Pope Benedict XVI- General Audiences
On Paul's Letters to Early Bishops
"Scripture Is Read Correctly by Putting Oneself in Dialogue"
H.H. Benedict XVI
January 28, 2009
Dear brothers and sisters:
The final letters of the Pauline collection, about which I would like to
speak today, are called the pastoral letters, because they were sent to
unique figures among the pastors of the Church: two to Timothy and one
to Titus, close collaborators with St. Paul.
In Timothy, the Apostle saw almost an alter ego; in fact he entrusted
him with important missions (in Macedonia: cf. Acts 19:22; in
Thessalonica: cf. 1 Timothy 3:6-7; in Corinth: cf. 1 Corinthians 4:17;
16:10-11) and afterward he wrote flattering praise of him: "For I have
no one comparable to him for genuine interest in whatever concerns you"
According to the 4th-century Church History of Eusebius of Caesarea,
Timothy was later the first bishop of Ephesus (cf. 3,4).
Regarding Titus, he must have also been very beloved by the Apostle, who
defined him explicitly as "full of zeal Ö my companion and collaborator"
(2 Corinthians 8:17,23), and even more "my true son in the common faith"
(Titus 1:4). He had been entrusted with a couple very delicate missions
in the Church of Corinth, the results of which comforted Paul (cf. 2
Corinthians 7:6-7,13; 8:6). Straight away, from what we know, Titus
caught up to Paul in Nicopolis of Epirus, in Greece (cf. Titus 3:12) and
was later sent by him to Dalmatia (cf. 2 Timothy 4:10). According to the
letter directed to him, he ended up being the bishop of Crete (cf. Titus
The letters directed to these two pastors occupy an entirely unique spot
in the New Testament. It seems to the majority of exegetes today that
these letters wouldn't have been written by Paul himself, and that their
origin would be in the "Pauline school" and reflected his inheritance to
a new generation, perhaps integrating some brief writing or word from
the Apostle himself. For example, some words from the Second Letter to
Timothy seem so authentic that they could only have come from the heart
and lips of the Apostle.
Undoubtedly the ecclesial situation that emerges in these letters is
distinct from that of the central years of Paul's life. He now,
retrospectively, defines himself as "herald, apostle and teacher" of the
pagans in the faith and in the truth (cf. 1 Timothy 2:7; 2 Timothy
1:11); he presents himself as one who has obtained mercy because Jesus
Christ -- he writes thus -- "might display all his patience as an
example for those who would come to believe in him for everlasting life"
(1 Timothy 1:16).
Therefore the essence is that truly in Paul, persecutor converted by the
presence of the Risen One, appears the magnanimity of the Lord for our
encouragement, to motivate us to hope and have trust in the mercy of the
Lord who, despite our littleness, can do great things. Besides the
central years of Paul's life, the [letters] imply as well new cultural
contexts. In fact, there is allusion to the appearance of teachings
considered totally erroneous or false (cf. 1 Timothy 4:1-2; 2 Timothy
3:1-5), such as those who professed that matrimony was not good (cf. 1
We see how modern this concern is, because today as well Scripture is
sometimes read as an object of historical curiosity and not as the Word
of the Holy Spirit, in which we can hear the very voice of the Lord and
recognize his presence in history. We could say that, with this brief
list of errors in the Letters, an outline is appearing from beforehand
of that successive erroneous orientation we know by the name of
Gnosticism (cf. 1 Timothy 2:5-6; 2 Timothy 3:6-8).
The author confronts these doctrines with two underlying calls. One
consists in a return to a spiritual reading of sacred Scripture (cf. 2
Timothy 3:14-17), that is, a reading that considers it truly as
"inspired" and coming from the Holy Spirit, such that with it one can be
"instructed for salvation." Scripture is read correctly by putting
oneself in dialogue with the Holy Spirit, to take from it light "for
teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in
righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16). In this sense, the letter adds: "so
that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good
work" (2 Timothy 3:17).
The other call consists in the reference to the good "deposit" (parathťke):
It is a special word from the pastoral letters with which is indicated
the tradition of the apostolic faith that must be protected with the
help of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. This so-called deposit should
be considered as the sum of apostolic Tradition and as the standard for
fidelity to the proclamation of the Gospel. And here we should keep in
mind that in the pastoral letters, as in all of the New Testament, the
term "Scriptures" explicitly means the Old Testament, because the
writings of the New Testament either didn't exist yet or still did not
form part of a canon of Scriptures.
Therefore the Tradition of the apostolic proclamation, this "deposit,"
is the reading key to understand Scripture, the New Testament. In this
sense, Scripture and Tradition, Scripture and the apostolic proclamation
as key for reading, approach and almost merge to form together "God's
solid foundation" (2 Timothy 2:19). The apostolic proclamation, that is,
Tradition, is necessary to introduce oneself in the understanding of
Scripture and capture in it the voice of Christ. It is necessary in fact
to be "holding fast to the true message as taught" (Titus 1:9). At the
base of everything is precisely faith in the historical revelation of
the goodness of God, who in Jesus Christ has concretely manifested his
"love for man," a love that in the original Greek text is meaningfully
designated as filanthropŪa (cf. Titus 3:4; 2 Timothy 1:9-10); God loves
Taken together, it is clearly seen that the Christian community goes
configuring itself in very clear terms, according to an identity that
not only stays distant from incongruent interpretations, but above all
affirms its own anchor in the essential points of the faith, that here
is synonymous with "truth" (1 Timothy 2:4,7; 4:3; 6:5; 2 Timothy
2:15,18,25; 3:7,8; 4:4; Titus 1:1,14).
In the faith, the essential truth of who we are appears, of who is God,
and how we should live. And from this truth (the truth of the faith) the
Church is defined as "pillar and foundation" (1 Timothy 3:15). In any
case, it remains as an open community, of universal reach, that prays
for all men of every class and condition so they come to know the truth.
"God wants everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth"
because "Jesus has given himself as ransom for all" (1 Timothy 2:4-5).
Thus the sense of universality, though the communities are still small,
is strong and determinant for these letters. Moreover this Christian
community "slanders no one" and "exercises all graciousness toward
everyone" (Titus 3:2). This is a first important component of these
letters: the universality of the faith as truth, as the reading key to
sacred Scripture, to the Old Testament, and thus it delineates a unity
in the proclamation of Scripture and a living faith open to all and
witness of the love of God for all.
Another typical component of these letters is a reflection on the
ministerial structure of the Church. It is these [letters] that present
for the first time the triple subdivision of bishops, presbyters and
deacons (cf. 1 Timothy 3:1-13; 4:13; 2 Timothy 1:6; Titus 1:5-9). We can
observe in the pastoral letters the joining of two distinct ministerial
structures and thus the make-up of the definitive form of ministry in
the Church. In the Pauline letters of the central years of his life,
Paul speaks of "episcopi" (Philippians 1:1) and of "diaconi": This is
the typical structure of the Church that formed in the epoch of the
pagan world. The figure of the apostle himself remains, therefore,
dominant, and because of this only little by little are the rest of the
If, as I have said, in the Churches formed in the pagan world we have
bishops and deacons, and not presbyters, in the Churches formed in the
Judeo-Christian world, the presbyters are the dominant structure. At the
end in the pastoral letters, the two structures unite: Now appears the "episcopo"
(the bishop) (cf. 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:7), always in singular,
accompanied by the determinant article "the." And together with the "episcopo"
we find the presbyters and deacons. Still now the figure of the apostle
is determinant, but the three letters, as I have said, are directed not
now to communities, but to people: Timothy and Titus, who on one hand
appear as bishops, and on the other, begin to be in the place of the
Thus is noted initially the reality that will later be called "apostolic
succession." Paul says with a tone of great solemnity to Timothy: "Do
not neglect the gift you have, which was conferred on you through the
prophetic word with the imposition of hands of the presbyterate" (1
Timothy 4:14). We can say that in these words appears initially also the
sacramental character of the ministry. And thus we have the essential of
the catholic structure: Scripture and Tradition, Scripture and
proclamation, forming a whole; but to this structure that we could call
doctrinal, should be added the personal structure, the successors of the
apostles, as witnesses of the apostolic proclamation.
It is important finally to indicate that in these letters the Church
understands herself in very human terms, in analogies with the house and
the family. Particularly in 1 Timothy 3:2-7, very detailed instructions
for the episcopo are given, such as: "Therefore, a bishop must be
irreproachable, married only once, temperate, self-controlled, decent,
hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not aggressive, but gentle,
not contentious, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household
well, keeping his children under control with perfect dignity; for if a
man does not know how to manage his own household, how can he take care
of the church of God? Ö He must also have a good reputation among
One should note here above all the important aptitude for teaching (also
cf. 1 Timothy 5:17), of which we find echoes as well in other passages
(cf. 1 Timothy 6:2c; 2 Timothy 3:10; Titus 2:1) and then a special
personal characteristic, that of "paternity." The episcopo in fact is
considered as father of the Christian community (cf. also 1 Timothy
3:15). Futhermore the idea of the Church as "house of God" sinks its
roots in the Old Testament (cf. Numbers 12:7) and is found reformulated
in Hebrews 3:2,6, meanwhile in another place it is read that all
Christians are no longer foreigners nor guests, but fellow citizens of
the saints and family members in the house of God (cf. Ephesians 2:19).
Let us pray to the Lord and to St. Paul so that also today, as
Christians, we can be ever more characterized, in relation with the
society in which we live, as members of the "family of God." And let us
pray also that the pastors of the Church have more and more paternal
sentiments, simultaneously gentle and strong, in the formation of the
house of God, of the community, of the Church.
[Translation by ZENIT]
[The Holy Father then greeted the people in several languages. In
English, he said:]
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In our catechesis on the writings of Saint Paul, we come now to the
Pastoral Epistles, the two Letters addressed to Timothy and the one to
Titus. Although their authorship remains debated, these three Letters,
while subsequent to the central years of Paulís life and activity,
clearly appeal to his authority and draw from his teaching. Against
threats to the purity of the apostolic tradition, they insist on a
discerning understanding of the Scriptures and fidelity to the deposit
of faith. Scripture and Tradition are seen as the "firm foundation laid
by God" for the life of the Church (cf. 2 Tim 2:19), and the basis of
her mission of leading all people to the knowledge of Godís saving truth
(cf. 1 Tim 2:1-4). The Pastoral Epistles also reflect the development of
the Churchís ministerial structures, and in particular the emergence of
the figure of the Bishop within the group of presbyters. They present
the Church in very human terms as Godís household, a family in which the
Bishop acts with the authority of a father. Inspired by this vision, let
us ask Saint Paul to help all Christians to live as members of Godís
family, and their Pastors to be strong and loving fathers, committed to
building up their flocks in faith and unity.
I am pleased to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors
present at todayís Audience, including the groups from England and the
United States of America. Upon you and your families I willingly invoke
Godís blessings of peace and joy!
© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana
[After his greetings in various languages, the Pope added in Italian:]
Before greeting the Italian pilgrims, I have three more announcements to
I have received with joy the news of the election of Metropolitan Kirill
as the new Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia. I invoke upon him the
light of the Holy Spirit for a generous service to the Russian Orthodox
Church, entrusting him to the special protection of the Mother of God.
In the homily delivered on the occasion of the solemn inauguration of my
pontificate, I said that the "call to unity" is an "explicit" duty of
the pastor and I commented on the Gospel passages about the miraculous
catch of fish, saying: "Though there were so many fish, the net did not
break." I continued after these Gospel words: "Alas, beloved Lord, with
sorrow we must now acknowledge that it has been torn!" And I continued,
"But no -- we must not be sad! Let us rejoice because of your promise,
which does not disappoint, and let us do all we can to pursue the path
towards the unity you have promised. Ö Do not allow your net to be torn,
help us to be servants of unity!"
Precisely in fulfilling this service to unity, which determines in a
specific way my ministry as the Successor of Peter, I decided some days
ago to concede the remission of the excommunication incurred by four
bishops ordained without pontifical mandate in 1988 by Archbishop
Lefebvre. I have carried out this act of paternal mercy because
repeatedly these prelates have manifested their sharp suffering in the
situation in which they found themselves. I trust that following from
this gesture of mine will be the prompt effort on their part to complete
final necessary steps to arrive to full communion with the Church, thus
giving testimony of true fidelity and true recognition of the
magisterium and the authority of the Pope and the Second Vatican
In these days in which we remember the Shoah, my memory turns to the
images taken in during my repeated visits to Auschwitz, one of the
concentration camps in which was carried out the brutal massacre of
millions of Jews, innocent victims of a blind racial and religious hate.
As I renew with affection the expression of my total and indisputable
solidarity with our brother recipients of the First Covenant, I hope
that the memory of the Shoah moves humanity to reflect on the
unpredictable power of evil when it conquers the human heart.
May the Shoah be for everyone a warning against forgetting, against
negating or reductionism, because violence committed against even one
human being is violence against all. No man is an island, a well-known
poet has written. May the Shoah teach especially, as much the old
generations as the new ones, that only the tiring path of listening and
dialogue, of love and pardon, leads peoples, cultures and religions of
the world to the desired encounter of fraternity and peace in the world.
May violence never again humiliate the dignity of man!
© Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana
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