12/30/2009, 00.00
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Pope: "May the friendship of Jesus be with you in the New Year"

At the last general audience of 2009, Benedict XVI speaks of Peter Lombard, a twelfth century theologian. His "sentences" give the Pope the opportunity to urge theologians to "keep in mind the whole vision of Christian doctrine against today's risks of fragmentation and devaluation of individual truth."

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - "May the friendship of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you in this New Year that is beginning”; this was Benedict XVI’s wish for 2010, addressed today to six thousand people at the last general audience of the year.    

A gathering, entertained by choirs, including one of young people from Cologne, dressed as characters from the nativity scene, during which the Pope stressed the need to preserve the unity of doctrine, urging "theologians and priests to always keep the vision of the whole Christian doctrine against today's risks of fragmentation and devaluation of individual truths".  

An exhortation that Benedict XVI drew by illustrating the figure of Peter Lombard, a theologian of the twelfth century, author of "sentences" which for centuries have been adopted as a textbook in all schools of theology. There is little information about the character: he was born in Novara between XI and XII, in territory then the Lombards, which explains his name. Born into a family of modest means he was able to study for free in France. "Even in the Middle Ages - commented the pope - not only the nobles or rich were able to study and gain important roles in the church and society, but also people of humble origins, such as Gregory VII, the pope who stood up to the Emperor Henry IV or Maurice de Sully, archbishop of Paris who built Notre Dame and was the son of a poor farmer”.    

In Paris, Peter Lombard taught at Notre Dame. Valued and appreciated, he was appointed bishop of Paris in 1159, a year before his death.   Peter wrote many speeches and commentaries on Scripture. Of particular relevance were his four books of "Sentences", "a text born for and aimed at teaching". "According to the theological method in use at that time, it is first necessary to know, study and comment on the thought of the Church Fathers and other writers who were considered authoritative. Thus Peter gathered an extensive documentation, mainly from the teaching of the great Latin Fathers, especially St. Augustine, and open to contributions from theologians of his time. Among other things, he also used an encyclopedic work of Greek theology, only recently known in the West: 'The Orthodox faith', of St. John Damascene”.  

 The "great merit" of Peter Lombard is "having ordered all the material he had gathered and selected with care, in a systematic and harmonious manner. Indeed, one of the characteristics of theology is to organize in a unified and ordered way the patrimony of faith".  "The first book speaks of God and the mystery of the Trinity, the second, the work of creation, sin and grace; in the third, the mystery of the Incarnation and the work of redemption, with a wide exposure on the virtues . The fourth book is devoted to the sacraments and the ultimate reality, that of eternal life".   The work "includes almost all the truths of the Catholic faith." This synthetic vision and clear presentation, orderly, schematic and always consistent, explains the extraordinary success of the Sentences of Peter Lombard. They allowed a safe learning by students, and ample space for teachers to expand their knowledge”. Lombardo's work was the book used in all schools of theology until the sixteenth century.  

The example of Peter Lombard, said Pope Benedict XVI, invites "all theologians and priests to always keep in mind the whole vision of Christian doctrine against today's risks of fragmentation and devaluation of individual truth." The Catechism of the Catholic Church offers us "this picture of the Christian revelation, to be received with faith and gratitude. Therefore I would encourage individual believers and Christian communities to take advantage of these tools to learn and deepen the contents of our faith. It will appear as a beautiful symphony, which speaks of God and his love and calls our firm and our active membership response. " Another aspect of the work of Peter Lombardo was emphasized by the Pope: the definition of the sacraments that was not abandoned by most theologians who followed him.  He said that "the sacrament in the strict sense is a sign of God's grace and visible form of invisible grace, so as to be its image and cause".   The statement said the Pope, "captures the essence of the sacraments: they are the cause of grace, they have the ability to communicate effectively the divine life."  

 "It is important to recognize how valuable and essential sacramental life is for every Christian, in which the Lord, through this means in the Church community, touches us and transforms us." In this Year for Priests, the Pope invited the priests "to have themselves, first, an intense sacramental life to be of help to the faithful. The celebration of the sacraments must be marked by dignity and decorum, promote personal recollection and community participation, the sense of the presence of God and missionary ardour. The sacraments are the great treasure of the Church and each of us has the task of celebrating them with spiritual fruit. In them, an ever-surprising event touches our lives: Christ, through visible signs comes to meet us, purifies us, transforms us and makes us partakers of His divine friendship".


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