Audiences 2005-2013 20708

Wednesday, 2 July 2008 - Saint Paul (1): Religious and Cultural Environment

20708
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today I would like to begin a new cycle of Catecheses focusing on the great Apostle St Paul. As you know, this year is dedicated to him, from the liturgical Feast of Sts Peter and Paul on 29 June 2008 to the same Feast day in 2009. The Apostle Paul, an outstanding and almost inimitable yet stimulating figure, stands before us as an example of total dedication to the Lord and to his Church, as well as of great openness to humanity and its cultures. It is right, therefore, that we reserve a special place for him in not only our veneration but also in our effort to understand what he has to say to us as well, Christians of today. In this first meeting let us pause to consider the environment in which St Paul lived and worked. A theme such as this would seem to bring us far from our time, given that we must identify with the world of 2,000 years ago. Yet this is only apparently and, in any case, only partly true for we can see that various aspects of today's social and cultural context are not very different from what they were then.

A primary and fundamental fact to bear in mind is the relationship between the milieu in which Paul was born and raised and the global context to which he later belonged. He came from a very precise and circumscribed culture, indisputably a minority, which is that of the People of Israel and its tradition. In the ancient world and especially in the Roman Empire, as scholars in the subject teach us, Jews must have accounted for about 10 percent of the total population; later, here in Rome, towards the middle of the first century, this percentage was even lower, amounting to three percent of the city's inhabitants at most. Their beliefs and way of life, is still the case today, distinguished them clearly from the surrounding environment; and this could have two results: either derision, that could lead to intolerance, or admiration which was expressed in various forms of sympathy, as in the case of the "God-fearing" or "proselytes", pagans who became members of the Synagogue and who shared the faith in the God of Israel. As concrete examples of this dual attitude we can mention on the one hand the cutting opinion of an orator such as Cicero who despised their religion and even the city of Jerusalem (cf. Pro Flacco, 66-69) and, on the other, the attitude of Nero's wife, Poppea, who is remembered by Flavius Josephus as a "sympathizer" of the Jews (cf. AntichitÓ giudaiche 20, 195, 252); Vita 16), not to mention that Julius Caesar had already officially recognized specific rights of the Jews which have been recorded by the above-mentioned Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (cf. ibid., 14,200-216). It is certain that the number of Jews, as, moreover, is still the case today, was far greater outside the land of Israel, that is, in the Diaspora, than in the territory that others called Palestine.

It is not surprising, therefore, that Paul himself was the object of the dual contradictory assessment that I mentioned. One thing is certain: the particularism of the Judaic culture and religion easily found room in an institution as far-reaching as the Roman Empire. Those who would adhere with faith to the Person of Jesus of Nazareth, Jew or Gentile, were in the more difficult and troubled position, to the extent to which they were to distinguish themselves from both Judaism and the prevalent paganism. In any case, two factors were in Paul's favour. The first was the Greek, or rather Hellenistic, culture which after Alexander the Great had become a common heritage, at least of the Eastern Mediterranean and of the Middle East, and had even absorbed many elements of peoples traditionally considered barbarian. One writer of the time says in this regard that Alexander "ordered that all should consider the entire oecumene as their homeland... and that a distinction should no longer be made between Greek and barbarian" (Plutarch, De Alexandri Magni fortuna aut virtute, 6, 8). The second factor was the political and administrative structure of the Roman Empire which guaranteed peace and stability from Britain as far as southern Egypt, unifying a territory of previously unheard of dimensions. It was possible to move with sufficient freedom and safety in this space, making use, among other things, of an extraordinary network of roads and finding at every point of arrival basic cultural characteristics which, without affecting local values, nonetheless represented a common fabric of unification super partes, so that the Jewish philosopher, Philo of Alexandria, a contemporary of Paul himself, praised the Emperor Augustus for "composing in harmony all the savage peoples, making himself the guardian of peace" (Legatio ad Caium, 146-147).

There is no doubt that the universalist vision characteristic of St Paul's personality, at least of the Christian Paul after the event on the road to Damascus, owes its basic impact to faith in Jesus Christ, since the figure of the Risen One was by this time situated beyond any particularistic narrowness. Indeed, for the Apostle "there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (
Ga 3,28). Yet, even the historical and cultural situation of his time and milieu could not but have had an influence on his decisions and his work. Some have defined Paul as "a man of three cultures", taking into account his Jewish background, his Greek tongue and his prerogative as a "civis romanus [Roman citizen], as the name of Latin origin suggests. Particularly the Stoic philosophy dominant in Paul's time which influenced Christianity, even if only marginally, should be recalled. Concerning this, we cannot gloss over certain names of Stoic philosophers such as those of its founders, Zeno and Cleanthes, and then those closer to Paul in time such as Seneca, Musonius and Epictetus: in them the loftiest values of humanity and wisdom are found which were naturally to be absorbed by Christianity. As one student of the subject splendidly wrote, "Stoicism... announced a new ideal, which imposed upon man obligations to his peers, but at the same time set him free from all physical and national ties, and made of him a purely spiritual being" (M. Pohlenz, La Stoa, I, Florence, 2, 1978, pp. 565 f.). One thinks, for example, of the doctrine of the universe understood as a single great harmonious body and consequently of the doctrine of equality among all people without social distinctions, of the equivalence, at least in principle, of men and women, and then of the ideal of frugality, of the just measure and self-control to avoid all excesses. When Paul wrote to the Philippians, "Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things" (Ph 4,8), he was only taking up a purely humanistic concept proper to that philosophical wisdom.

In St Paul's time a crisis of traditional religion was taking place, at least in its mythological and even civil aspects. After Lucretius had already ruled polemically a century earlier that "religion has led to many misdeeds" (De rerum natura, 1, 101, On the Nature of Things), a philosopher such as Seneca, going far beyond any external ritualism, taught that "God is close to you, he is with you, he is within you" (Epistulae morales to Lucilius, 41, 1). Similarly, when Paul addresses an audience of Epicurean philosophers and Stoics in the Areopagus of Athens, he literally says: "God does not live in shrines made by man,... for in him we live and move and have our being" (Ac 17,24). In saying this he certainly re-echoes the Judaic faith in a God who cannot be represented in anthropomorphic terms and even places himself on a religious wavelength that his listeners knew well. We must also take into account the fact that many pagan cults dispensed with the official temples of the town and made use of private places that favoured the initiation of their followers. It is therefore not surprising that Christian gatherings (ekklesiai)as Paul's Letters attest, also took place in private homes. At that time, moreover, there were not yet any public buildings. Therefore Christian assemblies must have appeared to Paul's contemporaries as a simple variation of their most intimate religious practice. Yet the differences between pagan cults and Christian worship are not negligible and regard the participants' awareness of their identity as well as the participation in common of men and women, the celebration of the "Lord's Supper", and the reading of the Scriptures.

In conclusion, from this brief over-view of the cultural context of the first century of the Christian era, it is clear that it is impossible to understand St Paul properly without placing him against both the Judaic and pagan background of his time. Thus he grows in historical and spiritual stature, revealing both sharing and originality in comparison with the surrounding environment. However, this applies likewise to Christianity in general, of which the Apostle Paul, precisely, is a paradigm of the highest order from whom we all, always, still have much to learn. And this is the goal of the Pauline Year: to learn from St Paul, to learn faith, to learn Christ, and finally to learn the way of upright living.

To special groups

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking visitors present today, including the Pallottine Missionary Sisters, the Columban Missionaries and the Soweto Catholic Church Choir. I also greet the various groups coming from England, Ireland, Norway, The Bahamas, Canada and the United States. May your visit to Rome be a time of deep spiritual renewal. Upon all of you I invoke God's blessings of joy and peace.

Lastly, I address a greeting to the young people, the sick and the newly weds. Dear young people, Jesus calls you to be "living-stones" of the Church. Respond generously to his invitation, each according to his own gift and responsibility. Dear sick people, offer your suffering to the Crucified Christ to cooperate in the world's redemption. And you, dear newly-weds, may you be aware of the irreplaceable mission to which the sacrament of Marriage binds you.




Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo



Wednesday, 13 August 2008 - St Edith Stein and St Maximilian Mary Kolbe

13088
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Having returned from Bressanone where I was able to spend a restful period, I am glad to meet with you and greet you, dear inhabitants of Castel Gandolfo, and you, pilgrims who have come to visit me today. I would like once again to thank all those who welcomed me and looked after me during my stay in the mountains. They were days of serene relaxation during which I continuously commended to the Lord all those who entrust themselves to my prayer. Those who write to me asking me to pray for them are truly numerous. They tell me of their joys but also their worries, their plans and their family and work problems, the expectations and hopes that they carry in their hearts, together with their apprehensions connected with the uncertainties that humanity is living at the present time. I can assure them that I remember each and every one, especially during the daily celebration of Holy Mass and the recitation of the Rosary. I know well that the principal service I can render to the Church and to humanity is, precisely, prayer, for in praying I confidently place in the Lord's hands the ministry that he himself has entrusted to me, together with the future of the entire ecclesial and civil communities.

Those who pray never lose hope, even when they find themselves in a difficult and even humanly hopeless plight. Sacred Scripture teaches us this and Church history bears witness to this.
In fact, how many examples we could cite of situations in which it was precisely prayer that sustained the journey of Saints and of the Christian people! Among the testimonies of our epoch I would like to mention the examples of two Saints whom we are commemorating in these days: Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Edith Stein, whose feast we celebrated on 9 August, and Maximilian Mary Kolbe, whom we will commemorate tomorrow, on 14 August, the eve of the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Both ended their earthly life with martyrdom in the concentration camp of Auschwitz. Their lives might seem to have been a defeat, but it is precisely in their martyrdom that the brightness of Love which dispels the gloom of selfishness and hatred shines forth. The following words are attributed to St Maximilian Kolbe, who is said to have spoken them when the Nazi persecution was raging: "Hatred is not a creative force: only love is creative". And heroic proof of his love was the generous offering he made of himself in exchange for a fellow prisoner, an offer that culminated in his death in the starvation bunker on 14 August 1941.

On 6 August the following year, three days before her tragic end, Edith Stein approaching some Sisters in the monastery of Echt, in the Netherlands, said to them: "I am ready for anything. Jesus is also here in our midst. Thus far I have been able to pray very well and I have said with all my heart: "Ave, Crux, spes unica'". Witnesses who managed to escape the terrible massacre recounted that while Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, dressed in the Carmelite habit, was making her way, consciously, toward death, she distinguished herself by her conduct full of peace, her serene attitude and her calm behaviour, attentive to the needs of all. Prayer was the secret of this Saint, Co-Patroness of Europe, who, "Even after she found the truth in the peace of the contemplative life, she was to live to the full the mystery of the Cross" (Apostolic Letter Spes Aedificandi).

"Hail Mary!" was the last prayer on the lips of St Maximilian Mary Kolbe, as he offered his arm to the person who was about to kill him with an injection of phenolic acid. It is moving to note how humble and trusting recourse to Our Lady is always a source of courage and serenity. While we prepare to celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption, which is one of the best-loved Marian feasts in the Christian tradition, let us renew our entrustment to her who from Heaven watches over us with motherly love at every moment. In fact, we say this in the familiar prayer of the Hail Mary, asking her to pray for us "now and at the hour of our death".

To special groups

I am happy to welcome the young Irish pilgrims from Kildare and Leighlin who are with us this morning. My warm greeting also goes to the Heisei Youth Group from Japan. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims, including those from Guam, Canada and the United States, I cordially invoke God's Blessings of joy and peace.

Lastly, I greet the young people, the sick and the newlyweds. Dear friends, may the light of Christ always illuminate your lives and make them bear fruits of good.

Thank you all. Again, I wish you a good week. Have a good Feast of the Assumption.


Summer Papal Residence, Castel Gandolfo



Wednesday, 20 August 2008 - Reflection on several Saints

20088
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Every day the Church offers for our consideration one or more Saints and Blesseds to invoke and imitate. This week, for example, we are commemorating several who are very dear to popular devotion. Yesterday it was St John Eudes, who, beset by Jansenist rigorism - we are in the 17th century - fostered a tender devotion whose inexhaustible sources he pointed out in the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Today we are commemorating Bernard of Clairvaux who was called "Doctor mellifluus" by Pope Pius VIII because he excelled "in distilling from biblical texts their hidden meaning". Desirous of living immersed in the "luminous valley" of contemplation, events lead this mystic to travel throughout Europe serving the Church's needs of the time and defending the Christian faith. He was also described as a "Marian Doctor". This was not because he wrote so much on Our Lady but because he knew how to grasp her essential role in the Church, presenting her as the perfect model of monastic life and of every other form of Christian life.

Tomorrow we shall be remembering St Pius X, who lived in a turbulent period of history. John Paul II said of him on visiting the town of his birth in 1985: "He fought and suffered for the Church's freedom, and for this freedom he proved to be ready to sacrifice privileges and honours, to face misunderstanding and ridicule, since he considered this freedom as the ultimate guarantee for the integrity and coherence of the faith" (Address to diocesan clergy in the Parish Church of Sts Matthew and Sylvester, Riese, Treviso, Saturday, 15 June 1985, n. 2; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 29 July 1985, p. 8).

Next Friday will be dedicated to the Queenship of Mary, a Memorial established by the Servant of God Pius XII in 1954. The liturgical renewal desired by the Second Vatican Council placed it as a complement to the Solemnity of the Assumption, so that the two privileges might form a single mystery. Lastly, on Saturday, we shall invoke St Rose of Lima, the first canonized Saint of the Latin American continent, of which she is the principal Patroness. St Rose loved to repeat: "If human beings knew what it is to live in grace, no suffering would frighten them and they would gladly suffer any hardship, for grace is the fruit of patience". She died at the age of 31 in 1617, after a short life full of deprivations and suffering, on the feast of the Apostle St Bartholomew, to whom she was deeply devoted because he had suffered a particularly painful martyrdom.

Dear brothers and sisters, so it is that day after day the Church offers us the possibility of walking in the company of Saints. Hans Urs von Balthasar wrote that the Saints constitute the most important message of the Gospel, its actualization in daily life, and therefore represent for us a real means of access to Jesus. The French writer Jean Guitton described them "as the colours of the spectrum in relation to light", because with their own tones and accentuations each one of them reflects the light of God's holiness. How important and useful, therefore, is the commitment to cultivate knowledge of and devotion to the Saints, alongside daily meditation on the Word of God and filial love for Our Lady!

The holiday period is without a doubt a practical time for taking up the biography and writings of a particular Saint but every day of the year affords us an opportunity to familiarize ourselves with our heavenly Patrons. Their human and spiritual experience shows that holiness is not a luxury, it is not a privilege for the few, an impossible goal for an ordinary person; it is actually the common destiny of all men called to be children of God, the universal vocation of all the baptized. Holiness is offered to all; naturally, not all the Saints are equal: in fact, as I said, they are the spectrum of divine light. Moreover, a Saint who possesses extraordinary charisms is not necessarily a great Saint. Indeed, there are a great many whose names are known only to God, because on earth they led an apparently perfectly normal life. And precisely these "normal" saints are those habitually desired by God. Their example testifies that only when we are in touch with the Lord can we be filled with his peace and his joy and be able to spread serenity, hope and optimism everywhere. Bernanos, a great French writer who was always fascinated by the idea of the Saints, - he mentions many in his novels - considering the variety of their charisms, notes that "every Saint's life is like a new blossom in spring". May this also happen for us! Let us therefore permit ourselves to be attracted by the supernatural fascination of holiness! May Mary, Queen of all Saints, Mother and Refuge of sinners, obtain this grace for us!

To special groups

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 St Peter's Basilica. I also greet a group of university students from Ireland. This week, the liturgical calendar celebrates several remarkable examples of holiness: St John Eudes, St Bernard of Clairvaux, St Pius X and St 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!

Lastly, I address a greeting to the young people, the sick and the newlyweds. I ask everyone to dedicate ever more time to Christian formation in order to be faithful disciples of Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Good morning to you all. This week we celebrate the feasts of many Saints. Today St Bernard of Clairvaux, a great Doctor of the Church and a great teacher, especially of the veneration of Our Lady. He is a man who created peace and therefore shows us how to live the Gospel. Then tomorrow we celebrate St Pius X, who guided the Church in a difficult period, renewed the liturgy and thus renewed the Church from within.

And thus all the Saints show us how to live the Gospel. They are a free interpretation of the Gospel and guide us on our way. I wish you all once again a good holiday and a good week. Thank you for your presence. My Blessing to you all. My best wishes and goodbye until next time!





Paul VI Audience Hall



Wednesday, 27 August 2008 - Saint Paul (2): Life of Saint Paul before and after Damascus.

27088
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the last Catechesis before the holidays - two months ago, at the beginning of July - I began a new series of topics on the occasion of the Pauline Year, examining the world in which St Paul lived. Today I would like to resume and continue the reflection on the Apostle to the Gentiles, presenting a brief biography of him. Since we shall be dedicating next Wednesday to the extraordinary event that occurred on the road to Damascus, Paul's conversion, a fundamental turning point in his life subsequent to his encounter with Christ, let us briefly pause today on his life as a whole. We find Paul's biographical details respectively in the Letter to Philemon, in which he says he is "an old man" (
Phm 1,9: presbytes) and in the Acts of the Apostles in which, at the time of the stoning of Stephen, he is described as "a young man" (Ac 7,58: neanÝas). Both these expressions are obviously generic but, according to ancient calculations, a man of about 30 was described as "young" whereas he would be called "old" by the time he had reached the age of about 60. The date of Paul's birth depends largely on the dating of the Letter to Philemon. He is traditionally supposed to have written it during his imprisonment in Rome in the mid-60s. Paul would have been born in approximately the year 8. He would therefore have been about 30 at the time of the stoning of Stephen. This ought to be the correct chronology and we are celebrating the Pauline Year in accordance with precisely this chronology. The year 2008 was chosen with a date of birth of about the year 8 in mind. In any case, Paul was born in Tarsus, Cilicia (cf. Ac 22,3). The town was the administrative capital of the region and in 51 B.C. had had as Proconsul no less than Marcus Tullius Cicero himself, while 10 years later, in 41, Tarsus was the place where Mark Anthony and Cleopatra met for the first time. A Jew from the Diaspora, he spoke Greek although his name was of Latin origin. Moreover, it derived by assonance from the original Jewish Saul/Saulos, and he was a Roman citizen (cf. Ac 22,25-28). Paul thus appears to be at the intersection between three different cultures - Roman, Greek and Jewish - and perhaps partly because of this was disposed for fruitful universalistic openness, for a mediation between cultures, for true universality. He also learned a manual trade, perhaps from his father, that of "tentmaker" (Ac 18,3, skenopoios). This should probably be understood as a worker of uncarded goat wool or linen fibres who made them into mats or tents (cf. Ac 20,33-35). At about the age of 12 to 13, the age in which a Jewish boy becomes a bar mitzvah ("son of the commandment"), Paul left Tarsus and moved to Jerusalem to be educated at the feet of Rabbi Gamaliel the Elder, a nephew of the great Rabbi Hillel, in accordance with the strictest Pharisaic norms and acquiring great zeal for the Mosaic Torah (cf. Gal Ga 1,14 Ph 3,5-6 Ac 22,3 Ac 23,6 Ac 26,5).

On the basis of this profound Orthodoxy that he learned at the school of Hillel in Jerusalem, he saw the new movement that referred to Jesus of Nazareth as a risk, a threat to the Jewish identity, to the true Orthodoxy of the fathers. This explains the fact that he proudly "persecuted the Church of God" as he was to admit three times in his Letters (1Co 15,9 Ga 1,13 Ph 3,6). Although it is not easy to imagine in what this persecution actually consisted, his attitude was intolerant. It is here that the event of Damascus fits in; we shall return to it at our next Catechesis. It is certain that from this time Paul's life changed and he became a tireless apostle of the Gospel. Indeed, Paul passed into history for what he did as a Christian, indeed as an Apostle, rather than as a Pharisee. Traditionally his apostolic activity is divided on the basis of his three missionary journeys, to which can be added a fourth, his voyage to Rome as a prisoner. They are all recounted by Luke in the Acts. With regard to the three missionary journeys, however, the first must be distinguished from the other two.

In fact, Paul was not directly responsible for the first (cf. Ac 13-14), which was instead entrusted to the Cypriot, Barnabas. They sailed together from Antioch on the Orontes River, sent out by that Church (cf. Ac 13,1-3) and having sailed from the port of Seleucia on the Syrian coast, crossed the island of Cyprus from Salamis to Paphos; from here they reached the southern coasts of Anatolia, today Turkey, and passed through the cities of Attalia, Perga in Pamphylia, Antioch in Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe, from which they returned to their starting point. Thus was born the Church of the people, the Church of the Gentiles. And in the meantime, especially in Jerusalem, a discussion had been sparked, lasting until, in order to participate truly in the promises of the prophets and enter effectively into the heritage of Israel, these Christians who came from paganism were obliged to adhere to the life and laws of Israel (various observances and prescriptions that separated Israel from the rest of the world). To resolve this fundamental problem for the birth of the future Church the so-called Council of the Apostles met in Jerusalem to settle on a solution, on which the effective birth of a universal Church depended. And it was decided that the observance of Mosaic Law should not be imposed upon converted pagans (cf. Ac 15,6-30): that is, they were not to be bound by the rules of Judaism; the only thing necessary was to belong to Christ, to live with Christ and to abide by his words. Thus, in belonging to Christ, they also belonged to Abraham and to God, and were sharers in all the promises. After this decisive event Paul separated from Barnabas, chose Silas and set out on his second missionary journey (Ac 15,36-18,22). Having gone beyond Syria and Cilicia, he saw once again the city of Lystra where he was joined by Timothy (a very important figure in the nascent Church, the son of a Jewish woman and a pagan), whom he had circumcised; he crossed Central Anatolia and reached the city of Troas on the northern coast of the Aegean Sea. And here another important event happened: in a dream he saw a Macedonian from the other side of the sea, that is, in Europe, who was saying: "Come and help us!". It was the Europe of the future that was asking for the light and help of the Gospel. On the impetus of this vision he set sail for Macedonia and thus entered Europe. Having disembarked at Neapolis, he arrived at Philippi, where he founded a beautiful community. He then travelled to Thessalonica. Having left this place because of the problems the Jews created for him, he passed through Beroea to Athens. In this capital of ancient Greek culture, he preached to pagans and Greeks, first in the Agora and then on the Areopagus. And the discourse of the Areopagus, mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, is the model of how to translate the Gospel into Greek culture, of how to make Greeks understand that this God of the Christians and Jews was not a God foreign to their culture but the unknown God they were awaiting, the true answer to the deepest questions of their culture. Then from Athens he arrived in Corinth, where he stayed for a year and a half. And here we have an event that is chronologically very reliable. It is the most reliable date in the whole of his biography because, during this first stay in Corinth he was obliged to appear before the Governor of the Senatorial Province of Achaia, the Proconsul Gallio, who accused him of illegitimate worship. In Corinth there is an ancient inscription, found in Delphi, which mentions this Gallio and that epoch. It says that Gallio was Proconsul in Corinth between the years 51 and 53. Thus we have one absolutely certain date. Paul stayed in Corinth in those years. We may therefore suppose that he arrived there in about the year 50 and stayed until 52. Then from Corinth, passing through Cenchreae, the port on the eastern side of the city, he set sail for Palestine and arrived in Caesarea Marittima. From here he sailed for Jerusalem, before returning to Antioch on the Orontes.

The third missionary journey (cf. Ac 18,23-21,16), began, like all his journeys, in Antioch, which had become the original core of the Church of the Gentiles, of the mission to the Gentiles, and was also the place where the term "Christian" was coined. It was here, St Luke tells us, that Jesus' followers were called "Christians" for the first time. From Antioch Paul started out for Ephesus, the capital of the Province of Asia where he stayed two years, carrying out a ministry whose fruitful effects were felt throughout the region. It was from Ephesus that Paul wrote the Letters to the Thessalonians and the Corinthians. The population of the town, however, was set against him by the local silversmiths, who saw their income diminishing with the reduction in the number of those who worshipped Artemis (the temple dedicated to her in Ephesus, the Artemysion, was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world); Paul was thus forced to flee north. He crossed Macedonia once again and went back to Greece, probably to Corinth, where he remained for three months and wrote his famous Letter to the Romans.

From here he retraced his steps: he went back through Macedonia, reaching Troas by boat, and then, staying very briefly on the islands of Mitylene, Chios and Samos, arrived at Miletus where he delivered an important discourse to the elders of the Church of Ephesus, outlining a portrait of a true Pastor of the Church (cf. Ac 20). From here he set sail for Tyre from whence he came to Caesarea Marittima, on his return journey to Jerusalem. Here he was arrested on the basis of a misunderstanding. Certain Jews had mistaken other Jews of Greek origin for Gentiles, whom Paul had taken into the temple precinct reserved for Israelites. He was spared the inevitable death sentence by the intervention of the Roman tribune on guard in the Temple area (cf. Ac 21,27-36); this happened while the imperial Procurator in Judea was Antonius Felix. After a spell in prison (the duration of which is debated), and since Paul as a Roman citizen was an appellee of Caesar (at that time Nero), the subsequent Procurator, Porcius Festus, sent him to Rome under military escort.

The voyage to Rome involved putting in at the Mediterranean islands of Crete and Malta, and then the cities of Syracuse, Rhegium Calabria and Puteoli. The Roman Christians went down the Appian Way to meet him at the Appii Forum (about 70 km from the capital), and others went as far as Three Taverns (c. 40 km). In Rome he met the delegates of the Jewish community, whom he told that it was for "the hope of Israel" that he was in chains (Ac 28,20). However, Luke's account ends with the mention of two years spent in Rome under mild military surveillance. Luke mentions neither a sentence of Caesar (Nero) nor, even less, the death of the accused. Later traditions speak of his liberation which would have been propitious for either a missionary journey to Spain or a subsequent episode in the East, and specifically in Crete, Ephesus and Nicopolis in Epirus. Still on a hypothetical basis, another arrest is conjectured and a second imprisonment in Rome (where he is supposed to have written the three so-called Pastoral Letters, that is, the two to Timothy and the Letter to Titus), with a second trial that would have proven unfavourable to him. Yet a series of reasons induce many scholars of St Paul to end his biography with Luke's narrative in the Acts.

We shall return to his martyrdom later in the cycle of our Catecheses. For the time being, in this brief list of Paul's journeys it suffices to note how dedicated he was to proclaiming the Gospel, sparing no energy, confronting a series of grave trials, of which he left us a list in the Second Letter to the Corinthians (cf. 2Co 11,21-28). Moreover, it is he who writes: "I do it all for the sake of the Gospel" (1Co 9,23), exercising with unreserved generosity what he called "anxiety for the Churches" (2Co 11,28). We see a commitment that can only be explained by a soul truly fascinated by the light of the Gospel, in love with Christ, a soul sustained by profound conviction; it is necessary to bring Christ's light to the world, to proclaim the Gospel to all of us. This seems to me to be what remains for us from this brief review of St Paul's journeys: to see his passion for the Gospel and thereby grasp the greatness, the beauty, indeed the deep need of the Gospel for all of us. Let us pray the Lord who caused St Paul to see his light, who made him hear his word and profoundly moved his heart, that we may also see his light, so that our hearts too may be moved by his Word and thus that we too may give the light of the Gospel and the truth of Christ to today's world which thirsts for it.

Greetings:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

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 St Paul. May God bless you all!

To youth, sick, newlyweds

Lastly, as usual, I address my thoughts to you, dear young people, sick people and newlyweds. May the example of St Monica, whom we are commemorating today, and of her son St Augustine whom we shall be celebrating tomorrow, help you to look with indomitable trust to Christ, our light in difficulties, support in trials and guide at every moment of human life.
* * *


APPEAL AFTER THE ANTI-CHRISTIAN ACTS OF VIOLENCE IN INDIA


I learned with deep sorrow of the acts of violence perpetrated against the Christian communities in the Indian State of Orissa, subsequent to the deplorable assassination of Swami Lakshmananda Saraswati, a Hindu leader. So far several people have been killed and various others have been injured. Centres of worship that belong to the Church have also been destroyed, as well as private homes. While I firmly condemn every attack against human life, whose sacredness demands the respect of all, I express my spiritual closeness and solidarity to the brothers and sisters in the faith who have been so harshly tried. I implore the Lord to accompany and sustain them at this time of suffering and to give them the strength to continue in the service of love on behalf of all. I ask religious leaders and civil authorities to work together to re-establish among the members of the various communities the peaceful coexistence and harmony that have always been a hallmark of Indian society.




Paul VI Audience Hall



Audiences 2005-2013 20708