06/14/2006, 00.00
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Pope: Rome and Constantinople, "truly sister Churches"

At the general audience, Benedict XVI talked about St Andrei, evangelizer of the Greek world. He recalled the attitude of Simon's brother as he faced the torment of the cross, and invited all to "consider and welcome" the evils that strike us, "our crosses… as part of the Cross of Christ".

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Rome and Constantinople, that is, Catholics and Orthodox, are "truly sister Churches". This was how Benedict XVI described them today; he took his cue from a reflection on the personality of Andrew, about whom he talked to 35,000 people who gathered in St Peter's Square for the general audience. Ecumenical concerns thus found their way back in the words of the Pope, who last Wednesday talked about Peter and the "Petrine Primacy", describing the latter as a "constitutive element" of the Church, but also tying it to the quest for Christian unity.

Today, Benedict XVI drew a picture of the personality of the brother of Simon, Andrew, who was the "first-called", and therefore he is known as the "Protoclete". The Pope said: "It is certain that because of the brotherly relationship between Peter and Andrew, the Church of Rome and the Church of Constantinople feel, in a special way, like sisters." He continued: "To highlight this relationship, my predecessor Pope Paul VI, in 1964, restored the relics of St Andrew, which until then had been kept in the Vatican Basilica, to the Orthodox Metropolitan Bishop of the city of Patrasso in Greece, where according to tradition, the apostle was crucified.

The Pope did not talk merely about Andrew's role as evangelizer of the Greek world; he also drew attention to his attitude when faced with the Cross on which he was to die. Tradition has it that Andrew defined the Cross as "blessed" because it was taking him to Jesus: an attitude that invites the faithful "to consider and to welcome" evils that strike us, "our crosses… as part of the cross of Christ".

After recalling that the Gospels mention Andrew several times, showing him to be an eminent figure among the Twelve, the Pope added: "Very ancient traditions see Andrew not only as the interpreter of some Greeks meeting Jesus, they consider him as the Apostle of the Greeks in the years following Pentecost; they inform us that for the rest of his life, he proclaimed Jesus to the Greek world. Peter from Jerusalem reached Rome through Antioch to exercise his universal mission; Andrew, meanwhile, was the apostle of the Greek world: thus they appear in life and in death as true brothers – a brotherhood that is symbolically expressed in the special ties of the Sees of Rome and Constantinople, truly sister Churches". 

Benedict XVI also recalled the tradition of the death of Andrew at Patrasso, "where he too was submitted to the torment of crucifixion. At that supreme moment, however, like his brother Peter, he asked to be put on a cross different to that of Jesus. In his case, it was a saltire, x-shaped, tilted cross, that would become known as the 'cross of St Andrew'. This is what the Apostle is said to have uttered on that occasion, according to an ancient narrative (from the early sixth century) entitled the Passion of Andrew: 'Hail, O Cross that has been sanctified by the body of Christ, and adorned with his limbs as with precious stones! Before the Lord was nailed to you, you inspired fear on earth, but now you inspire heavenly love, and are desired as a blessing. Believers know how much joy you possess, how many gifts you have prepared. Thus I come to you assured and joy-filled, so that you may graciously receive me, the disciple of Him who hung upon you; O most beautiful cross that received majesty and beauty by carrying the body of Christ!... Take me, o cross, release me from my life among men and bring me to the Master so that through you he will receive me, he, who through you has saved me. Hail o Cross, yes hail!'" Evident here, continued Benedict XVI, is a very profound Christian spirituality, which considers the Cross not so much an instrument of torture as an incomparable means of full assimilation with the Redeemer. We must learn a very important lesson from this: our crosses acquire value if they are considered and welcomed as part of the cross of Christ, if they are touched by the reflection of his light. It is only through that Cross that our sufferings too are made noble and acquire their true meaning. The apostle Andrew, then, teaches us to follow Jesus promptly (cfr Mt 4:20; Mk 1:18), to speak to Him enthusiastically when we meet, and especially to cultivate a relationship of genuine familiarity with him, well aware that only in Him, we find the ultimate sense of our life and death."

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