouble balancing its budget and begs for contributions from Catholics all over the world.
At the Vatican, there are, as we all know, treasures of architecture, painting and sculpture, all of which are a legacy from Christian history. Who would think of destroying such treasures?
There are more than one billion Catholics in the world. They are the spiritual yet visible Church founded by Christ. One cannot reasonably expect this Christian society to own nothing. It would be empty evangelism to wish for an organization without rites, without material means of Evangelization, without the possibility of helping poorer churches.
That was the dream of the "Spirituals" of the Middle Ages. They welcomed the election of a Pope who built his small hut within the Vatican. But, the man of God, Saint Celestine V, soon realized he could not govern the Church only with pious wishes and he gave up after four months.
The Church will always be exposed to criticism. Like Christ Himself, she suffers misunderstanding. She will be blamed for not giving the money spent on Liturgy to the poor. "Why was not this perfume sold? It could have brought three hundred silver pieces and the money have been given to the poor...", complained Judas (Jn 12: 5). Jesus did not agree with him.
One day, I was at the Shrine of Saint Anne de Beaupre, where I had set up an ecumenical and counseling center. A young university student from the United States came to me and said he was scandalized by the splendor of the Basilica. All the money, he blurted, could have been used to help the poor!
Since he was not a believer, I did not refer to faith. "If the money had been given to the poor", I retorted, "the poor would still be poor! But, perhaps they would not be if the billions of dollars spent for nuclear armament were used to alleviate them! The Basilica was not built by the rich, but with small donations from common people. They come here and it is their house! They come here from everywhere to find some spiritual help. When they leave, they are stronger and look forward to coming back. If you had faith, you would understand that nothing is too good for God!"
All of us ought to help the poor! Each and everyone should do their own share. The young American in question admitted his family had six cars... I think Christian freedom from greed should begin at home.
Not long ago, I visited some newly founded communities of mostly young men and young women. These Christians do not think of criticizing the Church. They live a contented and serene life in utmost poverty. Their example is contagious!
I admit that all is not perfect in the Catholic Church. We still have to strive harder with more courage toward greater detachment from material things. The Holy Spirit challenges us through the rising clamor of the poor. The Church cannot turn a deaf ear to it!
It is time for each of us as individuals, for every community as such to live the Gospel's ideal more intensely and imitate Christ in His poverty! One day, we will be judged on our sharing with others. "I was hungry, I was thirsty, I was a stranger, naked, ill, in prison and...", Christ will tell us (Mt 25: 35sq).
If each of us does his or her part, the Church will gloriously shine. "The spirit of poverty and charity is, indeed, the glory and the sign of Christ's Church" (The Church Today, 88).
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