Pope Benedict XVI- Audiences
St. Andrew, the First Called
"Considered as the Apostle of the Greeks"
H.H. Benedict XVI
June 14, 2006
Dear Brothers and Sisters:
In the last two catecheses we have spoken about the figure of St. Peter.
Now, in the measure the sources allow us, we want to know the other 11
apostles a bit better. Therefore, today we speak of Simon Peter's
brother, St. Andrew, who was also one of the Twelve.
What first impresses one about Andrew is his name: It is not Hebrew, as
one would expect, but Greek, indicative of a certain cultural openness
of his family. We find ourselves in Galilee, where the Greek language
and culture are quite present.
In the lists of the Twelve, Andrew is in second place in Matthew
(10:1-4) and in Luke (6:13-16), or in the fourth place, in Mark
(3:13-18) and in the Acts of the Apostles (1:13-14). In any case,
without a doubt he had great prestige within the early Christian
The blood tie between Peter and Andrew, as well as the joint call
addressed to them by Jesus, are mentioned expressly in the Gospels. One
reads: "As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon
who is called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea;
for they were fishermen. And he said to them, 'Follow me, and I will
make you fishers of men'" (Matthew 4:18-19; Mark 1:16-17).
From the fourth Gospel we know another important detail: At first,
Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist; and this shows us that he was
a man who was searching, who shared Israel's hope, who wanted to know
better the word of the Lord, the presence of the Lord.
He was truly a man of faith and hope; and one day he heard that John the
Baptist was proclaiming Jesus as "the Lamb of God" (John 1:36); then, he
moved, and together with another disciple, whose name is not mentioned,
followed Jesus, he who was called by John "Lamb of God." The evangelist
says: "They saw where he was staying; and they stayed with him" (John
1:40-43), demonstrating immediately an uncommon apostolic spirit.
Andrew, therefore, was the first apostle who received the call and
For this reason the liturgy of the Byzantine Church honors him with the
nickname "Protoklitos," which means the "first called."
Because of the fraternal relationship between Peter and Andrew, the
Church of Rome and the Church of Constantinople regard themselves as
sister Churches. To underline this relationship, my predecessor, Pope
Paul VI, in 1964 returned the famous relic of St. Andrew, until then
kept in the Vatican basilica, to the Orthodox metropolitan bishop of the
city of Patras, in Greece, where, according to tradition, the apostle
The Gospel traditions mention Andrew's name particularly on three other
occasions, allowing us to know something more about this man. The first
is the multiplication of the loaves in Galilee. On that occasion, Andrew
pointed out to Jesus the presence of a young boy who had five barley
loaves and two fish: very little, he said, for all the people that had
gathered in that place (cf. John 6:8-9).
It is worthwhile to underline Andrew's realism. He had seen the boy,
that is, he had already asked him: "But, what is this for all these
people?" (ibid.) and he became aware of the lack of resources. Jesus,
however, was able to make them be sufficient for the multitude of people
that had gone to hear him.
The second occasion was in Jerusalem. Leaving the city, a disciple
showed him the spectacle of the powerful walls that supported the
temple. The Master's response was astonishing: He said that of those
walls not one stone would remain upon another. Then Andrew, along with
Peter, James and John, asked him: "Tell us, when this will be, and what
will be the sign when these things are all to be accomplished?" (Mark
As a response to this question, Jesus pronounced an important discourse
on the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world, inviting his
disciples to read with care the signs of the times and to always
maintain a vigilant attitude. From this episode we may deduce that we do
not have to be afraid to ask Jesus questions, but at the same time, we
must be ready to accept the teachings, also astonishing and difficult,
which he offers us.
Recorded in the Gospels, finally, is a third initiative of Andrew. The
setting continues to be Jerusalem, shortly before the Passion. On the
occasion of the feast of Passover, John recounts, some Greeks had come
to the Holy City, perhaps proselytes or God-fearing men, to worship the
God of Israel during the feast of Passover.
Andrew and Philip, the two apostles with Greek names, were the
interpreters and mediators for Jesus of this small group of Greeks. The
Lord's answer to his question seems enigmatic, as often happens in
John's Gospel, but precisely in this way it is revealed full of meaning.
Jesus says to his disciples and, through their mediation, to the Greek
world: "The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified. Truly,
truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and
dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit" (John
What do these words mean in this context? Jesus wishes to say: Yes, my
meeting with the Greeks will take place, but mine will not be a simple
and brief talk with some persons, moved above all by curiosity. With my
death, comparable to the fall into the earth of a grain of wheat, the
hour of my glorification will come. From my death on the cross great
fruitfulness will stem. The "dead grain of wheat" -- symbol of my
crucifixion -- will become, in the Resurrection, bread of life for the
world: It will be light for peoples and cultures.
Yes, the encounter with the Greek soul, with the Greek world, will take
place in that profundity to which the grain of wheat refers, which
attracts to itself the forces of the earth and of heaven and becomes
bread. In other words, Jesus prophesies the Church of the Greeks, the
Church of pagans, the Church of the world as fruit of his Pasch.
Very ancient traditions believe that Andrew, who transmitted these words
to the Greeks, not only is the interpreter of some Greeks at the meeting
with Christ, which we have just recalled, but he is considered as the
Apostle of the Greeks in the years that followed Pentecost; they tell us
that for the rest of his life he was the herald and interpreter of Jesus
for the Greek world.
Peter, his brother, arrived in Rome from Jerusalem, passing through
Antioch, to exercise his universal mission; Andrew, on the contrary, was
the Apostle of the Greek world. In this way, both in life as in death,
they appear as authentic brothers, a fraternity that is expressed
symbolically in the special relationship of the sees of Rome and
Constantinople, Churches that are truly sisters.
A subsequent tradition, as I was saying, recounts the death of Andrew in
Patras, where he also suffered the torture of crucifixion. However, in
that supreme moment, as his brother Peter, he asked to be placed on a
cross different from that of Jesus. In his case, it was a cross in the
shape of an X, that is, with the two beams crossed diagonally, which for
this reason is called "St. Andrew's cross."
This is what he would have said on that occasion, according to an
ancient narrative (of the beginning of the sixth century), entitled
"Passion of Andrew": "Hail, O cross, inaugurated by the body of Christ,
which has become adornment of his members, as if they were precious
pearls. Before the Lord mounted you, you caused an earthly terror.
However, now, gifted with a celestial love, you have become a gift.
Believers know how much joy you possess, how many gifts you offer.
Confident, therefore, and full of joy, I come so that you will also
receive me exultant as disciple of him who hanged from you. … Blessed
cross, which received the majesty and beauty of the members of the Lord
…, take me and lead me far from men and hand me to my Master so that,
through you, he will receive me who through you has redeemed me. Hail, O
cross, yes, truly, hail!"
As we can see, we are before an extremely profound Christian
spirituality, which sees in the cross, beyond an instrument of torture,
the incomparable means of a full assimilation with the Redeemer, with
the grain of wheat fallen into the earth. We must learn a very important
lesson: Our crosses have value if they are considered and welcomed as
part of the cross of Christ, if they are touched by the reflection of
his light. Only through that cross our sufferings are also ennobled and
attain their true meaning.
May the Apostle Andrew teach us to follow Jesus with promptness (cf.
Matthew 4:20; Mark 1:18), to speak with enthusiasm of him to all those
with whom we meet and, above all, to cultivate a relationship of
authentic familiarity with him, conscious that only in him can we find
the ultimate meaning of our life and death.
[Translation by ZENIT]
[At the end of the audience, the Pope greeted pilgrims in several
languages. In English, he said:]
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Continuing our weekly catechesis on the Church's apostolic ministry,
today we consider the figure of the Apostle Andrew. According to John's
Gospel, Andrew was the first apostle to be called by Jesus; he then
brought his brother, Simon Peter, to the Lord. The fraternal
relationship of these two great apostles is reflected in the special
relationship between the sister Churches of Rome and Constantinople.
The name "Andrew" is Greek, and in the Gospel of John, when some Greeks
wish to see Jesus, it is Andrew, with Philip, who brings their request
to the Lord. Jesus' response, with its reference to the grain of wheat
which dies and then produces much fruit (cf. John 12:23-24), is a
prophecy of the Church of the Gentiles, which would spread throughout
the Greek world after the Lord's resurrection and the outpouring of the
According to some ancient traditions, Andrew preached the Gospel among
the Greeks until he met his death by crucifixion. His example inspires
us to be zealous disciples of Christ, to bring others to the Lord, and
to embrace the mystery of his cross, both in life and in death.
I welcome all the English-speaking visitors present, including groups
from England, Ireland, Japan, Malaysia, Taiwan, South Africa and the
United States. I greet in particular the Felician Sisters gathered in
Rome for the general chapter. Upon all of you and your families, I
invoke God's abundant blessing of peace and joy!
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