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04/06/2008 21.42
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Here is a translation of the Holy Father's catechesis at the General Audience today, in which he spoke about the writings of Pope St. Gregory the Great.

RUBENS, The Ecstasy of St. Gregory, 1608, Musee des Beaux Arts, Grenoble.

Dear brothers and sisters,

In our Wednesday encounter today, I will return to the extraordinary figure of Pope Gregory the Great to draw more light from his rich teachings.

Notwithstanding the multiple commitments connected to his office as Bishop of Rome, he has left us many works, which the Church in the following centuries has drawn from fully.

Besides his conspicuous epistolary - the Registry that I referred to in the previous lecture has more than 800 letters - he has left us, above all, writings of an exegetic character, among the most distinctive being his Moral Commentary on (the Book of) Job(known by its Latin title Moralia in Iob), his Homilies on Ezekiel, and his Homilies on the Gospel.

Then there is an important book of a hagiographic character, the Dialogues, written by Gregory for the edification of the Lungobard Queen Theodolinda.

But his main and doubtless most famous work is The Pastoral Rule, which the Pope published at the start of his Pontificate with a clearly programmatic purpose.

In making a rapid review of these works, we should note above all that, in his writings, Gregory was never concerned with delineating 'his' doctrine, or his originality. Rather, he meant to echo the traditional teaching of the Church - he wanted simply to be the mouthpiece of Christ and his Church about the path that must be followed in order to reach God.

His exegetical comments are exemplary in this respect. He was a passionate reader of the Bible which he approached with intentions that were not simply speculative. From Sacred Scripture, he thought, the Christian should draw not so much theoretical knowledge but rather daily nourishment for his soul, for his life as a man in this world.

In the Homilies on Ezekiel, for example, he insists strongly on this function of sacred text. To approach Scripture simply to satisfy one's own desire for knowledge means yielding to the temptation of pride and thus exposing oneself to the risk of slipping into heresy.

Intellectual humility is the primary rule for whoever seeks to penetrate the supranatural realities, starting with the sacred Book. Humility obviously does not exclude serious study, but to make it spiritually profitable, allowing one to truly enter into the profundity of the text, humility is indispensable. Only with this interior attitude can one listen and finally perceive the voice of God.

On the other hand, when it comes to the Word of God, understanding means nothing unless it leads to action. In the Homilies on Ezekiel can also be found that beautiful statement according to which "the preacher should dip his quill into the blood of his heart; this way, he will be able to reach the ear of his neighbor."

Reading his homilies, one can see that Gregory truly wrote with the blood of his heart and therefore speaks to us even today.

Gregory develops this discourse even in his Moral Commentary on Job. Following Patristic tradition, he examines the sacred text in the three dimensions of its meaning: the literal dimension, the allegorical dimension and the moral, which are the dimensions of the single meaning of Sacred Scripture.

Gregory nonetheless attributes a clear prevalence to the moral sense. In this perspective, he proposes his thinking through some significant 'binomials' - knowing and doing, speaking and living, understanding and acting - in which he evokes the aspects of human life that should be complementary but often end up being antithetical.

The moral ideal, he comments, always consists in realizing a harmonious integration between word and action, thought and commitment, prayer and dedication to the obligations of one's status - this is the way to realize that synthesis thanks to which the divine comes down to man, and man is elevated towards identification with God.

The great Pope thus traces for the authentic believer a complete plan for life - that is why the Moral Commentary on Job constituted in the Middle Ages a sort of Summa of Christian morality.

His homilies on the Gospel are of remarkably outstanding and beautiful. The first was held at St. Peter's Basilica at Advent in 590, a few months after he was elected to the Papacy; the last was delivered in the Basilica of St. Lawrence on the second Sunday after Pentecost in 593.

The Pope preached to the people in the churches where the Roman 'stations' were celebrated - these being particular prayer ceremonies during the high points of the liturgical year or on the feast days of the titular martyrs [to which each Church is dedicated].

The principal inspiration that links the various discourses can be summarized in the word "praedicator": Not only the minister of God, but even every Christian, has the task of making himself the 'preacher' of whatever he has experienced intimately in following the example of Christ who became man in order to bring the good news of salvation to all.

The horizon of such a commitment is eschatological: the expectation of the fulfillment of Christ in all things is a constant thought in Gregory the Great and ends up as the inspiring motive for his every thought and action. This, his incessant calls for vigilance and for commitment to good works.

Perhaps the most organic text of Gregory the Great is his Pastoral Rule written during the early years of his Pontificate. In it, Gregory proposes to draw the figure of the ideal bishop - teacher and leader of his flock. To such end, he illustrates the weight of the office of pastor of the Church and the obligations it carries: thus, those who are not called to such a task should not go after it superficially, while those who have assumed it without the necessary reflection should feel a dutiful trepidation begin within their spirit.

Taking up a favorite theme, he affirms that the Bishop is, above all, the 'preacher' par excellence: As such, he must first be an example for others, so that his behavior may constitute a point of reference for everyone.

Effective pastoral action also requires that the bishop knows who it is addressed to and adapt his interventions to every particular situation. Gregory takes time to illustrate the various categories of the faithful with acute and timely observations, which could well justify those who also see this work as a treatise on psychology. One thus understands that he truly knew his flock and that he spoke about everything with the people of his time and of his city.

The great Pontiff, nonetheless, insists on the Pastor's duty to recognize daily his own poverty, so that pride may not render in vain, in the eyes of the Supreme Judge, the good that he has done.

Thus, the final chapter of the Rule is dedicated to humility: "When one is pleased at having achieved many virtues, it is good to reflect on one's insufficiencies and be humble: instead of considering the good one has achieved, one must consider that which one failed to achieve."

All these valuable instructions demonstrate the very high concept that St. Gregory has about the care of souls, defined by him as 'ars artium', the art of arts. The Rule had great fortune to the point that - something rather rare in those days - it was quickly translated to Greek and to Anglo-Saxon.

Equally significant is the other work, the Dialogues, in which, to his friend and deacon Peter - who was convinced that customs had been so corrupted that they could no longer allow the emergence of saints as in the past - Gregory demonstrated otherwise: that saintliness is always possible, even in difficult times.

He proved it by narrating the lives of contemporary persons or those who had recently passed away, who could well be considered saints even if not canonized. The narration was accompanied by theological and mystical reflections which make the book a singular hagiographic text which is able to fascinate whole generations of readers.

The material is drawn from the living traditions of the people and has the purpose of edification and formation, calling the attention of the reader to a series of questions such as the meaning of miracles, the interpretation of Scriptures, the immortality of the soul, the existence of Hell, the representation of the afterlife - all topics that required timely clarifications.

Book II is entirely dedicated to the figure of St. Benedict of Norcia, and is the only account from antiquity on the life of the sainted monk whose spiritual beauty is shown in full evidence.

In the theological design that Gregory develops through his works, past, present and future are relativized. That which counts for him more than anything is the entire span of the story of salvation, which continues to extend itself through the obscure meanderings of time.

In this perspective, it is significant that he inserts the announcement of the conversion of the Angles right in the middle of his Moral Commentary on Job: in his eyes, the event constituted an advancement of the Kingdom of God that Scripture speaks of - and therefore, it could be mentioned in the comment on a sacred book.

According to him, the leaders of the Christian community should commit themselves to reread events in the light of God's Word: in this sense, the great Pontiff felt the duty to orient pastors and faithful into the spiritual itinerary of an enlightened and concrete lectio divina situated in the context of one's own life.

Before concluding, it is necessary to say a word on the relations that Pope Gregory cultivated with the patriarchs of Antioch, Alexandria and Constantinople itself. He was always concerned with acknowledging and respecting their rights, guarding against any interference that would limit their respective autonomies.

And although Gregory, in the context of his historic situation, opposed the title 'ecumenical' on the part of the Patriarch of Constantinople, he did not do so to limit or deny a legitimate authority, but because he was concerned with the fraternal unity of the universal Church.

He opposed it, above all, because of his profound conviction that humility should be the fundamental virtue of every bishop, and more so, of a Patriarch. Gregory had always remained a simple monk at heart and therefore was decisively opposed to grand titles. He wanted to be - and this was his expression - servus servorum Dei, servant of the servants of God.

This expression, which was coined by him, was not just a pious formula from his lips, but the true manifestation of the way he lived and acted. He was intimately struck by the humility of God, who in Christ, made himself our servant, who bathed us and washed our dirty feet. Thus he was convinced that a bishop, first of all, must imitate this humility of God and thus follow Christ.

His desire was really to live as a monk in permanent conversation with the Word of God, but for the love of God, he made himself the servant of everyone in a time full of tribulations and sufferings - he knew how to be the 'servant of the servants of God'. And because he was this, he is great and shows us the true measure of greatness.

This was the Pope's English synthesis of the catechesis:

In today’s audience we turn to the writings of Pope Saint Gregory the Great, whose constant aim was to present the Church’s teaching on the ways that lead to the contemplation of God.

His Homilies on Ezekiel, and his Moral Commentary on Job present a model of spiritual life which integrates prayer and action. In his Homilies on the Gospels Saint Gregory explained how the preacher’s own spiritual experience of Christ should form the basis of his exhortations.

The Pastoral Rule describes the ideal Bishop as a teacher and guide who leads by example and adapts his preaching to the specific background of those he addresses. The Dialogues, a work full of rich theological and spiritual insights, describe the lives of the saints of Gregory’s epoch.

In all things he insists on intellectual humility as a key to the meaning of Scripture, and proposes to Pastors and the faithful alike, the continual practise of lectio divina in order to better understand and follow God’s will.

Pope Gregory defended the prerogatives of the See of Rome, but with humility as the servant of the servants of God, and respected the rights of other Pastors, especially the Patriarchs of Constantinople and Alexandria.

May the life and teaching of Saint Gregory guide and inspire us on our way to the joyous contemplation of God in eternity!

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 08/06/2008 20.45]
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08/06/2008 15.26
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Here is a translation of the Holy Father's words at Angelus today:

Dear brothers and sisters!

At the center of the liturgy of the Word on this Sunday is a statement by the prophet Hosea that Jesus takes up in the Gospel: "It is love that I desire, not sacrifice, and knowledge of God rather than holocausts" (Hos 6,6). It is a key concept, one of those that introduces us to the heart of Sacred Scripture.

The context in which Jesus uses it was his calling on Matthew, who was a 'publican', which meant a collector of taxes in behalf of the imperial Roman authority - and for this, he was considered by the Jews as a public sinner.

Called by Jesus to follow him as he was seated doing his job - as depicted in a celebrated painting by Caravaggio - Jesus then went to Matthew's home with his disciples, and sat at table together with other publicans.

To the Pharisees who were scandalized, he answered: “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do...I did not come to call the righteous but sinners” (Mt 9, 12-13).

At this point, Matthew the evangelist, always attentive to the link between the Old and the New Testaments, places on Jesus's lips the prophecy of Hosea: "Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’."

The importance of this statement by the prophet is so important that the Lord cites it again in another context, regarding the observance of the Sabbath (cfr Mt 12,1-6).

Even in this case, he takes responsibility for interpreting the precept, revealing that he is the 'Lord' even of legal institutions. Addressing the Pharisees, he adds: "If you knew what this meant, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned these innocent men" (Mt 12,7).

Thus, in this prophecy of Hosea, we might say that Jesus - the Word become man - 'found' himself in full. It was what he did with all his heart and showed with his behavior, even at the price of hurting the sensitivities of the leaders of his own people.

This word of God has reaches us through the Gospels as one of those that synthesizes the entire Christian message: the true religion consists in the love of God and one's neighbor. This is what gives value to worship and the practice of precepts.

Addressing ourselves this time to the Virgin Mary, let us ask her intercession that we may always live in the joy of the Christian experience. May Our Lady, Mother of Mercy, inspire in us feelings of filial abandon in the face of God, who is infinite mercy.

May she help us to make ours the prayer that St. Augustine formulated in a well-known passage of his Confessions: "Have mercy on me, Lord. I do not hide my wounds: you are the physician, I the sick one; you are merciful, I am miserable... In your great mercy, I place every hope of mine" (X, 28.39;29.40).

After the Angelus prayers, he said this in English:

I greet all the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Angelus, especially the group of pilgrims from Malmö in Sweden. I pray that your visit to Rome may strengthen your faith and deepen your love for Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.

In this Sunday’s Gospel, we hear how Jesus called Matthew, the tax collector. Immediately Matthew rose and became a follower of our Lord.

Let us be prepared to turn away from everything that separates us from God, so that we too can respond generously to his call.

Upon all of you here today, and upon your families and loved ones at home, I invoke God’s abundant blessings.

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 08/06/2008 20.36]
11/06/2008 21.17
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Here is a translation of the Holy Father's catechesis at the General Audience today in St. Peter's Square:

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today, I wish to speak about the sainted abbot Columban, the most fAMous Irishman of the Middle Ages. With good reason, he may be called a 'European' saint, because as monk, missionary and writer, he worked in different countries of western Europe.

Together with the Irish of this time, he was aware of the cultural unity of Europe. In a letter of his written around 600 to Pope Gregory the Great, one finds for the first time the expression
'totius Europae - of all Europe - referring to the presence of the Church on the continent (cfr Epistula I,1).

Columban was born around 545 in the province of Leinster, southeast Ireland. Educated in his own home by the best teachers, who started him on liberal arts studies, he was later entrusted to the guidance of Abbot Sinell of the Cluain-Inis community in northern Ireland, where he was able to deepen his studies of Sacred Scriptures.

At almost twenty years of age, he entered Bangor monastery in the northeastern part of the island, under Abbot Comgall, a monk famous for his virtue and rigorous asceticism.

In full harmony with his abbot, Columban zealously practised the severe discipline of the monastery, leading a life of prayer, asceticism, and study. He was ordained a priest there.

The life in Bangor and the example of the abbot influenced the concept of monasticism that Columban matured with time and spread in the course of his life.

When he was almost 50, following the typically Irish ascetic ideal of 'peregrinatio pro Christo' - to be a pilgrim for Christ - Columban left Ireland with 12 companions to undertake missionary work on the European continent.

We should remeember that at that time, migrations of peoples from the north and the east had caused entire Christianized regions to fall back into paganism.

Around 590, this small missionary team landed on the Breton coast [western France]. Welcomed benevolently by the King of the Franks of Austrasia [present-day France], they asked him simply for a piece of untilled land. They were given the ancient Roman fort of Annegray, which was in ruins and abandoned, and by now, overgrown by forest.

Used to a life of extreme renunciation, the monks succeeded within a few months to build their first hermitage on the ruins. Thus, their work of re-evangelization started through the testimony of their own life. With their cultivation of the soil, they also started the cultivation of souls.

The fame of these foreign religious people who, living on prayer and in great austerity, built homes and tilled the land, quickly spread, attracting pilgrims and penitents.

Above all, many young people asked to be welcomed into their monastic community to live, as they did, this exemplary life which revived cultivation of the earth as well as of souls.

Soon, it became necessary to establish a seocnd monastery. It was built a few kilometers away on the ruins of an old thermal resort, Luxeuil. It would become the center for radiating out the monastic and missionary tradition of Ireland towards the European continent. A third monastery was erected in Fobntaine, an hour's walk to the north.

Columban lived in Luxeuil for almost 20 years. here, the saint wrote for his followers the Regola monachorum - monastic rules - which were for some time more widespread in Europe than the Rule of St. Benedict, in which he outlined the ideal image of the monk. It is the only ancient Irish monastic rule that we now have.

Integral to it, he also elaborated the Regula coenobialis, a kind of penal code that is surprising for its modern senisbility, and which can only be explained by the mentality and cultural climate of the time.

With another famous work entitled De poenitentiarum misura taxanda, also written at Luxeuil, Columban introduced confession, with private and repeated penitence, to the continent. It was called a 'penitence by tariff' because of the proportion established between the gravity of the sin and the type of penitence imposed by the confessor.

This novelty aroused the suspicions of the bishops of the region, a mistrust that changed to hostility when Columban had the courage to reproach them openly for some of their practices.

An occasion for the manifestation of such a confrontation was the dispute over the date of Easter: Ireland had been following the Oriental tradition rather than the Roman. Columban was summoned in 693 to Châlon-sur-Saôn to answer to a synod about his practices regarding penitence and Easter.

Instead of presenting himself to the Synod, he sent a letter in which he minimized the issue and invited the Synod fathers to discuss not only the date for Easter, a minor problem in his view, "but also - something more serious - all the necessary canonical norms which many have not complied with" (cfr Epistula II,1).

At the same time, he wrote Pope Boniface IV - as he had written several years earlier to Pope Gregory the Great (cfr Epistula i) - to defend the Irish tradition (cfr Epistula III).

Intransigent as he was on every moral question, Columban also came into conflict with the royal house because he had sharply reproached King Theodoric for his adulterous relations.

This led to a network of intrigues and maneuvers on a personal, religious and political level which, in the year 610, resulted in a decree of expulsion from Luxeuil of Columban and all monks of Irish origin, condemning them to exile. They were escorted out to sea to be shipped back to Ireland at the expense of the court.

But the ship ran aground not far from the beach; and the captain, seeing in this a sign from heaven, gave up the undertaking, and for fear of being cursed by God, he brought back the monks to safe ground. But instead of returning to Luxeuil, they decided to start a new phase of evangelization.

They headed to the Rhine and sailed upstream. After a first stop at Tuggen near Lake Zurich, they proceeded to the Bregenz region near Lake Constance to evangelize the Germanic tribes.

Soon after, however, Columbna, because of political events which were not favorable to his work, decided to cross the Alps with most of his disciples. The only one left behind was a monk called Gallus. His hermitage eventually developed into the famous Abbey of Sankt Gallen in Switzerland.

Arriving in Italy, Columban found a benevolent welcome at the royal Lombard court, but he soon had to face remarkable difficulties: the life of the Church was being torn by the Arian heresy which was still prevalent among the Lombards, and by a shcism that had detached the greater part of the churches in northern Italy from communion with the Bishop of Rome.

Columban entered the dispute authoritatively, writing a pamphlet against Arianism and a letter to Boniface IV to convince him to take decisive steps in order to re-establish unity (cfr Epistula V).

When the king of the Lombards, in 612 o3 613, assigned him some land in Bobbio, in the valley of the Trebbia, Columban founded a new monastery whoch would later become a center of culture comparable to the famous one at Montecassino. Here he reached the end of his days. He died on November 23, 615, the day on which he is commemorated in the Roman rite up to our time.

The message of St. Columban is focused on a firm call for conversion and for detachment from earthly goods in the light of the eternal heritage. With his ascetic life and his uncompromising behavior in the face of corruption among the powerful, he evokes the severe figure of John the Baptist.

But his asceticism was never an end in itself - only the means to open himself freely to the the love of God and to respond with all his being to the gifts he received, thus reconstructing in himself the image of God while tilling the soil and renewing human society.

I cite from his Instructiones: "If man correctly uses the faculties that God has granted his spirit, then he will be similar to God. Let us remember that we must give back to him all the gifts which he endowed us with when we were in our original condition. He has taught us the way with his commandments. The first of those is to love the Lord with all our heart, because it was he who loved us first, from the beginning of time, before we even came to this world"
(cfr Instr. XI).

The Irish saint truly embodied these words in his own life. A man of great culture - he wrote poems in Latin and a book of grammar - he showed himself to be rich in gifts of grace. He was a tireless builder of monasteries as well as an intransigent preacher of penitence, spending all his energies to nourish the Christian roots of the Europe which was being born.

With his spiritual energy, his faith, his love of God and neighbor, he was truly one of the Fathers of Europe. He shows us even today the roots from which our Europe can be reborn.

Here is how he synthesized the catechesis in English:

In today’s catechesis we turn to Saint Columban, one of the many Irish monks who contributed to the re-evangelization of Europe in the early Middle Ages.

Columban made his monastic profession in Bangor, Ireland, and was ordained a priest. At the age of fifty, he left the monastery to begin missionary work in Europe, where entire regions had lapsed into paganism. Beginning in Brittany, Columban and his companions established monasteries at Annegray and Luxeuil. These became centres for the spread of the monastic and missionary ideals brought by the monks from their native Ireland.

Columban introduced to Europe the Irish penitential discipline, including private confession. His stern moral teachings led to conflict with the local Bishops and the Frankish court, resulting in the exile of the Irish monks, first to the Rhineland and then to Italy.

At Bobbio, where he established a great monastic centre, Columban worked for the conversion of the Arian Lombards and the restoration of unity with the Bishop of Rome. It was there that he died, leaving behind not only the example of an austere monastic life, but also a corpus of writings which shaped the monastic culture of the Middle Ages and thus nourished the Christian roots of Europe.

I offer a warm greeting and prayerful good wishes to Cardinal Kitbunchu and the pilgrims from Thailand who are present today who are present today, and also to the large group of delegates from the Pope Paul VI Institute in Nebraska.

To all the English-speaking visitors, from England, Scotland, Scandinavia, Korea, and the United States of America, I extend a warm welcome. May God bless you all.

18/06/2008 18.20
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Here is a translation of the Holy Father's remarks before the noonday Angelus at Brindisi port on Sunday, June 15.

Dear brothers and sisters,

Before concluding this celebration, I express my acknowledgment to all those who prepared it with such care, animating it with music and song. I thank all those who organized my trip and are contributing so that everything may proceed in the best way. I refer to the various local authorities, the forces of order, volunteers, and you, dear inhabitants of Brindisi.

I invite everyone now, as I do every Sunday, to join me in praying the Angelus.

The place where we find ourselves - the port - is laden with pregnant symbolic significance. Every port speaks of welcome, of refuge, of security; it represents the hoped-for goal after navigation, perhaps long and difficult. But it also means departures, projects and aspirations, for the future.

In particular, the port of Brindisi has a front-line role in communications towards the Mediterranean world and the Middle East, and because of this, it also hosts a base of the United Nations which carries out an important function on the humanitarian level.

From this very evocative place, not far from a place named 'good morning' (Calimera) in Greek, I wish therefore to renew the Christian message of cooperation and peace among all peoples, especially among those who face the Mediterranean sea, ancient cradle of civilization, and those of the Near and Middle East.

And I am pleased to do so with the words that I used two months ago in New York, addressing the General Assembly of the United Nations: "The action of the international community and its institutions, provided they respect the principles that underlie the international order, should never be interpreted as an undesired imposition and a limitation on sovereignty. On the contrary, it is indifference or non-intervention that bring real damage. What is needed is a more profound search for ways to forestall and control conflicts, exploring every possible diplomatic way and paying attention to the faintest signs of dialog or desire for reconciliation" (L'Osservatore Romano, 4/20/08, O. 8).

From this piece of Europe that juts out into the Mediterranean, between East and West, we turn once again to Mary, the Mother who shows us the way - Odegitria - giving us Jesus, the Way of peace. We invoke her ideally with all the titles with which she is venerated in teh shrines of Puglia, and in particular here, from this ancient port, we pray to her as the 'port of salvation' for every man and for all mankind.

May her maternal protection always defend your city and region, Italy, Europe and the whole world from the tempests that threaten the faith and true values, and may she allow the young generations to set forth without fear to face the journey of life with Christian hope. Mary, port of salvation, pray for us!

18/06/2008 18.20
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Here is a translation of the Holy Father's catechesis at teh General Audience in St. Peter's Square today. His subject was St. Isidore of Seville, Spain.

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today I wish to speak about St. Isidore of Seville. He was the younger brother of Leander, Bishop of Seville and a great friend of Pope Gregory the Great.

This point is important because it allows us to be aware of the cultural and spiritual closeness [with his brother] that is indispensable to understanding the personality of Isidore.

In fact, he owes much to Leander, who was very studious, demanding, and austere, creating for his younger brother a familial atmosphere characterized by ascetic requirements worthy of a monk and work rhythms appropriate to serious dedication to study.

Moreover, Leander was concerned to pre-dispose conditions necessary for facing the socio-political situation of the moment: In those decades, the Visigoths, who were barbarians and Arians, had invaded the Iberian peninsula and had taken control of territories that had belonged to the Roman empire. It was necessary to win them over to Romanness and Catholicism.

The house of Leander and Isidore was furnished with a library rich in classic, pagan and Christian works. Isidore, who felt attracted to all of them, was educated under his brother's supervision to develop a very strong discipline of study, with dedication, discretion and discernment. But they lived in the bishop's palace in a serene and open atmosphere.

We can deduce from the cultural and spiritual interests of Isidore - as they emerge in his own works - that they comprehended an encyclopedic knowledge of classic pagan culture and a deep knowledge of Christian culture.

This explains the eclecticism that characterizes Isidore's literary production, which ranges with extreme facility from Martial to Augustine, from Cicero to Gregory the Great.

The interior battle sustained by the young Isidore - who succeeded his brother Leander as Bishop of Seville in 599 - could not have been easy. Perhaps it was that constant struggle within himself that gives the impression of an excess of voluntarism [a philosophical school that considers God or the ultimate nature of reality as some form of will] that one gets when reading the works of this great author, considered the last of the Christian Fathers of antiquity.

A few years after his death in 636, the Council of Toledo of 653 described him as "illustrious teacher of our epoch and glory of the Catholic Church."

Isidore was without a doubt a man of marked dialectic positions. Even in his personal life, he underwent permanent interior conflict, similar to what Gregory the Great and Augustine had known, between a desire for solitude in order to dedicate himself only to meditating on the Word of God, and the requirements of charity towards his brothers for whose salvation he felt responsible as bishop.

For instance, he wrote about Church authorities: "A person with Church responsibility (vir ecclesiasticus - man of the Church] should on the one hand, let himself be crucified in the world with the mortification of the flesh, and on the other, accept the decision of the Church hierarchy when it comes from the will of God, and dedicate himself to governing with humility, even if he may not wish to do so" (Sententiarum liber III, 33, 1: PL 83, col 705 B).

He adds, one paragraph later: "Men of God (sancti viri - holy men) in fact do not want to dedicate themselves to secular things, and groan when, by a mysterious plan of God, they find themselves laden with certain responsibilities... They will do everything to avoid this, but they accept what they wished to escape from and do what they wished to avoid. In fact, they enter into their secret heart, and there, they seek to understand what the mysterious will of God wants of them. And when they acknowledge that they must submit to the plan of God, then they subjugate their heart to the yoke of divine decision" (Sententiarum liber III, 33, 3: PL 83, coll. 705-706).

To understand Isidore better, one must remember, above all, the complexity of the political situation in his time, which I already referred to. During his boyhood, he experienced the bitterness of exile. Despite this, he was permeated with apostolic enthusiasm. He knew the inebriation of contributing to the formation of a people who were finally finding unity on the religious and on the political levels, with the providential conversion of the heir to the Visigoth throne, Hermenegild, from Arianism to the Catholic faith.

But we must not underestimate the enormous difficulty of adequately confronting problems as serious as relationships with the heretics and with the Jews. It is a whole series of problems which appear very concrete even today, especially if one considers what is taking place in some regions today in which it is almost like witnessing a revival of situations in sixth-century Spain.

The wealth of cultural knowledge at Isidore's disposal allowed him to continually draw comparisons between the Christian novelty and the Greco-Roman classic heritage. But more than the precious gift of synthesis, he also seemed to have that of collatio, of gathering together, which was expressed through an extraordinary personal erudition, even if it was not always ordered as one might desire.

In any case, one must admire his constant concern not to ignore anything that human experience has produced in the story of his country and of the entire world. Isidore did not want to lose anything of what man had acquired in ancient times, whether pagan, Jewish or Christian.

One should not be surprised, therefore, that in pursuing this end, he sometimes failed to adequately pass - as he might have wished - the knowledge that he possessed through the purifying waters of the Christian faith. Indeed, in his own mind, the propositions he made were always in tune with the Catholic faith, which he sustained most firmly.

In discussing various theological problems, he showed perception of complexities and often proposed, with great acuteness, solutions that bring together and express the Christian truth in its entirety. This has allowed believers through the centuries to avail gratefully of his definitions even up to our time.

One significant example is Isidore's teaching on the relationship between the active life and the contemplative life. He writes: "Those who seek to reach the repose of contemplation should first train themselves in the stadium of active life; thus rid of the slag wastes of sin, they will be in a position to exhibit a pure heart which alone allows us to see God" (Differentiarum Lib II, 34, 133: PL 83, col 91A).

But the realism of a true pastor convinced him, nonetheless, of the risk that the faithful run of reducing themselves to beings of one dimension. Thus he adds: "The middle life, composed of both forms of living, normally results more useful to resolve those tensions that are often sharpened by choosing just one way of living, while they are tempered by alternating the two forms" (op. cit., 134: ivi, col 91B).

Isidore finds the definitive confirmation of a correct orientation in life in the example of Christ, saying: "Our Savior Jesus offers us the example of an active life in that, during the day, he devoted himself to offering signs and miracles among men, but shows us the contemplative life in that at night he retired to the mountain and spent his nights in prayer." (op. cit. 134: ivi).

In the light of this example by the Divine Teacher, Isidore could conclude with this precise moral teaching: "Thus, the servant of God, imitating Christ, must dedicate himself to contemplation without rejecting the active life. To act otherwise would not be right. Indeed, just as one must love God in contemplation, so must one love his neighbor in action. It is therefore impossible to live without the presence of both forms of living, nor is it possible to love if one does not experience both" (op. cit. 135: ivi, col 91C).

I think that this is the synthesis of a life which seeks contemplation of God, dialog with God, in prayer and reading Sacred Scripture, along with acting in the service of the human community and one's neighbor.

This synthesis is the lesson which the great Bishop of Seville leaves us, Christians of today, who are called to bear witness to Christ at the start of a new millennium.

In English, he said:

In today’s catechesis we turn to Saint Isidore of Seville, the brother of Saint Leander and a contemporary and friend of Saint Gregory the Great.

Isidore lived during the Visigothic invasions of Spain, and he devoted much energy to converting the barbarian tribes from heresy and preserving the best fruits of classical and Christian culture. His encyclopedic, albeit somewhat eclectic, learning is reflected in his many writings, including the Etymologies, which were widely read throughout the Middle Ages.

Isidore worked to bring the richness of pagan, Jewish and Christian learning to the rapidly changing political, social and religious situations in which he lived.

Throughout his life, he was torn between his devotion to study and contemplation, and the demands made by his responsibilities as a Bishop, especially towards the poor and those in need.

He found his model in Christ, who joined both the active and contemplative life, and sought to "love God in contemplation and one’s neighbour in action" (Differentiarum Liber, 135). This is a lesson which is as valid today as it was in the life of the great Bishop of Seville.

I am pleased to welcome the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Apostles gathered in Rome for their General Chapter, and the participants in the Rome Seminar of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.

I also warmly greet a group of survivors of the Holocaust who are present at today’s Audience.

Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims, especially those from England, South Africa, Australia, Vietnam and the United States, I cordially invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace.

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ANGELUS OF 6/22/08

Here is a translation of the Holy Father's words at the noonday Angelus today.

Dear brothers and sisters,

In the Gospel for this Sunday we find two invitations from Christ: on the one hand, "do not fear men", and on the other, "fear" God (cfr Mt 10, 26.28). We are thus urged to reflect on the difference between human fear and fear of God.

Fear is a natural dimension of life. From the time we are small children, we experience forms of fear which turn out to be imaginary and disappear; others emerge successively, which have specific bases in reality: these should be faced and overcome with human effort and with trust in God.

But then, there is a form of fear which is more profound, an existential fear which often becomes anguish. It is born out of a sense of emptiness, linked to a culture which is permeated by widespread nihilism that is both theoretical and practical.

Before the wide and diverse panorama of human fears, the Word of God is clear: whoever 'fears' God 'will not be afraid'. Fear of God, which Scriptures define as "the principle of true wisdom", coincides with faith in him, with sacred respect for his authority over life and the world.

To be 'without fear of God' is equivalent to placing oneself in his place, to feel ourselves masters of good and evil, of life and death. On the contrary, he who fears God feels the security that a baby has in his mother's arms (cf Ps 130,2),

He who fears God is tranquil even in the midst of tempests, because God, as Jesus has revealed to us, is the Father full of mercy and goodness. He who loves him has no fear: "There is no fear in love," writes the Apostle John, "but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love" (1 Jn 4,18).

Therefore the believer does not get terrified of anything, because he knows he is in the hands of God, he knows that the evil and the irrational do not have the last word, but that the only Lord of the world and of life is Christ, the Word of God incarnate, who loved us to the point of sacrificing himself, dying on the Cross for our salvation.

The more we grow in this intimacy with God, impregnated with love, the more easily we can conquer every form of fear.

In the Gospel passage today, Jesus repeats several times the exhortation not to be afraid. He reassures us, as he did with the Apostles, as he did with St. Paul appearing to him in a vision at night, at a moment that was particularly difficult in his preaching: " Do not be afraid," he said, "because I am with you" (Acts 18,9).

Strong in the presence of Christ, and comforted by his love, not even martyrdom daunted the Apostle of the Gentiles, whose bimillennial birth anniversary we shall soon celebrate with a special jubilee year.

May this great spiritual and pastoral event inspire in us a renewed confidence in Jesus Christ who calls us to announce and testify to his Gospel without fearing anything.

I invite you then, dear brothers and sisters, to prepare to celebrate with faith the Pauline Year which, God willing, I will solemnly open this coming Saturday, at 6 p.m. at the Basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls, with the liturgy of the First Vespers for the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul.

Let us now entrust this great ecclesial ibnitative to the intercession of St. Paul and the Most Blessed Mary, Queen of the Apostles and Mother of Christ, spring of our joy and our peace.

After the Angelus prayers, the Holy Father had the following special messages:

With great emotion I learned today of the sinking of a ferryboat in the Philippines due to typhoon Fenchen which has afflicted that zone. [Hundreds are believed to have drowned.]

As I assure the people hit by the typhoon of my spiritual nearness, I raise a special prayer to the Lord for the victims of this new sea tragedy among which were many children.

Today in Beirut, capital of Lebanon, Yaaqub (Jacob) da Ghazir Haddad nee Khalil, a priest of the Order of the Capuchin Order of Friars Minor and founder of the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of the Cross of Lebanon, was proclaimed Blessed.

In expressing my felicitations to his spiritual children, I hope with all my heart that the intercession of Blessed Abuna Yaaqub, united with those of the Lebanese saints, may obtain that this beloved and
tormented nation, which has suffered so much, may finally progress towards a stable peace.

In English, he said:

Today’s Gospel reminds us that we are personally loved by our heavenly Father, whose providence watches over us and frees us from all fear.

May these consoling words strengthen us in our witness to the joy and hope proclaimed by the Gospel!

Upon you and your families I cordially invoke the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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Here is a translation of the catechesis today of St. Maximus the Confessor.

Dear brothers and sisters,

I wish to present today the figure of one of the great Fathers of the Oriental Church in later times. He is the monk St. Maximus who merited from Christian Tradition the title of Confessor for the intrepid courage with which he bore witness - 'confessed' - even through suffering, to the integrity of his faith in Jesus Christ, true God and true man, Savior of the world.

Maximus was born in Palestine, the homeland of our Lord, around 580. From his childhood, he was attracted to the monastic life and the study of Scriptures, through the works of Origen, the great master who in the third century had already managed to define the Alexandrian exegetic tradition.

From Jerusalem, Maximus transferred to Constantinople, and from there, because of the barbarian invasions, he sought refuge in Africa. There, he distinguished himself with extreme courage in defense of (Catholic) orthodoxy.

Maximus did not accept any attempt to minimize Christ's humanity. The theory had emerged that Christ had only one will, the divine. To defend the uniqueness of his being, these advocates rejected that he had his own human will.

At first glance, it might appear that it was good to say Christ only had one will. But St. Maximus saw right away that this would have destroyed the mystery of salvation, because humanness without its own will, a man without his own will, would not be a true man, would have been an amputated man. Therefore the man Jesus Christ would not have been a true man and would not have lived the drama of being human, which consists precisely in the difficulty of conforming our will to the truth of being.

Thus, St. Maximus affirmed with great decision: the Sacred Scripture does not show us an amputated man, without a will, but a complete true man. God, in Jesus Christ, had truly assumed the totality of being human - obviously, except for sin - and therefore, he had a human will. Stated that way, the question was clear: Christ is either a true man or not.

If he is man, then he has human will. But the problem then arises: do we not end up with a dualism? Is this not affirming two complete personalities with reason, will, and feeling? How to overcome this dualism, conserve the completeness of the human being in Christ, and still safeguard the unity of his person, who certainly was no schizophrenic?

St. Maximus demonstrated that man finds his unity, the integration of self, his totality, not in himself, but overcoming himself, getting out of himself. Thus, in Christ, man, stepping out of himself, finds God, the Son of God, and thus, he finds himself.

One need not 'amputate' the human Christ to explain the Incarnation. One must simply understand the dynamics of the human being who realizes himself only by stepping out of himself. It is only in God that we find ourselves, our totality and our completeness.

And so we see that it is not the man who is closed in on himself who is the complete man, but it is the man who opens up, who steps out of himself - it is he who becomes complete, who finds himself in the Son of God, finds in him his true humanity.

For St. Maximus, this vision was not merely philosophical speculation: he saw it realized in the actual life of Jesus, especially in the drama of Gethsemane. In that drama of Jesus's agony, of his anguish about death, of the opposition between the human desire not to die and the divine will which offers the self to death, the entire human drama is played out, the drama of our redemption.

St. Maximus tells us - and we know this is true: Adam (Adam is we ourselves) thought that saying NO was the peak of freedom, that only he who could say No would be truly free, that in order to truly realize his freedom, man should say No to God; that only in that way he will finally be himself, arriving at the peak of freedom.

This tendency was also inherent in Christ's human nature, but he overcame it, because Jesus saw that No did not represent maximum freedom. Maximum freedom is saying Yes - conformity with the will of God. Only in that Yes does man truly become himself. Only in the great openness of a Yes, in uniting his will with the divine will, can man become immensely open and become 'divine'.

Adam's desire was to be like God, meaning, to be completely free. But the man who is closed in on himself is not divine nor is he free. He will be, if he comes out of himself - he will be free when he says Yes. That was the drama of Gethsemane: 'not my will, but yours, be done". Transferring one's will to the divine will, that is how a true man is born. That is how we are redeemed.

In brief, this was the fundamental point that St. Maximus wished to say, and we see that the entirety of being human is in question here, the entire question of our life.

St. Maximus already had problems in Africa defending this vision of man and God. Then he was called to Rome. In 649, he took active part in the Lateran Council, called by Pope Martin I to defend the two wills of Christ, against the edict of the emperor who, in the interests of peace, had forbidden any discussion of the issue.

Pope Martin had to pay a high price for his courage. Although he was in poor health, he was arrested and taken to Constantinople. Tried and condemned to death, his penalty was commutated to exile in the Crimea, where he died on September 16, 655, after two long years of humiliation and torture.

Not much later, in 662, it was the turn of Maximus who - also opposing the emperor - continued to insist: "It is impossible to state that Christ had only one will!" (cfr PG 91, cc 268-269). So, together with two of his disciples, both named Anastasius, Maximus underwent an exhausting trial at a time when he was already past 80.

The imperial tribunal condemned him for heresy to the cruel mutilation of his tongue and his right hand - the two organs through which, in words and writing, Maximus had fought the erroneous doctrine that Christ only had one will.

Finally, the holy monk, thus mutilated, was exiled to the Colchides on the Black Sea where he died at the age of 82, worn out by the sufferings he had undergone, on August 13 of that same year, 662.

Speaking of the life of Maximus, we already referred to his literary work in defense of orthodoxy. We refer in particular to the Dispute with Pirrus, then Patriarch of Constantinople, in which Maximus succeeded to persuade his adversary of his errors. With great honesty, in fact, Pirrus concludes the Dispute this way: "I beg pardon for myself and for those who came before me: through ignorance we reached these absurd thoughts and arguments; I pray that a way may be found to annul this absurdity, while saving the memory of those who erred" (PG 91, c. 352).

Dozens of his important works have come down to us, among which the Mistagoghia stands out, one of St. Maximus's most important writings which puts together his theological thinking in well-structured synthesis.

St. Maximus's was not just theological, speculative thinking that was folded in on itself, because it was always oriented towards the concrete reality of the world and its salvation. In this context, for which he had to suffer, he could not avoid philosophical statements that were theoretical: he had to find the sense of life, asking himself: who am I, what is the world?

To man, created in his image and likeness, God had entrusted the mission of unifying the cosmos. Just as Christ had unified man to himself, in man, the Creator had unified the cosmos. He showed us how to unify the cosmos in communion with Christ and thus arrive at a truly redeemed world.

One of the greatest theologians of the 20th century, Hans Urs von Balthasar, referred to this powerful saving vision when, in 're-launching' the figure of Maximus, he defined his thinking as the representative expression of 'cosmic liturgy'.

In the center of this solemn liturgy is always Jesus Christ, the only Savior of the world. The efficacy of his saving action, which definitively unified the cosmos, is guaranteed by the fact that he, although he is God in everything, is also integrally a man, with the 'energy' and the will of man.

The life and thought of Maximus remain powerfully illuminated by his immense courage in bearing witness to the integral reality of Christ, without any reduction or compromise. Thus what and who man really is emerges, and how we should live to respond to our calling.

We should live united with God, in order to be united to ourselves and to the cosmos, giving the cosmos itself and mankind the correct form. Christ's universal Yes also shows us clearly how to give the right context to all other values.

Let us think of values that are rightly defended today such as tolerance, freedom, dialog. A tolerance that can no longer discern good from evil becomes chaotic and self-destructive. In the same way, freedom that does not respect the freedom of others and fails to see the common measure of our respective freedoms, would become anarchy and would destroy authority. Dialog which no longer knows what there is to dialog about becomes empty chatter.

All these values are great and fundamental, but they can remain true values only if they have a unifying reference point to give them authenticity. This reference point is the synthesis of God and the cosmos - the person of Christ in whom we learn the truth about ourselves, and thus learn to place all other values in context because we would discover their authentic meaning.

Jesus Christ is the reference point who gives light to all other values. This is the end point of the testimony by the great Confessor. Thus, ultimately, Christ shows us that the cosmos should become liturgy, the glory of God, and that adoration is the start of true transformation, of the true renewal of the world.

And so I wish to end with a fundamental passage from the works of St. Maximus: "We adore the only Son, together with the Father and teh Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, as it is now, and for all times, and the times after time. Amen."

Later, here is how he synthesized the catechesis in English:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In today’s catechesis we turn to Saint Maximus the Confessor, a heroic defender of the Church’s faith in the true humanity of Christ amid the bitter theological controversies of the seventh century.

Born in Palestine, Maximus became a monk and lived in Constantinople, Roman Africa and Rome itself. In his preaching and writings he defended the mystery of the incarnation and opposed the monothelite heresy, which refused to acknowledge the presence of an integral human will in Jesus Christ.

Maximus clearly understood that our salvation depends on Christ’s complete humanity, which necessarily includes a human will capable of freely cooperating with the divine will in achieving the work of our redemption.

The salvation of man, and indeed the entire cosmos, is central to the theology of Saint Maximus. Through the incarnation of the Son of God, the whole universe is now redeemed and unified. Christ is thus the one absolute Value, to whom all worldly values are directed.

This vision of a "cosmic liturgy", centred on the Incarnate Lord, ought to inspire the efforts of Christians today to make our world conform ever more fully to its ultimate meaning and goal in God’s saving plan.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I offer a warm welcome, together with the assurance of my closeness in prayer, to the group of pilgrims from the International Foundation for the Service of Deaf Persons.

Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims, especially those from England, Scotland, the Netherlands, Iceland, Sweden, Pakistan and the United States of America, I cordially invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace.

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ANGELUS OF 6/29/08

Unusually, because the Mass today came to an end around noon, the Holy Father led the recitation of the Angelus from inside St. Peter's Basilica, before the final Mass blessing. Here is a translation of his Angelus message before the prayers.

Dear brothers and sisters,

This year, the feast of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul falls on Sunday, and so the whole Church, not only the Church of Rome, celebrates it solemnly. This coincidence is also propitious for highlighting an extraordinary event, the Pauline Year, which I officially opened last night at the tomb of the Apostle of the Gentiles, and which will last till June 29, 2009.

Historians reckon the birth of Saul, who became Paul, to have taken place between 7-10 A.D. Therefore, for its 2000th anniversary, I declared this special jubilee which will, of course, be centered in Rome, particularly the Basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls and the place of his martyrdom at Tre Fontane.

But the celebration involves the entire Church, starting with Tarsus, Paul's place of birth, and the other Pauline pilgrimage sites located in present-day Turkey, as well as the Holy Land, and the island of Malta, where the Apostle ended up after a shipwreck and sowed the fertile seed of the Gospel.

Actually, the horizon of the Pauline Year cannot be other than universal, because St, Paul was par excellence the apostle of those who, with respect to the Jews, were 'far off' but "have become near by the blood of Christ" (cfr Eph 2,13).

But wherever many still have not encountered the Lord Jesus, the jubilee of St. Paul is an invitation to all Christians to be missionaries of the Gospel.

This missionary dimension must always be accompanied by that of unity, represented by St. Peter, the 'rock' on which Jesus Christ build his Church. As the liturgy underscores, the charisms of the two great Apostles are complementary for the edification of the one People of God, and Christians cannot give valid testimony of Christ unless they are united among themselves.

The theme of unity is also highlighted today by the traditional rite of the Pallium, which during the Holy Mass, I imposed on the Metropolitan Archbishops named during the past year. There are 40 of them, and two others will receive it in their respective diocesan seats. I extend my heartfelt greetings to all of them once more.

Moreover, it is a special joy for the Bishop of Rome to welcome to the solemnity today the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople in the dear person of His Holiness Bartholomew I, to whom I renew my fraternal greeting and extend this to the entire delegation from the Orthodox Church led by him.

The Pauline Year, evangelization, communion in the church and full unity of all Christians: let us pray now for these great intentions, entrusting them to the celestial intercession of the most Blessed Mary, Mother of the Church and Queen of the Apostles.

In English, he said:

I am happy to welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors.

In a special way I greet the Metropolitan Archbishops who have received the pallium, accompanied by their relatives and friends on this Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul.

May the courageous example of these Holy Patrons inspire the Archbishops as they preach the saving word of God.

I am also pleased to extend warm greetings to the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, His Holiness Bartholomew I, and to the members of his delegation.

Through the intercession of the Apostles Peter and Paul, may all Christians bear clear witness to the truth and the love that sets us free. God bless you all!

In his Italian greeting, he had special words for Rome:

I address a special greeting to the city of Rome and those who live in it. May your holy patron saints Peter and Paul grant that the entire civic and diocesan community may safeguard and cherish the wealth of its treasures of faith, history and art. I wish everyone a happy holiday.

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Here is a translation of the Holy Father's catechesis today in which he starts a new cycle dedicated to the figure and teachings of St. Paul. The audience was held at Aula Paolo VI.

Dear brothers and sisters,

I wish to start a new catechetical cycle today dedicated to the great Apostle St. Paul. As you know, this year is dedicated to him, starting from the liturgical Feast of Saints Peter and Paul last Sunday, to the end of the same feast day next year.

The Apostle Paul, an exceptional and perhaps inimitable figure, always stimulating, is an example for us of total dedication to the Lord and his Church, as well as of great openness to mankind and its cultures.

It is therefore right that we reserve for him a special place not only in our veneration but even in the effort to understand what he has to say to us Christians today.

In this first encounter, let us stop to consider the environment in which he lived and worked. Such a subject would seem to take us far away from our time since we have to imagine the world 2000 years ago. But this is true only apparently and in part, because we will note that under various aspects, the socio-cultural context today did not differ much from what it was in those days.

A primary and fundamental factor to keep in mind is the relationship between the environment into which Paul was born and grew, and the global context into which he subsequently situated himself.

He came from a culture that was precisely defined and circumscribed, certainly a minority one, which is that of the people of Israel and their tradition. In the ancient world, and most notably within the Roman empire, as scholars tell us, the Jews made up only about 10% of the total population. Here in Rome, in the middle of the first century after Christ, they were even much fewer relatively, not being more than 3% of the city population.

Their beliefs and their life style, then as now, distinguished them clearly from their surroundings, and this could have two results - either derision which could lead to intolerance, or admiration, which was expressed in various ways, as for instance, among 'those who fear God' and the 'proselytes' - pagans who associated themselves with the synagogue and shared Israel's faith in God.

As concrete examples of this two-sided attitude we can cite, on the one hand, the cutting dismissal of an orator like Cicero who despised the Jewish religion and even the city of Jerusalem (cfr Pro Flacco, 66-69), and on the other hand, that of Nero's wife, Poppea, whom the Jewish historian Flavius Joseph recalls to be a 'sympathizer' of the Jews (cfr Antichità giudaiche 20,195.252; Vita 16), not to mention that Julius Caesar himself had officially recognized particular rights for them as Flavius has recorded (cfr ibid. 14,200-216).

What is certain is that like today, the number of Jews who lived outside the land of Israel - the Jews of the Diaspora - was much more than those who lived within the territory that was called Palestine.

It is not surprising then that Paul himself was the object of these two opposing assessments that I referred to. One thing is sure: the distinctive particularity of Jewish culture and religion easily found its place within an institution as omni-pervasive as the Roman empire was.

More difficult and trying would be the position of those - Jews or Gentiles - who would adhere faithfully to the person of Jesus of Nazareth, to the degree that Christianity differed both from Judaism and from the prevailing pagan culture.

In any case, two factors favored Paul's mission. The first was Greek culture - perhaps Hellenistic is a better term - which after Alexander the Great, became the common patrimony of the eastern Mediterranean and the Near East, integrating many elements from the cultures of peoples who were traditionally considered barbarians.

A writer of the time says in this respect that Alexander "ordered that everyone should consider the entire 'ecumene' as their homeland... and that there should no longer be any distinction between Greeks and barbarians" (Plutarch, De Alexandri Magni fortuna aut virtute, §§ 6.8).

The second factor was the political-administrative structure of the Roman empire, which guaranteed peace and stability, from Britain to southern Egypt, unifying a vast territory without precedent.

Within that space, one could move about with freedom and safety, utilizing among other things an extraordinary highway system, and finding at each place, characteristic and basic cultural elements which, without detriment to local values, formed a common fabric of unification super partes (above divisions], such that the philosopher Fhilo of Alexandria, a contemporary of St. Paul, praised the Emperor Augustus because he "had brought together in harmony all the savage peoples ...making himself the guardian of the peace" (Legatio ad Caium, §§ 146-147).

The universal vision that characterized the personality of St. Paul - at least of the Christian Paul following the event on the road to Damascus - certainly owes its basic impulse from his faith in Jesus Christ, in that the Risen Lord was beyond any specific constraints.

In fact, for the apostle, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3,28).

Nonethless, the historico-cultural situation in his time and in his surroundings could not fail to have an influence on Paul's choices and his work.

Someone has called Paul 'a man of three cultures' because of his Jewish matrix, his Greek mother tongue, and his prerogatives as a 'civis Romanus' (Roman citizen), as attested even by the Latin origin of his Christian name.

One must remember above all, that Stoic philosophy, which was dominant in Paul's time, also influenced Christianity, even if marginally. In this regard, we cannot fail to mention some Stoic philosophers like the initiators Zeno and Cleantes, and those chronologically closer to Paul like Seneca, Musonius and Epictetus - in whom we find the highest values of humanism and wisdom which would be assimilated into Christianity.

As one study on this subject says best, "the Stoa... announced a new ideal which imposed on man duties towards his peers, but at the same time liberated him of all physical and national bonds and made of him a purely spiritual being" (M. Pohlenz, La Stoa, I, Florence 2 1978, pp. 565s).

We can think, for instance, of the doctrine that conceives the universe as one great harmonious body, which leads to the doctrine of equality among all men without social distinctions, to the equality - at least in principle - of men and women, and to the ideal of frugality, moderation and self-discipline to avoid any excess.

When Paul writes the Philippians: "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things" (Phil 4,8), he is merely re-stating an eminently humanistic concept from Stoic philosophy.

In St. Paul's time, traditional religion was undergoing a crisis, at least in its mythological and even its civic aspects. After Lucretius, a century earlier, had judged polemically that "religion has led to so many misdeeds"(De rerum natura, 1,101), a philosopher like Seneca, going far beyond mere external ritualism, taught that "God is near you, he is with you, he is within you" (Letter to Lucilius, 41,1).

Analogously, when Paul addressed an audience of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers at the Areopagus of Athens, he says textually that "God does not dwell in sanctuaries made by human hands...(but) in him we live and move and have our being" (cfr Acts 17, 24-28).

In this, he certainly restates the Jewish faith in a God who cannot be represented in anthropomorphic terms, but he also uses a religious wavelength that his audience knows well.

We should also take into account that many pagan cults did not use the official temples of the city but carried out their activity in private places which favored the initiation of new adepts.

So it was no surprise that even the Christian assemblies ( called ekklesiai), as the Pauline letters often attest, took place in private homes. Moreover, at that time, there were no public edifices yet [for Christians].

So the early Christian gatherings must have seemed to their contemporaries as just another variant of the common practice of a more intimate form of religion.

Of course, the differences between pagan worship and Christian worship were considerable and had to do with the conscious self-identification of the participants in Christian worship, the common participation of men and women, their celebration of 'the Lord's Supper' and the reading of Scriptures.

In conclusion, from this quick overview of the cultural environment in the first century of the Christian era, it is clear that it is not possible to understand St. Paul adequately without placing him in the context, Jewish as well as pagan, of his time.

This way, his figure gains historic and intellectual weight, showing what he shared with the prevailing culture and how he was original. And this goes equally well for Christianity in general, of whom Paul is a paradigm of the first order from whom we all have much to learn.

This is the goal of the Pauline Year: to learn from St. Paul, to learn the faith, to learn Christ, and thus to learn the way of right living.

This is how the Holy Father synthesized the lesson in English:

Last Sunday, the Solemnity of the Apostles Peter and Paul, marked the beginning of a Year dedicated to the figure and teaching of the Apostle Paul.

Today’s Audience begins a new series of catecheses aimed at understanding more deeply the thought of Saint Paul and its continuing relevance.

Paul, as we know, was a Jew, and consequently a member of a distinct cultural minority in the Roman Empire. At the same time, he spoke Greek, the language of the wider Hellenistic culture, and was a Roman citizen.

Paul’s proclamation of the Risen Christ, while grounded in Judaism, was marked by a universalist vision and it was facilitated by his familiarity with three cultures. He was thus able to draw from the spiritual richness of contemporary philosophy, and Stoicism in particular, in his preaching of the Gospel.

The crisis of traditional Greco-Roman religion in Paul’s time had also fostered a greater concern for a personal experience of God. As we see from his sermon before the Areopagus in Athens (cf. Acts 17:22ff.), Paul was able to appeal to these currents of thought in his presentation of the Good News. Against this broad cultural background, Paul developed his teaching, which we will explore in the catecheses of this Pauline Year.

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Here is a translation of the Holy Father's words before and after the Angelus prayers at Castel Gandolfo today.

Dear brothers and sisters,

I wish first of all to address an affectionate and grateful greeting to the authorities and the entire civilian and ecclesial community of Castel Gandolfo, who always have a cordial and attentive welcome for me during my stay here.

My thoughts go next to Australia, where, God willing, I will be headed for next Saturday, July 12, where the XXIII World Youth Day will take place in Sydney, at the southeastern part of that country.

In the past several months, the 'Cross of the Youth' has travelled through all of Oceania, and in Sydney, it will once more be a silent witness to the pact of alliance between the Lord Jesus and the new generations.

The welcome celebrations for the WYD participants will take place on July 15, with the great vigil on Saturday, July 19, and the final Eucharistic celebration on Sunday, July 20, as the culmination and conclusion of the event.

The Australian bishops conference has prepared everything carefully, with the valuable collaboration of civilian authorities. The first groups of young people are now leaving from other continents on their way to Australia.

I invite the whole Church to feel themselves participants in this new stage of the great youth pilgrimage across the world, started in 1985 by the Servant of God John Paul II.

The next World Youth Day presents itself as a renewed Pentecost. In effect, the Christian communities have been preparing for a year along the lines that I indicated in the message on the theme "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses" (Acts 1,8).

It is the promise Jesus made to his disciples after the Resurrection, and it remains always valid and actual in the Church. The Holy Spirit, awaited and welcomed in prayer, infuses into believers the capacity to be witnesses of Jesus and his Gospel.

Breathing on the sails of the Church, the divine Spirit pushes us 'out to sea' ever anew, from generation to generation, to bring to all the good news of God's love, fully revealed in Jesus Christ, who died and was resurrected for us.

I am sure that from every corner of the earth, Catholics will join me and the assembled youth in Sydney, as in a Cenacle, intensely invoking the Holy Spirit so that he may flood hearts with interior light, with love for God and our brothers, with courageous initiatives for introducing the eternal message of Jesus in a variety of languages and cultures.

An icon of the Virgin Mary also accompanies the World Youth Days along with the Cross. Let us entrust to her maternal protection this trip to Australia and the meeting with the young people in Sydney.

Besides, on this first Sunday of July, I wish to invoke the intercession of Mary so that the summer season may offer to everyone the occasion for rest as well as physical and spiritual recharging.

After the Angelus prayers, he said this:

Tomorrow, July 7, the heads of state and government of the member countries of G8, and other world leaders, will meet in Japan for their annual summit.

In these days, many voices - among them, the presidents of the bishops conferences in those nations - have been raised to ask that the G8 carry out the commitments they have made in previous G8 meetings and courageously adopt all the necessary measures to conquer the scourges of extreme poverty, hunger, sickness and illiteracy, which continue to afflict so many parts of the world.

I join this urgent appeal for solidarity. Therefore, I address myself to the participants of the meeting in Hokkaido-Toyako, so that they may focus their deliberations on the needs of the weakest and poorest populations, whose vulnerability has grown today because of financial speculations and turbulences and their perverse effects on the costs of food and energy.

I hope that generosity and farsightedness may help them to take decisions that will relaunch an equitable process of integral development that will safeguard human dignity.

I greet the children and their chaperons who are participating in the 2008 International Festival of Child Artists organized by the Soong Ching Ling Foundation of Italy.

Love, concord, harmony and solidarity are the values which you wish to promote in China and other countries of the world. Art and culture can unite peoples. Children represent the future of the human family and are, therefore, called rightfully to build a more beautiful and more humane world.

Your presence allows me to send a wish of peace and joy to all your contemporaries in China and in the whole world. Once again, my greeting to you all!

Later, in English, he said:

I am happy to welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at this Angelus.

During these months many will be taking their annual holiday. Let us pray that all who are travelling on the roads will do so in safety, with prudence and respect for others. In this way our summer break will truly be a time for relaxation, family life and friendship.

In today’s Gospel we are reminded by Jesus that children welcome the Kingdom of Heaven. Let us purify our hearts so that, like them, we may receive in simplicity the will of God and follow generously day by day the path marked out for us.

I wish you all a pleasant stay in Castel Gandolfo and Rome, and a blessed Sunday!

NB: He explicitly asked the German- and Polish-speaking pilgrims to pray for him and his mission in Australia.

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Watch the videoclip f today's Angelus on:

ANGELUS OF 7/27/08

Here is a translation of the Holy Father's words at the Angelus today:

Dear brothers and sisters!

I returned last Monday from Sydney, Australia, site of the XXIII World Youth Day. I still have before my eyes and in my heart this extraordinary experience which allowed me to encounter the young face of the Church: It was like a multicolored mosaic of young men and women from all parts of the world, all assembled in the one faith in Jesus Christ.

"Young pilgrims of the world" is how they were referred to, a beautiful expression which grasps the essence of these international days of gathering initiated by John Paul II.

These meetings indeed form the stages of a great planetary pilgrimage, to show how faith in Christ makes us all children of the Father who is heaven, builder of the civilization of love.

Characteristic of the Sydney WYD was taking conscience of the centrality of the Holy Spirit as a protagonist int he life of the Church and of the Christian.

The long path of preparation followed by the local Churches had as a theme the promise made by the risen Christ to the Apostles: "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses" (Acts 1,9).

On July 16,17 and 18, in teh churches of Sydney, numerous bishops present from around the world exercised their ministry by offering catecheses in various languages. These catecheses were moments for reflection and meditation that were indispensable so that the event would not merely be an external manifestation but would leave a profound trace in the conscience of its participants.

The vigil in the heart of the city, under the Southern Cross, was a choral invocation of the Holy Spirit. Finally, during the great Eucharistic celebration on Sunday, July 20, I administered teh sacrament of Confirmation to 24 young people from the various continents, of whom 14 were Australians, and then asked everyone to renew their baptismal vows.

And thus, this World Youth Day was transformed into a new Pentecost, from which to relaunch the mission of teh young, who are called on to the apostles to people of their age, like so many saints and blessed ones, in particular Blessed Piergiorgio Frassati, whose remains, brought to the Cathedral of Sydney (from Turin, Italy), were venerated by an uninterrupted flow of pilgrims.

Every young man and woman is called on to follow their example, to share their personal experience of Jesus, who changes the lives of his 'friends' with the power of the Holy Spirit, the spirit of God's love.

Today I wish to thank once again the Bishops of Australia, particularly the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, for their great work of preparation and for the heartfelt welcome which they gave me and all the other pilgrims.

I thank the civilian authorities of Australia for their valuable collaboration. And I address special thanks to all who, in every part of the world, prayed for this event, assuring it of success.

May the Virgin Mary reward everyone with the most beautiful graces. I also entrust to Mary the rest period which I will begin tomorrow in Bressanone, among the mountains of Alto Adige.

Let us remain united in prayer.

After the Angelus prayers, he said this in English:

I greet the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims who are here today and I wish you all a pleasant stay in Italy.

This Sunday’s Gospel reminds us that we should treasure above all else the faith that has been given to us.

I pray that your visit to Rome and the surrounding area will help you to deepen your faith and to grow in your love for our Lord Jesus Christ. May God bless you all!

In Italian, he greeted the members of the Focolari movement who are holding an annual conference and congratulated them on their new leadership, following the death of their beloved founder, Chiara Lubich.

He also greeted the delegation of the city and parish of Castel Gandolfo who visited him today on the occasion of the traditional annual festival of peaches.

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The Holy Father has been in Bressanone as a guest of the seminary since Monday, July 28, for a period of rest. At noonday today, the Pope led the recitation of the Angelus at Piazza Duomo. Here is a translation of his words before and after the prayers.

He began in German:

Dear brothers and sisters, I greet you all with a heartfelt Gruess Gott!

Before everything else, I must say a very heartfelt Thank You to you, dear Bishop Egger, who have made this feast of faith possible. You have made it possible for me to retrace my past and at the same time to look forward to the future.

Once more, to spend my holiday here in beautiful Brixen, this place where art and culture and man's goodness all come together. My heartfelt thanks for everything.

And of course I thank everyone who has contributed so that I can spend days of quiet and peace here. Thank you all who have organized everything. I wish to thank from my hear all the authorities of the city, the province, the region and the national government; the volunteers, the doctors and health workers, the forces of law and order all working together .... I am sure I have not remembered everyone.

But a very heartfelt 'Vergelt's Gott' [May God reward you!] to all - you are all in my prayers. That is the only way that I can say thanks, that I can try to say Thank You.

Of course, above all, let us thank the good God himself who has given us this land, who has gifted us today with this brilliant sunny day.

Which brings us to the liturgy today. The first reading reminded us that the greatest things in life are not bought, they cannot be paid for, but that the most important and elementary things in life can only be received as gifts - the sun and its light, the air that we breathe, water, the beauty of the earth, love, friendship, life itself.

All these truly central 'goods' of life are things we cannot buy but only receive as gifts. And the second reading adds that this also means there are things that no one can take away from us, that no dictatorship, nor destructive force can rob.

No one can take away from us that we are loved by God, whom each of us knows and loves in Christ, and as long as we have this, then we are not poor but rich.

The Gospel takes a further step in this respect. When we have received so much from God then we too must be giving - spiritually, in that we can give goodness, friendship, love, but also materially - the Gospel narrates about the sharing of bread.

Both should penetrate our souls: that we should be 'giving' persons since we are recipients, that we should pass on the gifts we get of goodness and love and friendship, but at the same time, to all those who are needy and whom we can help, we must also give materially, and thus seek to make the world more human, which is to say, closer to God.

He continued in Italian:

Now, dear friends, I invite you to join me in devout and filial remembrance of the servant of God, Pope Paul VI, on the thirtieth anniversary of his death three days from now. It was on the evening of August 6, 1978, that he rendered his soul back to God - the evening of the Feast of the Transfiguration of Jesus, mystery of divine light which always held a singular fascination for his spirit.

As the Supreme Pastor of the Church, Paul VI led the people of God to contemplate the face of Christ, Redeemer of man and Lord of history.

And it was precisely this loving orientation of mind and heart towards Christ that was one of the principles of the Second Vatican Council, a fundamental attitude that my venerated predecessor John Paul II carried on and relaunched in the Great Jubilee of 2000.

In the center of everything, always Christ! In the center of Sacred Scriptures and of Tradition, in the heart of the Church, the world and the entire universe.

Divine Providence called Giovanni Battista Montini from the See of Milan to that of Rome at a most sensitive moment for the (Second Vatican) Council - when the inspiration of Blessed John XXIII risked not taking shape.

How can we not thank the Lord for His fertile and courageous pastoral action? As we get a wider and more knowledgeable perspective on the past, then it appears to us that Paul VI's merit seems even greater, almost superhuman, in having presided at the Conciliar sessions, in leading the Council to a happy ending, and in governing the agitated post-Conciliar phase.

We can truly say, with the Apostle Paul, that the grace of God 'in him was not in vain' (cfr 1 Cor 15,10): he made full use of his outstanding gifts of intelligence and his passionate love for the Church and for mankind.

As we give thanks to God for the gift of this great Pope, let us commit ourselves to treasure his teachings.

He ended in German:

In the final period of the Council, Paul VI wished to render a particular homage to the Mother of God and solemnly proclaimed her 'Mother of the Church'. To her, the Mother of Christ, to the Mother of the Church, to our Mother, let us now turn by praying the Angelus.

After the Angelus, he delivered this special message in Italian:

Dear friends,

On Friday, August 8, the Games of the XXIX Olympiad open in Beijing. It is my pleasure to address to the host country, to the organizers and to the participants - most especially the athletes - my heartfelt greeting, with the wish that everyone may give the best of himself in the genuine Olympic spirit.

I have followed with deep sympathy this great sports encounter - the most important and awaited on the international level - and I sincerely hope that it may offer to the international community a valid example of coexistence among persons of the most diverse origins, each respecting their common dignity.

May sport once again be a token of brotherhood and peace among peoples!

In his greetings to various language groups, he reiterated his message about Paul VI, as he did in English:

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors united with us here in Bressanone for this Angelus prayer.

Wednesday, the feast of the Lord’s Transfiguration, marks the thirtieth anniversary of the death of Pope Paul VI. As we recall this great Pontiff who concluded the Second Vatican Council and guided the first phase of the post-conciliar renewal, let us give thanks for his wise teaching, his passionate love of the Church, and his desire to draw all people to the contemplation of Christ’s glory.

Dear friends, during these summer holidays, may you grow closer to the Lord in prayer, and may he shed the light of his face upon you and your families!

After the Angelus at Piazza Duomo, the Holy Father walked over to the nearby parish church of St. Michael the Archangel where he greeted the faithful who had gathered there, mostly older people and sick and disabled persons. Again he started his greeting in German:

Dear friends,

I am very happy that I can be with you in this parish church, where in previous vacations I have come to pray and where I experienced many beautiful things - including concerts.

Praying in these places is always relevant. The Lord is with us and sustains us.

I wish you all blessed days and the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is a blessing for the healthy but most especially for the sick. Let us all be together in prayer.

Then, in Italian:

Dear friends!

I am very happy to be in this parish church. I have prayed a lot, during previous vacations, in this Church, which is, for me, a place of prayer in the presence of the Lord. And it is in [prayer that we are all united.

May the Lord be with you, I am praying for you. Pray for me, as well, so that we may feel the goodness of the Lord despite all the problems
we face, and so move ahead in difficult days as well as in the good ones. I give you all my prayers and my blessing.

His last words were in German:

Praise be the name of the Lord!

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ANGELUS OF 8/10/08

Here is a translation of the Holy Father's words at the noonday Angelus yesterday. He started in German:

Dear brothers and sisters,

St. Mark says in his Gospel that the Lord told his disciples after some stress-filled days, "Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while" (6,31). Since the words of Christ are never linked only to the moment when they are spoken, I have applied to myself this invitation to his disciples and came to this beautiful peaceful place for some repose.

I must thank Bishop Egger and all his staff, the whole city of Brixen and the region for having prepared for my sake, so that for two weeks I could relax, think of God and of men, and thus regain new strength. Vergelt's Gott! (Thank you.)

I should thank each and everyone individually, but I will make it simpler: I ask God's blessing for all. He knows each of us by name and his blessing will touch everyone by name. I ask this with all my heart, and this is my thanks to everyone.

The Gospel on this Sunday takes us from this place of rest back to everyday life. It tells us how the Lord, after the multiplication of the loaves, went up to the mountain in order to be alone with the Father.

Meanwhile, the disciples set out on the lake, and with their poor small boat, tried to make headway against a contrary wind. Perhaps the evangelist already saw that as an image of the Church in his time: how this small boat of the Church was in the crosswind of history, and that the Lord seemed to have forgotten it.

We too can see it as an image for the Church in our time, which must fight these crosswinds in many parts of the earth without much success, and the Lord seems very distant.

But the Gospel answers us with comfort and encouragement even as it shows us a way. It tells us, Yes, it is true, the Lord is with the Father, but he is never far away, rather he sees each of us, because whoever is near God is also near others.

In fact, the Lord sees them (the disciples), and at the right moment, comes to them. And as Peter, who was coming towards him, appeared to be in risk of drowning, he takes him by the hand and leads him safely into the boat.

The Lord always holds out his hand to us: He does that through the beauty of a Sunday, through the celebration of liturgy. He does it through prayer, through which we come to him. He does it in our meeting with God's Word. In the multiple situations of everyday, he holds out his hand to us. When we take his hand and allow ourselves to be led by him, then we are on the right and good way.

And so let us ask him that we may always find his hand. At the same time this means that, in his name, we can hold out our hand to others who are in need and lead them through the waters of our history.

He continued in Italian:

In these days, dear friends, I have been thinking over the experience in Sydney where I met the happy faces of so many young men and women from every part of the world. And I have come to a reflection on that event which I wish to share with you.

In the great capital of the young nation of Australia, those young people were a sign of authentic joy, sometimes noisy, but always peaceful and positive. Although there were so many of them, they did not cause any disorder or damage.

In order to be merry, they did not need to resort to coarse and violent means, to alcohol and to drugs. There was simply the joy of meeting each other and to discover a new world together.

How can we not compare them to their contemporaries who, in search of false escapes, engage in degrading experiences which not uncommonly end in disturbing tragedies?

This is the typical product of the present so-called 'society of well-being' which, in order to fill up an interior emptiness and the boredom that goes with it, tempts with experiences that are new, more moving, more 'extreme'.

Even vacations risk being dissipated into a vain pursuit after mirages of pleasure. But in this way, the sporit does not rest, the heart does not feel joy, it does not find peace - rather, one ends up feeling more tired and sad than ever.

I referred to young people because it is they who have the most thirst for life and new experiences, and therefore, they also run the most risk. But the reflection is valid for all of us: The human being is regenerated only in relationship with God, and one encounters God by learning to listen to his voice in the quiet of our interior being and in silence. (cfr 1 Kings 19,12).

Let us pray so that in a society which is always on the go, vacations may be days of genuine relaxation during which we can set aside moments for meditation and prayer, whcih are indispensable for profoundly recovering oneself and others. Let us as ask this through the intercession of the Most Blessed Mary, virgin of silence and of listening.

After the Angelus prayers, he made this statement:

Dear brothers and sisters,

Reason for profound anguish is the news, increasingly dramatic, of tragic events happening in Georgia, which have already resulted in many innocent victims in the region of South Ossetia and forced a great number of civilians to leave their homes.

It is my most sincere hope that military actions may cease immediately and - in the name of a common Christian heritage - for all parties involved to abstain from further confrontations and violent retaliations which could degenerate into a more serious conflict; rather, to resolutely follow the path of negotiation with respectful and constructive dialog, thus avoiding further suffering for the dear peoples of the region.

Among other things, I call on the international community and to the countries that can most influence the present situation to do everything to sustain and promote initiatives towards a peaceful lasting solution in favor of open and respectful coexistence.

Together with our Orthodox brothers, let us pray intensely for these intentions, and entrust them with confidence to the intercession of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus and of all Christians.

The Pope then delivered his customary greetings in German, Ladino and Italian:

In German -

I think we are all grateful and happy to spend together a Sunday as beautiful as this, which brings me to thinking about Sundays in general.

Your bishop has told me that the diocesan program this year includes (promoting) the sanctification of Sunday. And how true! Sunday is indeed important. Not only as a day of relaxation, which we all need - as I said earlier.

But relaxation alone is not all, and Sunday remains empty - indeed, we could come back even more stressed and emmpty than ever - if Sunday does not have the encounter with the Risen Christ at its center.

I think that last Sunday and today we all experienced how beautiful it is to when we encounter the Lord in the Eucharist, encountering each other at the sane time. And so I ask you all to welcome this diocesan program on the personal level, so that Sunday may be Sunday, a day of joyful respose and of festive encounter with the good God.

I wish you all a blessed Sunday and a good week!

In Ladino -

Dear faithful of the Ladino valleys, St. Joseph Freinademetz brought the Gospel to a distant land. You too should be witnesses and ambassadors of the faith in your families, your towns, and in society. Be witnesses of the faith even to the tourists who come to your valleys.

In Italian -

And finally, my hearfelt greetings to all Italian-speaking pilgrims, particularly the representatives of various parishes in the diocese of Bolzano-Bressanone, as well as the families and young people of other Italian dioceses.

As Bishop Egger mentioned, this Cathedral of Bressanone was first consecrated 250 years ago. May every grace come to you from encountering the Lord in this church.

I thank you all for your presence and your affection. I also greet the journalists and other members of the mass media who have followed my vacation. I thank you, dear friends, for your work and your discretion, and I assure you of my prayers for your family and professional intentions. Thank you!

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Castel Gandolfo

Here is a translation of the Holy Father's words at the abbreviated General Audience today, speaking from the balcony overlooking the inner courtyard of the Apostolic Palace in Castel Gandolfo:

Dear brothers and sisters!

Having returned from Bressanone, where I spent a period of repose, I am happy to meet and greet you again, dear residents of Castel Gandolfo, and all you pilgrims who have come today to visit me.

I wish to thank once more those who welcomed me and watched over my sojourn in the mountains. They were days of serene relaxation, during which I did not cease to remember to the Lord all those who have entrusted themselves to my prayers.

There are really so many people who write asking me to pray for them. They tell me about their joys but also about their concerns, their plans in life, their problems at home and at work, the expectations and the hopes that they carry, along with the stresses arising from the uncertainties that mankind is living at this time.

I can give my assurance that I remember each and everyone in prayer, especially in the daily celebration of Holy Mass and in reciting the Rosary. I know very well that the first service I can render to the Church and to mankind is precisely that of prayer, because in praying, I confidently place in the hands of the Lord the ministry which he himself has entrusted to me, along with the destinies of the entire ecclesial and civilian community.

Whoever prays never loses hope, even when he finds himself in difficult situations, even those which are humanly hopeless. This is what Sacred Scripture teaches us, and this is what the history of the Church testifies to. How many examples, in fact, could we state in which it was prayer which sustained the saints and the Christian people along their way!

Among the witnesses in our time, I wish to cite two saints whom we remember these days: Teresa Benedetta della Croce, Edith Stein, whose feast we celebrated on August 9, and Maximilian Maria Kolbe whom we commemorate tomorrow, August 14, eve of the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Both ended their earthly life in martyrdom at the Auschwitz concentration camp. Their life can ostensibly be considered a defeat, but it is precisely in their martyrdom that the splendour of love shines to defeat the shadows of selfishness asnd hatred.

The following words attributed to St. Maximilian Kolbe were said in the full furor of Nazi persecution: "Hatred is not a creative force. Only love is."

And heroic proof of that love was the generous offer he made of himself in place of one of his prison companions, an offer that ended in his death in the 'bunker of hunger' on August 14, 1941.

Edith Stein, on August 6 of the following year, three days before her tragic end, said to some of her fellow nuns at the monastery of Echt in the Netherlands: "I am ready for everything. Jesus is here among us. Up to now, I have been able to pray very well and I have said with all my heart, 'Ave, Cruz, spes unica' (Welcome, Cross, the only hope').

Witnesses who managed to escape the horrible massacre recounted that Theresia Benedicta of the Cross, as she walked consciously towards her death dressed in her Carmelite habit, was distinguished by her peaceful and serene manner, and by her calm attentiveness to the needs of everyone.

Prayer was the secret of this sainted co-Patroness of Europe, who "after having reached the truth in the peace of contemplative life, had to live to the very end the mystery of the Cross" (Apostolic Letter Spes aedificandi, Teachings of John Paul II, XX, 2, 1999, p. 511).

"Ave Maria!": This was the last invocation on the lips of St. Maximilian Kolbe, as he held out his arms to the man who killed him with an injection of phenolic acid. It is moving to remark how the humble and confident recourse to Our Lady is always a source of courage and peace.

As we prepare to celebrate the solemnity of the Assumption - one of the Marian feasts that are most dear to Christian tradition - let us renew our trust in her who watches over us every moment from heaven with maternal love.

This, in effect, is what we say every time in the familiar prayer of the Hail Mary, asking her to pray for us 'now and at the hour of our death'.

The Holy Father then gave greetings in several languages, citing particular groups present, and wishing everyone a good week and a happy feast day of the Assumption.

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ANGELUS OF 8/15/08
Castel Gandolfo

Here is a translation of the Holy Father's Angelus message on the Feast of the Assumption:

Dear brothers and sisters!

At the heart of what the Latins called feriae Augusti, the August holidays - from which comes the Italian word ferragosto (the bank holiday celebrated in Italy on August 15), the Church celebrates today the Assumption of the Virgin, body and soul, to heaven.

In the Bible, the last reference ti her earthly life is found in the Acts of the Apostles, which presents us with Mary gathered together with teh Apostles in prayer at the Cenacle awaiting the Holy Spirit (1,14).

Subsequently, a double tradition - in Jerusalem and Ephesus - attests to her 'dormition', as the Eastern Churches say, namely, her having 'gone to sleep' in God. That preceded her passage from the earth to heaven, as professed bin the uninterrupted faith of the Church.

In the eighth century, for instance, John Damascene, establishing a direct relationship between Mary's dormition and the death of Jesus, affirmed explicitly the truth of her bodily assumption.

He wrote in a famous homily: "It has to be that she who had carried in her womb the Creator as a baby should live with him in the tabernacle of heaven" (Homily II on the Dormition, 14, PG 96, 741 B).

As we know, this firm conviction of the Church was crowned in the dogmatic definition of the Assumption proclaimed by my venerated predecessor Pius XII in 1950.

As the Second Vatican Council teaches, the Most Blessed Mary must always be part of the mystery of Christ and the Church. In this perspective, "the mother of Jesus, just as she is glorified henceforth, body and soul, in heaven - the image of the first fruits of the Church, which should find its fulfillment in a future age - likewise shines on earth as a sign of sure hope and comfort for the People of God in journey until the day of the Lord comes" (cfr 2 Pt 3,10)(Cost. Lumen gentium, 68).

From Paradise, our Lady continues to watch over her children - especially in difficult times of trial - as Jesus himself had entrusted to her before dying on the Cross.

How many testimonies of her maternal solicitude one sees visiting the shrines dedicated to her! I think at this moment specially of that singular world citadel of life and hope that Lourdes is, where, God willing, I will visit in a month to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Marian apparitions that happened there.

Mary assumed into heaven shows us the last goal of our earthly pilgrimage. She reminds us that our entire being - spirit, soul and body - is destined for the fullness of life; that whoever lives and dies in in the love of God and his neighbor will be transfigured to the image of the glorious body of the risen Christ; that the Lord humbles the proud and exalts the humble (cfr Lk 1,51-52).

This is what Our Lady proclaims eternally in the mystery of her Assumption. Praise be to you always, O Virgin Mary! Pray to the Lord for us.

After the prayers, this was his greeting in English:

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for this Angelus prayer.

As we celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, we are invited to raise our eyes to heaven and contemplate Mary, the Mother of Jesus and our Mother. She who on earth believed in God’s word is now glorified in body and soul.

May Mary’s prayers and example guide you always and renew your hearts in faith and hope. May God grant you and your families abundant blessings of peace and joy!

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17/08/2008 17.52
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ANGELUS OF 8/17/08
Castel Gandolfo

Here is a translation of the Holy Father's words at the Angelus today.

Dear brothers and sisters,

On today's 20th Sunday in ordinary time, the liturgy proposes for our reflection the words of the prophet Isaiah: "And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, ministering to him... I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer... For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples" (Is 56, 6-7).

The Apostle Paul also refers to the universality of salvation in the second reading, as does the Gospel which tells the episode of teh Canaanite woman - considered alien by the Jews - who was rewarded by Jesus for her great faith.

The Word of God thus offers us the opportunity reflect on the universality of the mission of the Church, which is constituted of peoples from every race and culture.

Precisely from this comes the great responsibility of the ecclesial community which is called on to be a house hospitable to everyone, both sign and instrument of communion for the entire human family.

How important it is, especially in our time, that every Christian community should always deepen its awareness of this in order to help civilian society and overcome every possible temptation to racism, intolerance and exclusion, and to organize itself with choices that are respectful of every human being!

One of the great conquests of humanity is in fact overcoming racism. Unfortunately, however, new manifestations of it are taking place in different nations, often linked to social and problems which nonetheless can never justify racial scorn and discrimination.

Let us pray so that respect for every person may grow everywhere, along with responsible awareness that only with the reciprocal acceptance of everyone is it possible to construct a world of authentic justice and true peace.

I wish today to propose another prayer intention, given the news, especially during this period, of many serious road accidents. We must not habituate ourselves to this sad reality!

Human life is too precious and it is too unworthy for man to die or find himself disabled for reasons that are, for the most part, avoidable.

A greater sense of responsibility is definitely needed. Above all, on the part of car drivers, because accidents are often due to overspeeding and imprudent driving behavior.

To drive a vehicle on public roads requires a moral and a civic sense. To promote the latter, constant efforts of prevention, vigilance and discipline are needed on the part of the authorities.

As a Church, we feel directly challenged on the ethical plane. Christians should examine their consciences about the proper conduct for drivers. Communities should educate everyone to consider driving an area in which life must be defended and in which to concretely exercise love for one's neighbor.

Let us entrust these social problems that I have raised to the maternal intercession of Mary, whom we shall now invoke together in reciting the Angelus.

After the Angelus, the Holy Father made this appeal:

I continue to follow with attention and concern the situation in Georgia, and I feel particularly close to the victims of the conflict.

While I raise a special prayer for the deceased and express sincere condolences to those who mourn them, I appeal so that the grave conditions of refugees, especially women and children, who now lack the very means to survive, may be alleviated with generosity.

I ask for teh opening, without further delay, of humanitarian corridors between South Ossetia and the rest of Georgia, so that the dead who have been abandoned may receive proper burial, that the wounded may be adequately cared for, and that those who wish to be reunited with their dear ones may be allowed to do so.

Moreover, the ethnic minorities involved in the conflict must be guaranteed safety and those fundamental rights that can never be trampled on.

Finally, I hope that the present ceasefire, reached with the contribution of the European Union, may be consolidated and turn into a stable peace, as I invite the international community to continue offering its support to reach a lasting solution through dialog and mutual goodwill.

He then expressed his sorrow at the sudden death of Bishop Wilhelm Egger of Bolzano-Bressanone:

I have learned with profound emotion of the sudden death of His Excellency Mons. Wilhelm Emil Egger, Bishop of Bolzano-Bressanone. I left him a few days ago in apparent good health. Nothing indicated such a rapid departure.

I join in condolence with his family and the entire diocese where he was valued and admired for his commitment and dedication. In raising to the Lord a fervent prayer of intercession for his good and faithful servant, I send a special Apostolic Blessing of comfort to his brother, who is a Capuchin monk, to his other relatives, and all the priests, religious and lay faithful of the diocese of Bolzano-Bressanone.

His greeting to English-speaking pilgrims:

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for this Sunday Angelus prayer.

In today’s Gospel Jesus invites us, after the example of the Canaanite woman, to profess our faith and our complete trust in God. He alone, through the power of his Word and his Holy Spirit, can touch our hearts and save us.

May your stay in Castel Gandolfo and Rome draw you nearer to Christ, and may God bless you all!

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20/08/2008 17.05
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Castel Gandolfo

At 10:30 today, the Holy Father appeared at the balcony overlooking the inner courtyard of the Apostolic Palace for the Wednesday General Audience. The Holy Father recalled the saints commemorated by the Church this week.

Afterwards, he also appeared on the balcony overlooking the town square of Castel Gandolfo to greet the overflow crowd that could not be accommodated inside. Then, he also greeted individuals and groups in the Swiss Hall of the Apostolic Palace. Here is a translation of his words.

Dear brothers and sisters!

Every day the Church offers for our consideration one or more saints and blessed ones to invoke and to imitate. This week, for example, we remember some who are particularly held dear in public devotion.

Yesterday, St. John Eudes, who - in the face of the rigorism of the Jansenists in the 17th century - promoted popular devotion whose inexhaustible source he identified as the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

Today, we remember St. Bernard of Clairvaux, who was called by Pope Pius XVII the 'mellifluous doctor' because he excelled in "distilling the sense hidden in Biblical texts."

This mystic, who said he wished to be immersed in the 'luminous valley' of meditation, was led by events to travel throughout Europe in the service of the Church, according to the needs of the time, and to defend the Christian faith.

He has also been called the "Marian doctor' not because he had written much about Our Lady, but because he grasped her essential role in the Church, presenting her as the perfect model of monastic life as well as every other form of Christian life.

Tomorrow, we remember St. Pius X, who lived in a troubled historical period. Visiting his hometown in 1985, John Paul II said, "He struggled and suffered for the freedom of the Church, for which he showed himself ready to sacrifice privileges and honors, to face incomprehension and derision, in defending this freedom as the ultimate guarantee for the integrity and consistency of the faith" (Teachings of John Paul II, VIII, 1, 1985, p. 1818).

Friday will be dedicated to Mary the Virgin Queen, a commemoration instituted by the Servant of God Pius XII in 1955, and which, under the liturgical renewal following Vatican-II, is intended to be a complement to the Feast of the Assumption, since the two Marian distinctions are part of the same mystery.

Finally, on Saturday, we will pray to St. Rose of Lima, the first saint canonized for the Latin American continent, of which she is the principal patron.

St. Rose liked to say, "If men knew what it is to live in grace, they would not be terrified of any suffering and they would gladly suffer any pain, because grace is the fruit of patience."

She died in 1617, after a brief life of privations and suffering, on the feast of St. Bartholomew Apostle, to whom she was very devoted because he had suffered a particularly painful martyrdom.

Dear brothers and sisters, day after day the Church offers us the possibility to walk in the company of the saints. Hans Urs von Balthasar wrote that saints make up the most important commentary to the Gospel, being its realization in day-to-day life and therefore, for us, a true way of access to Jesus.

The French writer Jean Guitton described the saints as 'the colors of the spectrum of light', since each one, with his/her own tonalities and accents, reflects the light of God's holiness.

How important and profitable it is to cultivate knowledge about the saints and devotion to them, alongside our daily meditation on the Word of God and filial love for Our Lady!

Vacation time certainly constitutes a useful time for picking up the biography and writings of a particular saint, but every day of the year offers us the opportunity to familiarize ourselves with our heavenly patrons.

Their human and spiritual experience shows us that saintliness is not a luxury, not a privilege for the few, nor an impossible goal for the average man. In fact, it is the common destiny for all men called to be children of God, the universal vocation of all baptized Christians.

Saintliness is offered to all. Of course, not all saints are equal. They are, as I mentioned, the spectrum of divine light. Those who possess great charisms are not necessarily greater saints. There are certainly a great many whose names are known only to God, having lived on earth an apparently very normal life.

And it is these 'normal' saints whom God wants. Their example shows that only when one is in contact with the Lord, then he can fill us with his peace and joy, and we become capable of spreading serenity, hope and optimism.

Considering the variety of charisms among the saints, Georges Bernanos, a great French writer who was always fascinated by the idea of sainthood - he cites many of them in his novels - observes that "every saint's life is like a new flowering in the spring."

May this happen even for us! Let us allow ourselves to be attracted by the supernatural fascination of saintliness. May this grace be obtained for us by Mary, Queen of all Saints, Mother and Refuge of Sinners.

In his English greeting, he said:

I cordially greet all the English-speaking pilgrims present at today’s audience.

I particularly welcome the altar servers from Malta —along with their families — who have been assisting at Saint Peter’s Basilica. I also greet a group of university students from Ireland.

This week, the liturgical calendar celebrates several remarkable examples of holiness: Saint John Eudes, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, Saint Pius X and Saint Rose of Lima.

The summer months provide an opportunity for us to read about the lives of these and all the saints, who show us that holiness is not the privilege of a few, but the vocation of all the baptized.

Through their intercession and inspiration, may you learn to love and serve the Lord more ardently in your daily lives. God bless you all!

This was his greeting to the faithful in the town square of Castel Gandolfo:

Good day to you all.

This week, we celebrate the feasts of many saints. Today, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, a great Doctor of the Church, above all, in the veneration of Our Lady. He is a man who made peace and in that way showed us how to live the Gospel.

Tomorrow, we honor St. Pius X who led the Church in a difficult period, renewed the liturgy, and therefore, renewed the Church from within.

Thus, all saints show us how to live the Gospel. They are a 'free interpretation' of the Gospel and they help us along our way.

I wish all of you a good vacation and a good week. I thank you for your presence.

My blessing goes to all of you. All good wishes and arrivederci!

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24/08/2008 16.39
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ANGELUS OF 8/24/08
Castel Gandolfo

Here is a translation of the Holy Father's words at the noonday Angelus today.

Dear brothers and sisters!

The liturgy this Sunday is addressed to us Christians but at the same time to every man and woman - the double question that Jesus posed one day to his disciples.

First he asked them: "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" They answered that for some, he was John the Baptist revived, for others, he was Elias, Jeremiah or one of the Prophets.

Then the Lord asked the Twelve directly: "And who do you say that I am?"

In the name of all of them, with impetus and decisiveness, it was Peter who took the word: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

A solemn profession of faith, which since then, the Church has continued to repeat. Even we today wish to proclaim it with intimate conviction: Yes, Jesus, you are the Christ, the Son of the living God!

We do so with the awareness that Christ is the true 'treasure' for whom it is worth sacrificing everything - He is the friend who will never abandon us, because he knows the most intimate expectations of our heart.

Jesus is 'the son of the living God", the promised Messiah, who came to earth to offer mankind salvation and to satisfy the thirst for life and love that dwells in every human being. What benefits mankind would have in welcoming this announcement that brings joy and peace!

"You are the Christ, the Son of the living God". To this inspired profession of faith by Peter, Jesus replied: "You are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. To you I give the keys of the kingdom of the heavens."

It is the first time that Jesus speaks of the Church, whose mission is to realize the grand plan of God to reunite in Christ all mankind in one family.

The mission of Peter and his successors is precisely to serve this unity of the one Church of God made up of Jews and pagans; his indispensable ministry is to make sure that it is never identified with one nation, one culture, but that it should be the
Church of all peoples, to make present among all men - marked by innumerable divisions and differences - the peace of God and the renewing power of his love.

Therefore, to serve the internal unity which comes from the peace of God, the unity of all who have become brothers and sisters in Christ - that is the particular mission of the Pope, Bishop of Rome and Successor of Peter.

In the face of the enormous responsibility of this task, I am ever more aware of the commitment and importance of service to the Church and to the world that the Lord has entrusted to me.

Therefore, I ask you, dear brothers and sisters, to sustain me with your prayers, in order that, faithful to Christ, we may together announce and bear witness to his presence in our time.

May this grace be obtained for us by Mary, whom we invoke confidently as Mother of the Church and Star of Evangelization.

After the Angelus prayers, he made this special appeal:

The international situation this week registered a crescendo of tensions which raise serious concern. We note, with sadness, the risk of a progressive deterioration of that climate of trust and collaboration among nations which should characterize relations.

How can we not see, in present circumstances, the great effort that all mankind must make to form that common consciousness of being 'a family of nations' that Pope John Paul II had indicated as an ideal before the General Assembly of the United Nations?

It is necessary to deepen the awareness that we share a common destiny, which is ultimately a transcendent destiny (cfr Message for the World Day of Peace, January 1, 2006, No. 6), in order to avoid a return to nationalistic counter-positions which has brought so many tragic consequences in other historical periods.

Recent events have weakened in many the confidence that similar experiences are definitely a thing of the past. But we must not give in to pessimism! Rather, we must commit ourselves actively so that the temptation to face new situations with old methods may be resisted. Violence must be repudiated!

The moral force of law; equitable and transparent negotiations to dispel controversies - starting with those related to territorial integrity and self-determination by peoples; faithfulness to one's given word; the search for the common good - these are some of the principal roads to follow, with tenacity and creativeness, in order to construct fruitful and sincere relations, and to assure to present and future generations times of harmony as well as moral and civic progress.

Let us transform these thoughts and hopes into prayer, so that all members of the international community, particularly those who hold the greatest responsibility, may work generously to revive the higher causes of peace and justice.

Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us.

In English, he said:

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for this Angelus prayer.

Today’s Liturgy reminds us that as Christians we profess with Simon Peter that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. As members of the Church may we always find the courage to live faithfully and bear witness in word and deed to Christ our Lord and Saviour.

I wish you all a pleasant stay in Castel Gandolfo and Rome, and a blessed Sunday!

He had these special words for Spanish-speaking pilgrims:

I wish to assure you that I continue to pray for the eternal rest of those who died in the tragic air accident last Wednesday at Madrid airport, and for those who were injured.

May the Lord grant strength, comfort and hope to their families, to whom I wish to reiterate my sincere affection and spiritual closeness.

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27/08/2008 20.23
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Aula Paolo VI

Here is a translation of the Holy Father's catechesis today, in which he resumes the catechetical cycle on St. Paul which he started the week before he left for Australia.

Dear brothers and sisters,

In the last catechesis before the summer holiday - two months ago, at the beginning of July - I started a new series on the occasion of thePauline Year, by considering the world in which the apostle lived.

Today I wish to resume and continue reflecting on the Apostle of the Gentiles, offering a brief biography. Since we will dedicate next Wednesday's lesson to the extraordinary event on the road to Damascus, Paul's conversion, the fundamental turning point of his existence following his encounter with Christ, we will briefly linger today on the totality of his life.

We find the extremes of Paul's biography in the Letter to Philemon, in which he calls himself "old" (Fm 9: presbýtes), and in the Acts of the Apostles, which, at the time of Stephen's death by stoning, describes him as 'young' (7,58: neanías).

The two descriptions are obviously generic, but according to ancient usage, 'young' meant a man in his 30s, while 'old' was used for those who had reached their 60s.

In absolute terms, the date of Paul's birth depends largely on the dating of the letter to Philemon. Traditionally, it was believed to have been written during Paul's Roman imprisonment, in the middle of the 60s. Paul would have been born in the year 8, to have been more or less 60 then, and at the time of Stephen's stoning, he would have been 30.

And that should be the right chronology. Our current celebration of the Pauline Year follows this chronology - 2008 was chosen in view of a birth date more or less in the year 8.

In any case, he was born in Tarsus of Cilicia (cfr Acts 22,3). The city was the administrative capital of the region, and in the year 51 A.D., its proconsul was no less then Marcus Tullius Cicero, while ten years later, in the year 41, Tarsus was the place of the first meeting between Marc Antony and Cleopatra.

A Jew of the Diaspora, Paul spoke Greek even if his name had a Latin origin, though derived by assonance from his original Jewish name Saul/Saulos, and he held Roman citizenship (cfr Acts 22,25-28).

Paul was thus situated on the frontier of three different cultures - Roman, Greek and Jewish - and perhaps it was because of this that he was disposed to a fecund universalistic openness, to mediation among cultures, to a true universality.

He also learned manual skills, probably from his father, appropriate for the occupation of 'tent-maker' (cfr Acts 18,3: skenopoiòs), which probably meant he worked with coarse goat's wool or linen fibers to be made into mats and tents (cfr At 20,33-35).

Around the age of 12 or 13, when a Jewish boy becomes bar mitzvà ('son of the precept'), Paul left Tarsus for Jerusalem to be educated at the feet of Rabbì Gamaliel the Elder, nephew of the great Rabbì Hillèl, according to the most rigid norms of Phariseeism,
acquiring in the process a great zeal for the Mosaic Torah (cfr Gal 1,14; Fil 3,5-6; At 22,3; 23,6; 26,5).

On the basis of this profound orthodoxy which he learned in the school of Hillel in Jerusalem, he saw in the new movement around Jesus of Nazareth a risk, a threat to the Jewish identity and to the true orthodoxy of the patriarchs.

This explains the fact that he fiercely 'persecuted the Church of God', as he admitted three times in his Letters (1 Cor 15,9; Gal 1,13; Phm 3,6). Even if it is not easy to imagine what concretely this persecution consisted of, his attitude was in any case one of intolerance.

It is in this context that the event of Damascus takes place, which we will return to in the next catechesis. What is sure is that, from that moment on, his life changed, and he became a tireless apostle of the Gospel. In fact, Paul passed into history for what he did as a Christian, as an apostle, than for being a Pharisee.

Traditionally, his apostolic activity has been subdivided into three missionary journeys, to which is added the fourth one when he went to Rome as a prisoner. All this is narrated by Luke in the Acts. But in the case of the three missionary journeys, one must distinguish the first from the other two.

In fact, Paul did not have direct responsibility for the first one (cfr Acts 13-14), which was entrusted to the Cypriot Barnabas. Together, they left from Antioch on the Oronte, sent forth by that Church (cfr Acts 13,1-3), and after having landed at the port of Seleucia on the Syrian coast, they traversed the island of Cyprus, from Salamis to Paphos, from which they crossed over to the southern coasts of Anatolia, now Turkey, passing through the cities of Attalia, Perge of Pamphilia, Antioch of Pisidium, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe, from which they then returned to their point of departure.

Thus was born the Church of the peoples, the Church of the pagans. In the meantime, especially in Jerusalem, a serious discussion had been born - up to what point were these Christians, who had come from paganism, obliged to participate in the life and laws of Israel (all the various observances and prescriptions that separated Israel from the rest of the world) in order to truly participate in the promises of the prophets and to effectively share Israel's legacy?

To resolve this problem which was fundamental for the birth of the future Church, the so-called Council of the Apostles assembled in Jerusalem to decide this problem - upon it depended the effective birth of a universal Church.

It was decided not to impose observance of the Mosaic laws on converted pagans (cfr Acts 15,6-30) - this means they were not obliged to follow Jewish norms. The only necessity was to be with Christ, to live with Christ, and according to his words. Being of Christ, they were also of Abraham, of God, and participants in all the promises.

After this decisive event, Paul separated from Barnabas, chose Silas (for a companion) and began his second missionary journey (cfr Acts 5,36-18,22). Going beyond Syria and Cilicia, he revisited the city of Lystra, where he recruited Timothy (a very important figure in the nascent Church, son of a Jewish woman and a pagan) and had him circumcised. They traversed central Anatolia and reached the city of Troade on the northern coast of the Aegean Sea.

Here an important event took place. In a dream, Paul saw a Macedonian from the opposite side of the sea, that is, on the continental mainland, who said, "Come and help us". It was the future Europe asking for the aid and light of the Gospel.

Spurred by this vision, he arrived in Europe. Heading for Macedonia, he entered Europe. He landed at Neapolis, went to Philippi where he founded an admirable Christian community, proceeding then to Thessalonia, which he had to leave because of difficulties caused by the local Jews, going on to Berea, and finally reaching Athens.

In this capital of ancient Greek culture, he preached first at the Agora and then at the Areopagus, to both Greeks and pagans. The discourse at the Areopagus, cited in the Acts of the Apostles, is a model of translating the Gospel to Greek culture, of making the Greeks understand that this God of the Christians and of the Jews was not a God who was alien to their culture, but the unknown God awaited by them, the true answer to the most profound questions of their culture.

From Athens, he went to Corinth, where he stayed for a year and a half. Here we have a very definite timeline of events - the surest dates in his biography, because during this first visit to
Corinth, he had to appear before the governor of the senatorial province of Achaia, the Proconsul Gallion, on a charge of illegal worship.

About this Gallion and his time in Corinth, there exists an ancient inscription found in Delphi, which says he was the Proconsul to Corinth from 51-53. So here we have an absolutely sure date. Paul's Corinthian sojourn took place in those years.

We can suppose that he must have arrived there more or less in the year 50 and remained until 52. From Corinth, passing through Cencre, the eastern port of the city, he headed back to Palestine, arriving in Caesarea Marittima, from which he proceeded to Jerusalem, and from there, returned to Antioch on the Oronte.

The third missionary journey (cfr At 18,23-21,16) began once again in Antioch, which had become the point of origin of the pagan Churches, of the mission to the pagans, and the place where the term 'Christian' was born. Here, for the first time, St. Luke tells us, the followers of Jesus were called Christians.

From there, Paul headed directly for Ephesus, capital of the province of Asia Minor, where he stayed for two years, carrying out a ministry which had a fecund fallout on the region.

From Ephesus, Paul wrote the letters to the Thessalonians and the Corinthians. But the population of the city was incited against him by the local silversmiths, who saw their income diminished with the weakening of the cult to Artemis (the temple dedicated to her in Ephesus, the Artemision, was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world), and so, he was forced to flee to the north.

Once again, he passed through Macedonia, went down to Greece, probably to Corinth yet again, and stayed for three months, during which he wrote the famous Letter to the Romans.

He then retraced his steps - passing back through Macedonia, then sailing for Troade, and then, with brief stops on the islands of Mytilene, Chio, and Samos, he reached Miletus where he delivered an important address to the Ancients of the Church of Ephesus, giving them an image of the true pastor of the Church (cfr Acts 20).

He next set sail for Tyre, going on to Caesarea Marittima, and then north once more to Jerusalem. Here he was arrested on the basis of a misunderstanding. Some Jews had mistaken for pagans other Jews of Greek origin who had been brought by Paul to the temple area reserved only for Jews.

He was spared from the prescribed death penalty at the intervention of the Roman tribune guarding the temple (cfr Acts 21,27-36) - all this happened when Felix Anthony was the imperial Procurator in Judea.

After a period in jail (whose duration is disputed) and - being a Roman citizen - having appealed his sentence to Caesar, the next Procurator Porcius Festus sent him to Rome under military guard.

The voyage to Rome passed through the Mediterranean islands of Crete and Malta, and then the towns of Syracuse, Reggio Calabria and Pozzuoli in Italy. The Christians of Rome came out to meet him on the Via Appia as far as the Appian Forum (about 70 kms from Rome) and some as far as the Three Taverns (40 kilometrs from Rome).

In Rome, he met with the representatives of the Jewish community, to whom he confided that it was for 'the hope of Israel' that he carried his chains (cfr Acts 28,20). But Luke's account of Paul ends with his mention of the two years he spent in Rome under light military custody, without indicating either a decision by Caesar (Nero at the time) nor his eventual death.

Subsequent traditions describe a subsequent liberation, which is said to have allowed a missionary voyage to Spain or another episode in the Orient, specifically in Crete, Ephesus and Nicopoli in Epirus. Equally hypothesized is a new arrest and second imprisonment in Rone (during which he supposedly wrote the three so-called Pastoral Letters - tthe two letters to Timothy and that to Titus), followed by a second trial which was not in his favor.

However, there are many reasons which have led many scholars to end the biography of St. Paul with Luke's accounts in the Acts.

About his martyrom, we shall return much later in this catechetical cycle. For now, in this brief listing of Paul's voyages, it is enough to take note of how he dedicated himself to announcing the Gospel without sparing any effort, facing a series of grave trials, of which he has left us a list in the second Letter to the Corinthians (cfr 11,2-28).

And he writes, "All this I do for the sake of the Gospel" (1 Cor 9,23), exercising with absolute generosity what he calls his "anxiety for all the churches" (2 Cor 11,28).

We see a commitment which can be explained only by a spirit that was truly fascinated by the light of the Gospel, enamored with Christ, a spirit sustained by the profound conviction of the need to bring to the world the light of Christ, and to announce the Gospel to everyone.

I think this is what should remain with us after this brief summary of the journeys of St. Paul - to see his passion for the Gospel, and thus sense the grandeur, the beauty and above all, the profound need we all have of the Gospel.

Let us pray so that the Lord, who made Paul see his light, who made him hear his words, and touched his heart so intimately, may also make us see his light, so that his Word may also touch our hearts, that we too may give to the world today - which has such thirst for it - the light of the Gospel and the truth of Christ.

In English, he said:

Today’s catechesis presents the life of Saint Paul, the great missionary whom the Church honours in a special way this year.

Born a Jew in Tarsus, he received the Hebrew name "Saul" and was trained as a "tent maker" (cf. Acts 18:3). Around the age of twelve he departed for Jerusalem to begin instruction in the strict Pharisaic tradition which instilled in him a great zeal for the Mosaic Law.

On the basis of this training Paul viewed the Christian movement as a threat to orthodox Judaism. He thus fiercely "persecuted the Church of God" (1 Cor 19:6; Gal 1:13; Phil 3:6) until a dramatic encounter on the road to Damascus radically changed his life.

He subsequently undertook three missionary journeys, preaching Christ in Anatolia, Syria, Cilicia, Macedonia, Achaia, and throughout the Mediterranean. After his arrest and imprisonment in Jerusalem, Paul exercised his right as a Roman citizen to appeal his case to the Emperor.

Though Luke makes no reference to Nero’s decision, he tells us that Paul spent two years under house arrest in Rome (cf. Acts 28:30), after which — according to tradition — he suffered a martyr’s death.

Paul spared no energy and endured many trials in his "anxiety for all the churches" (2 Cor 11:28). Indeed, he wrote: "I do everything for the sake of the Gospel" (1 Cor 9:23). May we strive to emulate him by doing the same.

I offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience, including the Augustinian Spinellian Lay Associates from Malta, and also the groups from Scotland, Ireland, Denmark, Dominica and the United States of America.

May your pilgrimage renew your love for the Lord and his Church, after the example of the Apostle Saint Paul. May God bless you all!

In his Italian greeting, he reminded the faithful of St. Monica's feast day today:

May the example of St. Monica, whom we remember today, and her son Augustine, whom we celebrate tomorrow, help you to look to Christ with unfailing confidence, as a light in our difficulties, a support in trial, and our guide in every moment of our existence.

After greeting the various language groups, he made this statement in Italian:

I have learned with deep sadness the news about the violence against Christian communities in the Indian State of Orissa, which erupted following the deplorable murder of the Hindu leader Swami Lakshmananda Saraswati. Some persons have been killed and others injured. Worship centers, church property and private houses have also been destroyed.

While I firmly condemn all attacks against human life, the sacredness of which demands the respect of all, I express my spiritual closeness and solidarity to the brothers and sisters in the faith who are so severely tried. I implore the Lord to accompany and support them in this time of suffering and give them the strength to continue in the service of love for all.

I ask the religious leaders and civil authorities to work together to restore among the members of the various communities the peaceful coexistence and harmony which have always been the distinguishing mark of Indian society.

31/08/2008 17.00
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ANGELUS OF 8/31/08
Castel Gandolfo

Here is a translation of the Holy Father's words at the noontime Angelus today:

Dear brothers and sisters!

The Apostle Peter again figures prominently in the Gospel today. While last week, we admired him for his outright faith in Jesus, whom he proclaimed as the Messiah and Son of God, this time, in the episode which follows, he shows that his faith is still immature and too much bound to 'the mentality of this world" (cfr Rm 12,2).

Indeed, when Jesus starts to speak openly of the destiny that awaits him in Jerusalem - namely, that he had to suffer and be killed in order to rise again - Peter protests, saying: "God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you" (Mt 16,22).

It is evident that the Master and his disciple are following two ways of thinking opposed to each other. Peter, according to human logic, is convinced that God would never allow his Son to finish his mission by dying on the Cross.

Jesus, on the contrary, knows that the Father, in his immense love for men, has ordered him to give his life for them, and if this meant the Passion and the Cross, then it was right that it should happen. On the other hand, He also knows that the last word would be the resurrection.

Peter's protest, though proclaimed in good faith and out of sincere love for the Master, seems to Jesus like a temptation, an invitation to save himself, whereas it is only in losing his life that he would receive it back, new and eternal, for all of us.

If, in order to save us, the Son of God had to suffer and die crucified, it is certainly not because of a cruel plan by the heavenly Father. The cause is the gravity of the illness that we need to be healed of - a malady so serious and mortal that would require all his blood.

And it is indeed with his death and resurrection that Jesus defeated sin and death, re-establishing the lordship of God. The struggle is not over: evil exists and resists in every generation even to our day.

What are the horrors of war, the violence against innocents, poverty and injustice which rage over the weak, if not the opposition of evil to the Kingdom of God?

And how do we respond to so much evil if not with the disarming force of love which conquers hate, of life which does not fear death? It is the same mysterious power that Jesus employed, at the cost of being misunderstood and abandoned by many of his own people.

Dear brothers and sisters, to bring the work of salvation to fulfillment, the Redeemer continues to associate to himself and his mission men and women who are ready to take up the Cross and to follow him.

As with Christ, so it is with Christians - to bear the Cross is not optional but a mission to be embraced with love. In our world today, where the forces that divide and destroy seem to dominate, Christ does not cease to offer everyone his clear invitation: whoever wants to be my disciple should renounce his own selfishness and carry the Cross with me.

Let us invoke the help of the Holy Virgin who before everyone, followed Christ to the very end on the way of the Cross. May she help us to walk decisively behind the Lord in order to experience, even in the midst of trial, the glory of the resurrection.

After the Angelus prayers, he had this special message:

In these last weeks, the daily news has reported an increase in the episodes of irregular immigration from Africa. Not uncommonly, crossing the Mediterranean towards the European continent - seen as a destination of hope to escape adverse and often insupportable situations - is transformed to tragedy. What happened a few days ago appears to have surpassed preceding incidents in the high number of victims.

Migration is a phenomenon that has been present from the dawn of history and has always characterized relations among peoples and nations. The emergency into which it has been transformed in our day confronts us directly, and while it calls for our solidarity, it also imposes (the need for) effective political responses.

I know that many regional, national and international organisms are concerned with the question of irregular migration - to them I give my approbation and encouragement, so that they may continue their meritorious activity with a sense of responsibility and humanitarian spirit.

The countries of origin also need to show a sense of responsibility, not only because it concerns their citizens, but to remove the causes of irregular migration, as well as to cut at the roots all associated forms of criminality.

On their part, the European nations and other destinations are called on, among other things, to develop mutually accdepted initiatives and structures that can more adequately meet the needs of irregular migrants.

The migrants themselves must be made aware of the value of life, which represents a unique and precious gift that must always be protected from the serious risks to which they expose themselves in the search for an improvement of their conditions; and of their legal obligations.

As the common father, I feel the profound duty to call the attention of everyone to the problem and to ask for the generous collaboration of individuals and institutions to face it and find ways to solve it.

May the Lord accompany us and make our efforts fruitful.

In English, he said:

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for this Angelus prayer.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus reveals to his disciples his coming passion, death and resurrection. He also teaches us that, to follow him, we too must enter into the mystery of the cross.

Faithful obedience to God and loving service of our neighbour do not always come easily. But to embrace the cross of Christ is to share in his victory. May the Lord keep us in his love!

I wish you all a pleasant stay in Castel Gandolfo and Rome, and a blessed Sunday!

In Spanish, he had special words for the people of Cuba:

I greet the Spanish-speaking faithful, particularly the pastors and faithful of the beloved nation of Cuba who solemnly inaugurated yesterday the preparatory Triennial to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the finding and presence of Our Lady of Charity of Cobre.

To all the beloved sons and daughters of the Church who live in that noble country, I ask in my prayers that, following the example of the Most Blessed Mary and aided by her maternal intercession, they may have faith rich in works of mercy and love.

I invite them at the same time to welcome daily into their hearts the Word of God, to meditate on it and put it into practice with valor adn hope so that, as authentic children of God the Father, faithful disciples of Christ, and, with the power of the Holy Spirit, they may be missionaries of the Gospel under any circumstances in life.

Receive the Virgin in your homes, be with her in prayer, and meet your destiny by doing what her Son Jesus tells you. In this beautiful journey, the Pope is with you in affection and spiritual nearness.
God bless Cuba and all the Cubans.

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