Pope Benedict XVI- Homily
Homily - Celebration of Vespers
Basilica of St. Pietro in Ciel d'Oro, Pavia
H.H. Benedict XVI
Third Sunday of Easter
April 22, 2007
Brothers and Sisters,
this final event, my Visit to Pavia acquires the form of a
pilgrimage. This is the form in which I had conceived of it from the
outset, desiring to come here to venerate the mortal remains of St
Augustine, to express both the homage of the whole Catholic Church
to one of her greatest "fathers" and my personal devotion and
gratitude to the one who played such an important part in my life as
a theologian and a Pastor, but, I would say, even more as a man and
with affection my greeting to Bishop Giovanni Giudici and I offer a
special greeting to Fr Robert Francis Prevost, Prior General of the
Augustinians, to the Father Provincial and to the entire Augustinian
community. I greet you all with joy, dear priests, men and women
religious, consecrated lay people and seminarians.
Providence has deigned that my journey acquire the character of a
true and proper Pastoral Visit, and therefore, in this pause for
prayer here at the tomb of the Doctor gratiae, I would
like to identify a significant message for the Church's progress.
This message comes to us from the encounter of the Word of God and
the personal experience of the great Bishop of Hippo.
listened to the short biblical Reading for Second Vespers of the
Third Sunday of Easter (Heb 10: 12-14). The Letter to the Hebrews
has set us before Christ, the eternal High Priest, exalted to the
Father's glory after offering himself as the one perfect sacrifice
of the New Covenant in which the work of Redemption was
Augustine fixed his gaze on this mystery and in it he found the
Truth he was so ardently seeking. Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word,
the Sacrificed and Risen Lamb, is the Face of God-Love for every
human being on his journey along the paths of time towards eternity.
Apostle John writes in a passage that can be considered parallel to
the one just proclaimed in the Letter to the Hebrews: "In this is
love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to
be the expiation for our sins" (I Jn 4: 10). Here is the heart of
the Gospel, the central nucleus of Christianity. The light of this
love opened Augustine's eyes and led him to encounter the "beauty so
old and so new" (Confessions, X, 27) in which alone the human
heart finds peace.
Dear brothers and sisters, here, in front of St Augustine's tomb, I
would like in spirit to present anew to the Church and to the world
my first Encyclical, which contains precisely this central message
of the Gospel:
Deus caritas est, God is love (cf. I
Jn 4: 8, 16). This Encyclical, especially Part One, is deeply
indebted to the thought of St Augustine, who was in love with the
Love of God and sang of it, meditated upon it, preached it in all
his writings and above all witnessed to it in his pastoral ministry.
Following in the wake of the teachings of the
Second Vatican Council and of my venerable
John Paul I and
John Paul II, I am convinced that humanity
today stands in need of this essential message, incarnate in Jesus
Christ: God is love. Everything must start from here and everything
must lead to here, every pastoral action, every theological
Paul said, "If I... have not love I gain nothing" (cf. I Cor 13: 3).
All charisms lose their meaning and value without love, thanks to
which instead, all compete to build the Mystical Body of Christ.
then is the message that still today St Augustine repeats to the
whole Church and in particular, to this diocesan Community which
preserves his relics with such veneration. Love is the soul of the
Church's life and of her pastoral action. We heard it this morning
in the dialogue between Jesus and Simon Peter: "Do you love me?...
Tend my sheep" (cf. Jn 21: 5-17).
those who live a personal experience of the Lord's love are able to
exercise the task of guiding and accompanying others on the way of
following Christ. At the school of St Augustine, I repeat this truth
for you as Bishop of Rome, while as a Christian I welcome it with
you with ever new joy. Serving Christ is first of all a
question of love. Dear brothers and sisters, your membership in the
Church and your apostolate always shine forth through freedom from
any individual interest and through adherence without reserve to
young, in particular, need to receive the proclamation of freedom
and joy whose secret lies in Christ. He is the truest response to
the expectations of their hearts, restless because of the many
questions they bear within them.
him, the Word spoken for us by the Father, is found that combination
of truth and love which contains the full meaning of life. Augustine
lived in the first person and explored to their depths the questions
that man carries in his heart, and investigated his capacity to open
himself to the infinity of God.
Augustine's footsteps, may you also be a Church that candidly
proclaims the "glad tidings" of Christ, his proposal of life, his
message of reconciliation and forgiveness.
seen that your first pastoral goal is to lead people to Christian
maturity. I appreciate this priority given to personal formation
because the Church is not a mere organization of group events or, on
the contrary, the sum of individuals who live a private religiosity.
The Church is a community of people who believe in the God of Jesus
Christ and commit themselves to live in the world the commandment of
love that he bequeathed to us.
she is a community where one is taught to love, and this education
happens not despite but through the events of life. This is how it
was for Peter, for Augustine and for all the saints. So it is for
maturation, enlivened by ecclesial charity, also makes it possible
to grow in community discernment, that is, in the ability to read
and interpret the present time in the light of the Gospel in order
to respond to the Lord's call. I encourage you to progress in your
personal and communal witness to active love.
service of charity, which you correctly conceive of as always linked
to the proclamation of the Word and the celebration of the
Sacraments, calls you and at the same time drives you to be
attentive to the material and spiritual needs of your brothers and
encourage you to pursue the "high standard" of Christian living
which finds in charity the bond of perfection and which must also be
expressed in a lifestyle inspired by the Gospel, inevitably against
the tide by the world's standards but which must always be witnessed
to with humility, respect and cordiality.
brothers and sisters, it was a gift to me, truly a gift, to share
with you this time at St Augustine's tomb. Your presence has given
my pilgrimage a more concrete sense of Church. Let us start out from
here bearing in our hearts the joy of being disciples of Love.
Virgin Mary, to whose motherly protection I entrust each one of you
and your loved ones, accompany us always, while with deep affection
I impart my Apostolic Blessing to you all.
* * *
left the Basilica, the Pope greeted the faithful of Pavia, including
a large number of children who were waiting for him outside:
taking leave of this marvellous City of Pavia, it is a great joy for
me to be able to see the children, boys and girls and young people.
You are especially close to the Lord. His love is especially for
move forward in love for the Lord! Pray for me, and I will pray for
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