POPE BENEDICT XVI IN THE BASILICA
ON VIA OSTIENSE
Celebrating vespers in St Paul’s Basilica, Pope Benedict affirms that ‘the action of the Church is credible and effective only in as far as those who are part of her are prepared to pay in person for their faith in Christ in every situation.’ Dedicated to the bimillennium of the birth of the Apostle, the year will be celebrated with pilgrimages, as well as with liturgical and cultural events.
Rome (AsiaNews) – The Pauline Year, which Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed today, will have a particular ecumenical dimension and will follow the example of the Apostle of the Gentiles, showing in a special way that ‘the action of the Church is credible and effective only in as far as those who are part of her are prepared to pay in person for their faith in Christ in every situation.’ It is that witness, which united Paul and Peter right up until their martyrdom, that the Pope recalled this afternoon in the Roman Basilica dedicated to the Apostle of the Gentiles during the celebration of the first vespers for the solemnity of St Peter and St Paul.
Designed to celebrate the bimillennium of the birth of St Paul, which historians place between the years 7 and 10 AD, the Pauline Year, in the words of the Pope, will include ‘a series of liturgical, cultural and ecumenical events, as well as various pastoral and social initiatives, all inspired by Pauline spirituality’ to take place between June 28th 2008 and June 29th 2009. ‘Seminars and special publications on the Pauline texts will also be prepared in order to make better known the great wealth of teaching they contain, a true patrimony of humanity redeemed in Christ. Furthermore, in all parts of the world, similar initiatives can be organised in dioceses, shrines and places of worship by religious institutions, by social or educational institutes bearing the name of St Paul or inspired by his character and teaching.’
‘Finally,’ the Pope added, ‘there is one particular aspect to which careful attention must be paid during the various celebrations of this bimillennium of Paul’s birth: I am referring to the ecumenical dimension. The Apostle of the Gentiles, who was particularly committed to bringing the Good News to all people, gave everything he had for unity and harmony among all Christians. May he guide and protect us in this bimillennium celebration, helping us to go forward in the humble and sincere search for full unity between all the members of the mystical body of Christ.’
As if to give a concrete vision of that desire for unity, a delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, sent by Bartholomew 1st, was also on hand to hear Pope Benedict’s words. The Orthodox delegation was in Rome following on from an exchange visit of a Holy See delegation to Istanbul to mark the feast of St Andrea, considered the founder of the Orthodox Church. ‘These encounters and initiatives,’ the Pope said, ‘are not merely a courteous exchange between the Churches, but instead they wish to express our common commitment to do everything in our power to increase the momentum towards full communion between Christians of the East and the West.’ ‘This basilica, which has witnessed significant ecumenical events,’ Pope Benedict added, ‘reminds us how important it is to pray together to implore the gift of unity, that same unity for which St Peter and St Paul gave of themselves completely, right up to the supreme sacrifice of their lives.’