Vatican City (AsiaNews) – In today’s general audience Benedict XVI reaffirmed the importance of the family in and for the Church as a witness of Christian love made up of “altruism and mutual care” as well as an element for the growth of the entire community. The pope dedicated his address to the spouses Priscilla and Aquila who were part of “the orbit of Paul’s many collaborators”.
The general audience today was split into two. Around 1000 believers from the Italian region of Lombardy met in the Basilica of St Peter’s with their bishops who are undertaking their five-yearly “ad limina” visit.
The pope urged them to defend and promote “the culture of human life and legality” and to “announce and bear witness to the Gospel in every environment especially where negative traits of a consumerist and hedonistic culture emerge, of secularism and individualism, where old and new forms of poverty appear with worrying signs of unease among youth and the phenomena of violence and crime.”
Then, addressing around 8,000 people in Paul VI Hall, Benedict XVI talked about Priscilla and Aquila.
The story of the couple, of Jewish origin, who “played a very active role at the beginning”, gave Benedict XVI the opportunity to affirm that the “Church is the family of God” and that the “family on the example of Priscilla and Aquila is a model of the Church, a family of God for all times”.
The couple went to Corinth from Rome, probably following the decision of the Emperor Claudius to expel the Jews because of the upheaval in the community caused by the followers of Christ. They met Paul in the early fifties. From there they went to Ephesus and when the apostle Paul wrote the first letter to the Corinthians from Ephesus, he cited them expressly, confirming their “very important role of the primitive Church”. In their home, recalled the pope, the Gospel was heard and the Eucharist celebrated. Up to the third century, Christians did not have places of worship. These were synagogues until the rupture with the Jews, then they would meet in homes. It was only in the third century that places of worship were born.
Paul “explicitly recognized them to be two true and important collaborators of his apostolate” and “he wrote that they risked their neck to save his life”. Through their activities, which they continued even after their return to Rome, “they showed how important the work of Christian spouses is. When spouses are sustained by prayer and a strong spirituality, their courageous commitment to the Church and for the Church becomes natural... every home could be transformed into a small church”. The pope continued: “It was not by coincidence that in the letter to the Ephesians, Paul compared the matrimonial relationship to the spousal communion between Christ and the Church. In fact we could maintain that the apostle modeled the life of the whole Church on that of the family”. And the two spouses from ancient times remain “models of a conjugal life that is responsibly committed to the service of all the Christian community, a model of the Church family of God.”
The pope issued a special invitation to youth at the end of the audience: “Be witnesses everywhere to non violence and peace, this is particularly important today. With your generous commitment, you will contribute to building a better future for all.”