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    » 02/20/2008, 00.00

    VATICAN

    Pope: Saint Augustine also teaches what true secularism is



    Benedict XVI continues his reflections for the general audience on the bishop of Hippo, an author who is also fundamental for the formation of all Western culture. The dialogue with God in the Confessions and "the relationship between the political sphere and the sphere of the faith and of the Church" in "De Civitate Dei".

    Vatican City (AsiaNews) - An author beloved to Benedict XVI, as he himself said during today's general audience, Saint Augustine is the Father of the Church who has left behind the greatest number of works.  "Some of these are of fundamental importance not only for Christianity, but also for the formation of all Western culture". It is to him, for example, that is owed the analysis of "what we must expect from God and what we must not, what is the relationship between the political sphere and the sphere of the faith and of the Church", which "also serves today to define true secularism".

    The bishop of Hippo was for the fourth time the subject of the remarks that Benedict XVI addressed to those present at the general audience, who because of the heavy attendance by the faithful - the prefecture of the pontifical household distributed 15,000 tickets - had to be "divided" today between Saint Peter's basilica and the Paul VI audience hall.

    From among the extremely vast work of Augustine, the pope spoke in particular about the "Confessions", which is "still one of the most widely read books of Christian antiquity", the "Retractions", and the "De Civitate Dei".

    First of all the Confessions, in 13 books, which "are a sort of autobiography, but in the form of a dialogue with God".  This "reflects the life of Augustine substantially lived as a dialogue with God and thus lived together with others".  Benedict XVI then highlighted how the word 'confessiones' in Christian Latin "has two meanings that are interwoven.  In a preliminary sense it indicates the confession of one's weaknesses, of one's sins, but it also means the praise of God, recognition and thanksgiving because he loves us, accepts us, and transforms us, raising us up to himself".  These writings met with great success even while Saint Augustine was still alive, and he himself wrote "my Confessions made a great impact upon me as I was writing them, and continue to do so.  This means that they will be pleasing to my brothers".  "This means", the pope said, smiling, "that I am one of these 'brothers'".

    Less well known are the "Retractions", two books that represent a complete revision of his work, and described by Benedict XVI as "a unique and extremely valuable document", and an expression of "intellectual sincerity and humility".  Also important for Western political thought is the "De Civitate Dei", which, "by clarifying what we must expect from God and what we must not, what is the relationship between the political sphere and the sphere of the faith and of the Church", "is still today the source for defining properly what are true secularism and the competency of the Church, and the great and true hope that is given to us by faith".  It is the history of humanity governed by divine providence, it is "his interpretation of the history of humanity as the struggle between two loves: the love of self to the point of indifference toward God, and the love of God to the point of indifference toward oneself".  "It may be the most important of Augustine's works".

    "For us as well", the pope concluded, "it would have been wonderful to have been able to hear him in person, but he is certainly alive in his writings, and thus we see the permanent vitality of the faith for which he gave his whole life".

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    See also

    30/01/2008 VATICAN
    Pope: Faith and reason must be harmonised, they are not opposed
    At the general audience, Benedict XVI continued to illustrate the figure of Saint Augustine, emphasizing his unyielding efforts in the search for truth, and the meaning, in this context, of the statements "believe in order to understand", but also and inseparably, "understand in order to believe".

    27/02/2008 VATICAN
    Pope: Saint Augustine, model of a conversion "that lasts a lifetime"
    Benedict XVI concludes the cycle of reflections on the figure of the bishop of Hippo by emphasising his journey toward knowledge of God, and highlighting his own "personal devotion and gratitude" toward this "passionate seeker of truth" who influenced his life as "priest and theologian".

    09/04/2008 VATICAN
    Pope: the humanism of Saint Benedict, antidote to the culture of the ego
    Illustrating the figure of the founder of Western monasticism, the pope says that in order to regain its unity following two world wars and the collapse of ideologies, Europe needs the religious and moral teaching that emerges from its Christian roots.

    18/06/2008 VATICAN
    Today’s Christians must pray but also dedicate themselves to action, says Pope
    In today’s general audience Benedict XVI looks at the figure of Isidore of Seville. He highlights the saint’s encyclopaedic culture and his teaching about the need for the right mediation between the desire for the contemplative life and the duty to dedicate oneself to the service of others.

    05/03/2008 VATICAN
    Pope: Roman primacy is "necessary" in the Church, today as in the past
    Illustrating at the general audience the figure of St Leo the Great, Benedict XVI again asserts the purpose of the primacy of the bishop of Rome and recalls how at the time of the undivided Church he was also recognised by the Eastern bishops.



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