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    » 03/05/2008, 00.00

    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.

    Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The Roman primacy in the Church is "necessary", today as in the past it is "at the service of truth and charity" and "serves communion" in the one Church of Christ.  Benedict XVI made the remarks during the illustration of the figure of St Leo the Great, to whom he dedicated today's address for the general audience, to again assert the purpose of Petrine primacy and to recall its existence since the time of the undivided Church.  The affirmation comes on the eve of a visit from ecumenical patriarch Bartholomew I to the Vatican, and shortly after the Catholic-Orthodox meeting in Ravenna, which acknowledged the principle of the primacy of the bishop of Rome, leaving open the question of its concrete exercise in relation to the role of the synod.

    At today's general audience, which  was again divided into two segments because of the great number of the faithful who were split between the basilica of Saint Peter and the Paul VI hall, the pope continued his reflection on the Fathers of the Church, speaking of St. Leo the Great, "one of the greatest pontiffs ever to have honoured the Roman see", "the first pope whose preaching has come down to our time".

    His pontificate began in 440, "undoubtedly one of the most important [pontificates] in the history of the Church", in "very difficult" times.  The repeated assaults of the barbarian invasions, the weakening of the authority of the empire, and a grave social crisis, in the words of the pope, "had forced" the bishop of Rome to take on a role in the civil sphere as well, which increased the prestige of the Roman see.  Benedict XVI recalled the best-known episode in the life of Leo the Great, when in 452 he went to Mantua and convinced Attila, leader of the Huns, not to continue with his invasion.  "It was a memorable sign of the peacemaking activity conducted by the pontiff".  But he did not have similar success with his attempt, in the spring of 455, to prevent the invasion and sacking of Rome on the part of the Vandals.  "The gesture of the pope, who went unarmed to meet the invader, at least prevented Rome from being burned" and allowed the basilicas of St Peter, St Paul, and St John to be spared, "in which part of the terrorised population took refuge".

    He was "a theologian and pastor, at the service of communion and a tireless promoter of Roman primacy, showing himself an authentic heir of the apostle Peter, and the Eastern bishops also showed in their awareness of this".  So it was in 451, when the Council of Chalcedon addressed the "Christological controversy", affirming the union in the one person of Christ, without confusion and without separation, of his two natures as true God and true man.  The principle was affirmed by Leo in an important doctrinal text that was read at Chalcedon and "welcomed with significant acclamation". 

    The primacy of the pope is, therefore, a "primacy of communion", "at the service of truth and charity" and "also at the service of communion among the different Churches".  Citing Leo, the pope finally repeated: "what was communicated to all the apostles was entrusted to only one of them".

    Photo courtesy of CPP

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    See also

    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.

    29/10/2008 VATICAN
    Pope: the cross overturns the logic of power: folly for men, love for God
    Continuing his illustration of the figure of St. Paul, Benedict XVI spoke today of the theology of the cross. What seems to be a failure "reveals the power of God, which is different from human power," and grants salvation freely.

    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".

    04/06/2008 VATICAN
    Pope: true greatness is in service of others
    Once again illustrating the figure of Pope Gregory the Great, Benedict XVI highlights the meaning of the title that he coined, "servus servorum Dei". The hope that Vatican Council II "may bear fruit in us, and in the Church of the third millennium".

    11/06/2008 VATICAN
    Pope: Colombanus, example of "detachment from earthly goods", rejection of compromise
    Benedict XVI illustrates the life of the holy Irish monk, "one of the fathers of Europe", who shows where the continent's roots are "from which it can be reborn". His was a rigor "not as an end in itself", but "only the means to open oneself freely to the love of God" in order to "repay the gifts received".



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