“There is no salvation outside of the Church.” This statement is famous, delivered in the third century by Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, and is not always correctly interpreted. Many Christians in the past have made the mistake of identifying the kingdom of God with the ecclesial institution to which they belonged. They flaunted arrogant certainties, cultivated prejudices against other religions and called the others impure and far. In the most abhorrent cases they also resorted to force to coerce others to conversion and baptism.
In the church, who leads cannot but reproduce the pattern of the Master. Peter, reproved by Jesus several times for his eagerness to stand out, recommended to the priests of his community: “Shepherd the flock which God has entrusted to you, guarding it not out of obligation but willingly for God’s sake; not as one looking for a reward but with a generous heart; do not lord it over those in your care rather be an example to your flock” (1 Pet 5:1-2).