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Pope Francis:

“The Acts of the Apostles relate that ‘no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common.’ This is not communism, but pure Christianity,” he said. Source

I heard a priest saying that this was to apply to religious orders who take a vow of poverty and not everyone or society as a whole.

Acts 4:32-35

32 The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all. 34 j There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, 35 and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need. Source

So my question is: Is this scripture applying to a religious community which would resemble nowadays Catholic religious orders i.e.: Franciscans or are we all meant to live like this?

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    The recorded fact was that this was voluntary and involved Christians, as such (not any kind of hierarchy or oversight, just believers). Nor were any vows taken nor was any requirement made. These people agreed together to do as they did, because they wanted to, voluntarily. Nobody 'organised' it. Nobody 'ordered' it. They just wanted to do it among themselves, out of love one toward the other. That being so, anyone (absolutely anyone) can follow their example, if they wish to.
    – Nigel J
    Apr 22 '21 at 18:20
  • @Nigel J do you know the story of Ananias and Sapphir? Their story doesn't give an impression that the sharing was voluntary.
    – Grasper
    Apr 22 '21 at 21:56
  • Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? said Peter. Acts 5:4. There was no compunction upon Ananias or his wife to give anything at all.
    – Nigel J
    Apr 22 '21 at 22:09
  • Why did Peter care about how much they sold it for? Why didn't he accept just what they gave him? He expected to get all the money but why if it was all voluntary? I know they lied but that's because they must have felt pressure. Which means it wasn't voluntary in a way we think.
    – Grasper
    Apr 23 '21 at 0:28
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    @Grasper Please see gotquestions.org answer to the Ananias's case Why did God kill Ananias and Sapphira for lying?. They are doing it not out of mercy, nor because of pressure, but out of the desire of the praise of men (hypocrisy). The story is also recorded possibly to establish the apostles’ authority in the church. Apr 23 '21 at 2:06
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The context of Pope Francis's "This is not communism, but pure Christianity" in his 11 April 2021 Homily was a description of the disciples's response, a natural response enabled by Jesus who gave them threefold gifts of mercy (peace, the Spirit, his wounds):

And that is what the disciples did: receiving mercy, they in turn became merciful. We see this in the first reading. The Acts of the Apostles relate that “no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common” (4:32). This is not communism, but pure Christianity. It is all the more surprising when we think that those were the same disciples who had earlier argued about prizes and rewards, and about who was the greatest among them (cf. Mt 10:37; Lk 22:24). Now they share everything; they are “of one heart and soul”” (Acts 4:32). How did they change like that? They now saw in others the same mercy that had changed their own lives. They discovered that they shared the mission, the forgiveness and the Body of Jesus, and so it seemed natural to share their earthly possessions. The text continues: “There was not a needy person among them” (v. 34). Their fears had been dispelled by touching the Lord’s wounds, and now they are unafraid to heal the wounds of those in need. Because there they see Jesus. Because Jesus is there, in the wounds of those in need.

Thus Pope Francis was NOT teaching that the whole society was to live like that.

Secondly, while everyone in the Catholic religious order community have all things in common modeling after Acts 4:32-37, the vow of poverty itself is based on Matt 19:16-22 for responding to the Evangelical Counsels of perfection, which is NOT binding on all Catholics:

[Jesus] also taught certain principles which He expressly stated were not to be considered as binding upon all, or as necessary conditions without which heaven could not be attained, but rather as counsels for those who desired to do more than the minimum and to aim at Christian perfection, so far as that can be obtained here upon earth.

Thirdly, communism implies force, socialism implies ideology, but that is not the correct reading of Acts 4:32, which at the heart is voluntary response (as Pope Francis indicated in his homily as well). The Catholic Answers website article No, the First Christians Were Not Socialists: We are called to be generous, not to abandon private property said:

Nowhere in the New Testament do we find a prohibition against owning private property. We do find the practice of believers placing goods at the apostles’ feet for communal distribution (Acts 4:34-35), but even this generosity is not mandated for all Christians.

Given the persecution of the early Church, it made sense for Christians to share communal property and meet in private homes for worship (1 Cor. 16:19), but those practices are not proof that all Christians are obliged to live this way. If socialism was morally required of Christians we would expect the New Testament to say this or at least mandate a tithe, but as New Testament scholar Craig Blomberg points out, while tithing was commanded of God’s people in the Old Testament, “no New Testament text ever mandates a tithe but rather commands generous and sacrificial giving instead.”

Further, Acts 2:45 does not unambiguously say first century Christians completely renounced private property. The verse literally says of the faithful and their possessions, “they were selling and were dividing them to all” (Gr. hyparxeis epipraskon kai diemerizon auta) rather than “they had sold and distributed them to all.” Luke’s use of imperfect verbs in this verse seems to describe a continuing process of selling extra property and goods in order to support the poor. But in order to do that Christians would have had to retain some private property even after becoming believers.

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  • Some might disagree with some of your conclusions to what pope Francis meant. But still an interesting read. Thanks
    – Grasper
    Apr 23 '21 at 2:45
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Was the first Christian community a model for Religious Orders?

The short answer is yes.

St. Benedict makes the comparison in the Holy Rule.

The vice of personal ownership must by all means be cut out in the monastery by the very root, so that no one may presume to give or receive anything without the command of the Abbot; or to have anything whatever as his own, neither a book, nor a writing tablet, nor a pen, nor anything else whatsoever, since monks are allowed to have neither their bodies nor their wills in their own power. They must look for all necessities from the Abbot, and have nothing without his permission. Let everyone have all things in common, as it is written, no one kept anything as his own [Acts 4:32]. - #201: Benedict’s Rule

There seems to be no clear evidence that Jesus himself observed or promoted the ascetic life, or directly invited or commanded his followers to choose a life of poverty, celibacy, and obedience to human superiors. Nevertheless, it flourished after he times of the Roman persecutions.

For centuries, Christian apologists have attempted to find a basis for religious orders in the historical ministry and teaching of Jesus. An early example may be seen in the Life of Antony by Athanasius (c. 298–373), which reports Antony of Egypt's (c. 250–355) conversion to a solitary life of prayer and asceticism after hearing Jesus' words in church: "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor … and come, follow me" (Mt. 19:21). This biography helped spread monastic ideals throughout the Roman empire and encouraged the notion that to live alone with God, apart from all human company, is the supreme Christian response to Jesus' message.

There is no clear evidence that Jesus himself observed or promoted the ascetic life, or directly invited or commanded his followers to choose a life of poverty, celibacy, and obedience to human superiors. Central to Jesus' understanding of the relation between God and humankind was the conviction that God's reign (or kingdom) could break in upon the world at any time in any place—and that this reign would guarantee blessing and happiness for those open to receive it. Significant among the traditions associated with Jesus' life and collected in the Gospels are stories that show Jesus enjoying certain events (parties, dinners) and associating with people not ordinarily linked with an ascetic way of living (sinners, prostitutes).

While the remote origins of religious orders cannot be directly assigned to Jesus, possible antecedents to Christian asceticism may be discerned in both Judaism and the Greco-Roman world. Some members of the circle that gathered around John the Baptist probably adhered to a life of strict self-denial and repentance as preparation for God's impending judgment of the world. Most notable among Jewish antecedents were the sectarians of Qumran near the Dead Sea, whose collection of writings, the Dead Sea Scrolls, was discovered in 1947. Many scholars have identified the Qumran sectarians with a Jewish ascetic group known as the Essenes, who are mentioned by Philo of Alexandria (c. 13 bce–45 to 50 ce), Josephus the Jewish historian (c. 37–100 ce), and Pliny the Elder (23–79 ce). Their descriptions show that the Essenes not only existed during Jesus' time but had developed a highly organized manner of life, which included an arduous three-year novitiate for newcomers, sharing of goods, celibacy, and strict obedience to authorities. - Religious Communities: Christian Religious Orders

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    Good answer but you didn't write if it was meant also for the whole society to live liked that.
    – Grasper
    Apr 22 '21 at 21:58
  • @Grasper But I did quote the following: "There is no clear evidence that Jesus himself observed or promoted the ascetic life, or directly invited or commanded his followers to choose a life of poverty, celibacy, and obedience to human superiors. Central to Jesus' understanding of the relation between God and humankind was the conviction that God's reign (or kingdom) could break in upon the world at any time in any place—and that this reign would guarantee blessing and happiness for those open to receive it."
    – Ken Graham
    Apr 23 '21 at 0:44

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