03/11/2009, 00.00
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Pope: like the missionary, the Christian should feel "the urgency" of bearing the word of God

Illustrating the figure of St. Boniface, Benedict XVI notes that in comparing his faith with ours, "often so lukewarm and bureaucratized," he invites us to "welcome into our lives the word of God, love the Church passionately, be united with the successor of Peter, and promote human progress, illuminating the culture with the Christian faith." "Outrage" over the attacks in Ulster.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The missionary "encourages us to welcome the word of God," to "love the Church and its unity around the successor of Peter," to "promote culture animated by the Christian faith." This is what St. Boniface did, "the apostle of the Germans," illustrated today by Benedict XVI for the 20,000 people in St. Peter's Square for the general audience.

Continuing the description of the leading figures in the Church of the Middle Ages, the pope today spoke of "the great missionary of the eighth century," who spread Christianity in central Europe "and also in my native country."

Born in 685 in England, in Essex, Boniface, the pope recalled, entered a Benedictine monastery as a young man, "and seemed to have begun a peaceful career as a scholar," a teacher of Latin, and a poet. At the age of 30, he was ordained a priest, and "he heard the call to mission." In 716, "he felt himself called by the pagans of the continent," and went with some companions to Frisia, modern-day Holland, but his mission failed. Two years later, he went to Rome, to see Gregory II. The pope, one biographer recalls, "welcomed him with a smile and an expression full of kindness." He was given the name of Boniface (he had been baptized Wilfrid), and the mission of preaching the Gospel among the peoples of Germany.

In his work, "he fought against the pagan cults and reinforced the foundations of human and Christian morality." "We are," he wrote, "attentive shepherds who watch over the flock of Christ and proclaim the will of God to the prominent and to the lowly, to the rich and to the poor, in season and out of season." He obtained great results, and the pope said that he wanted to make him a bishop. The same pope consecrated him regional bishop of all Germany. After he was made bishop, Boniface "resumed his efforts" and extended his activity to the territory of Gaul. "He reinforced communion with the Roman pontiff, something very close to his heart." Gregory III appointed him archbishop of all of the Germanic tribes, with the task of organizing the hierarchy. Pope Zachary confirmed this assignment, and Stephen II, as soon as he was elected, received a letter of filial devotion from Boniface.

In his efforts, "he organized dioceses, celebrated synods, founded men's and women's monasteries, in particular Fulda, so that these might become beacons to radiate the faith in those territories." Monks and nuns "provided very appropriate and valuable help," and also spread the human sciences: "work for the Gospel was also for the sake of human culture." "Therefore, because of Boniface, his monks and his nuns, a human culture flourished that is inseparable from the faith and reveals its beauty."

Although he was advanced in age, the pope continued, when he was about 80 Boniface prepared for another undertaking: to return to Frisia. Almost as a presage of the future, he wrote to a disciple, "I desire to bring this voyage to an end. I cannot decline this departure." "The hour of death is near." "Complete the construction of the basilica of Fulda, and bury my body there." On June 5, 754, he was attacked by a band of pagans. He forbade his followers to fight: "abandon war, because the testimony of Scripture admonishes us not to repay evil for evil, but good for evil." "These were his last words." His remains were brought to Fulda.

The holy bishop Boniface, the pope commented, "can be called the father of all the inhabitants of Germany, because he was the first one to bring them to Christ, and in the end he gave his life for them." "What message do we receive today from the teaching and the activity of this missionary? The first highlight is the centrality of the Word of God, which he lived and preached to the point of the supreme gift of himself in martyrdom." "He felt the urgency and the duty to bring this to others as well, even at the cost of personal danger." "The second highlight, and this is very important, is fidelity to and communion with the Apostolic See, the central principle of his missionary work," "the rule of his mission." "The result of this commitment was a solid spirit of communion with Peter, which was spread through the mission territories." "He planted those Christian roots which would come to bear fruit." The third "highlight" is "the encounter between Roman-Christian and Germanic culture. Evangelizing and humanizing culture is part of mission." "A new style of life" was born, "more human, thanks to which the inalienable rights of the person were better respected."

Boniface, concluded Benedict XVI, demonstrates "an ardent zeal for the Gospel: at the age of 40, he left the ordinary and fruitful life of a monk, a professor, in order to proclaim the Gospel to ordinary people and to barbarians." And in comparing his faith with our own, "often so lukewarm and bureaucratized," he invites us to "welcome into our lives the word of God, love the Church passionately, be united with the successor of Peter, and promote human progress, illuminating the culture with the Christian faith."

The pope, finally, condemned the acts of terrorism in recent days that have caused three deaths in Northern Ireland. "While I assure the families of the victims and the wounded of my spiritual closeness," he said, "I express the strongest condemnation for these deplorable acts of terrorism, which, in addition to profaning human life, seriously endanger the political process in Northern Ireland and risk crushing the many hopes it has raised in the region and in the entire world. I pray to the Lord," he added, "that no one may again be overcome by the horrible temptation of violence, that everyone may multiply his efforts to continue to build, through the patience of dialogue, a peaceful, just, and reconciled society."


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