Vatican City (AsiaNews) – True hope comes from the “desire for God” and the capacity to “be close to people and their needs” which is one of the traits of Pope Gregory the Great, whose figure Benedict XVI described today in his address to the 35,000 people present in St Peter’s Square for the general audience. As one of the greatest characters in the history of the Church, pope from 590 to 604 AD, he “deserves the title magnus, i.e. great, because he was truly a great pope and a great doctor of the Church.
Gregory was born in Rome around 540 from a rich Christian family from the patrician class which had already produced two popes, Felix III and Agapetus. He undertook a career in the city’s administration reaching the top position of prefect in 572. In that post he tackled various problems and kept a profound sense of order and discipline, which he will maintain after becoming pope.
Dissatisfied with his life he decided to leave everything behind and turned his family home into a monastery, becoming himself a monk. And from this period he “retained an everlasting nostalgia,” Benedict XVI said, about a “happy time of meditation in God’ and a “serene immersion in study” with which he acquired a profound knowledge of the Scriptures and the Fathers of the Church.
His retreat did not last long though. The knowledge he acquired, the relations he developed with the Byzantines, the high regard with which he was held convinced Pope Pelagius to appoint him deacon and send him to Constantinople. There in six years he gained direct knowledge of the Byzantine world as well as of the Longobards, something which later will be useful to him.
After being recalled to Rome he became Pope Pelagius’ secretary and in 590 AD, his successor, even though he tried to avoid being elected by running away.
During his pontificate he showed an “extraordinary capacity to work” and “a constant balance in his decisions, including the difficult ones” as evinced by the 800 letters concerning the “daily dealings with problems coming from religious and civilian leaders of every order or level.”
Despite his thin and sickly appearance he was called the “last Roman”, said the Pope. “He had a weak voice and had a deacon read his homilies,’ the Pope said. “Thank God today we have the microphone.”
Gregory the Great devoted himself to the conversion of the peoples of the new Europe, Britain, France and Spain, the Pope said. He was “a true pacifier” as shown by the “close negotiations” with the Longobards which led to a stable armistice in 603 and was instrumental in the king’s conversion. Still the Pope also stressed the importance played by the Catholic Queen, Theodelinda, whose actions are indicative of the “role of women in the history of the Church.”
These are “truly shining results.” In addition to his spiritual and pastoral action, he was involved in all sorts of social actions, thanks also to the considerable wealth of the Church, which he wanted to see “managed with absolute correctness” so that the “face of the bride of Christ not be darkened.”
As a “man immersed in God” he was always “close to his fellow man and to the needs of the people of his time. At a time of disaster and desperation he knew how to give peace and hope to his people. He shows us where the true sources of peace are, and today he is a guide for us in our times.”
PHOTO: Credit CPP