On God’s Mercy

April 16, 2010
“Everyone Can Receive the Gift of Peace and Life”

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, APRIL 11, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave before praying the midday Regina Caeli with those gathered at the Apostolic Palace in Castel Gandolfo and, via television, with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

This Sunday is the conclusion of the Octave of Easter. It is a unique day “made by the Lord,” marked by the resurrection and the joy of the disciples in seeing Jesus. From antiquity this Sunday has been called Sunday “in albis,” from the Latin word “alba” (white), because of the white vestments the neophytes put on at their baptism on Easter night and set aside eight days later. On April 30, 2000, Venerable John Paul II named this same Sunday for Divine Mercy on the occasion of the canonization of Sister Maria Faustina Kowalska.

The Gospel passage from St. John (20:19-31) for this Sunday is rich with divine mercy and goodness. There it is told that Jesus, after the resurrection, visited his disciples, passing through the closed doors of the cenacle. St. Augustine explains that “the closed doors did not impede the entrance of that body in which divinity lived. He who in his birth left the virginity of his mother intact could enter the cenacle despite the doors being closed” (In Ioh. 121, 4: CCL 36/7, 667); and St. Gregory the Great added that the Redeemer, after his resurrection, appeared with a body of an incorruptible and palpable nature but in the state of glory (cf. Hom. in Evag., 21,1: CCL 141, 219). Jesus showed the signs of the passion to the point of permitting the incredulous Thomas to touch him.

How is it possible, however, for a disciple to doubt? In reality the divine condescension allows us to draw profit even from the incredulous Thomas, together with the believing disciples. In fact, touching the Lord’s wounds, the hesitant disciple not only heals his own diffidence but ours too.

The visit of the Risen One is not limited to the space of the cenacle but it goes beyond so that everyone can receive the gift of peace and life with the “creative breath.” Indeed, twice Jesus says to the disciples: “Peace be with you!” and he adds: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Having said this, he breathes upon them, saying: “Receive the Holy Spirit. Those whose sins you forgive shall be forgiven and those whose sins you do not forgive shall not be forgiven.” This is the mission of the Church perennially assisted by the Paraclete: to bring to all the glad tidings, the joyous reality of the merciful Love of God, “so that,” as St. John says, “you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and so that, believing, you may have life in his name” (20:31).

In light of this word, I encourage especially all pastors to follow the example of the saintly Curé d’Ars, who, “in his time was able to transform the hearts and the lives of so many people because he enabled them to experience the Lord’s merciful love. Our own time urgently needs a similar proclamation and witness to the truth of Love” (“Letter Proclaiming a Year for Priests”).

In this way we will render ever more familiar and close him who our eyes have not seen but whose infinite mercy we are absolutely certain of. We ask Mary, the Queen of the Apostles, to sustain the mission of the Church, and we invoke her exultant with joy.

[The Pope then greeted the pilgrims in various languages. In Italian he said:]

As we all know, yesterday a tragic airplane accident occurred near Smolensk in which the president of Poland, Mr. Lech Kaczynski, his wife, a number of senior officials of the Polish government and all those traveling with him, including the archbishop of the Military Ordinariate, perished.

In expressing my deepest condolences, from my heart I assure intercessory prayers for the victims and prayers of support for the beloved Polish nation.

Yesterday the exhibition of the Holy Shroud began in Turin. I too, if it pleases God, will travel to venerate it on May 2. I rejoice for this event, which once again is encouraging a large movement of pilgrims as well as studies, reflections and above all an extraordinary recollection of the mystery of Christ’s suffering. I hope that this act of veneration will help all to seek the Face of God, which was the intimate aspiration of the Apostles and is [also] our own.

I address a special greeting to the pilgrims gathered in Rome on the occasion of Divine Mercy Sunday. I bless everyone from my heart, especially the coordinators of the Center for Spirituality of the Church of Santo Spirito in Sassia. May the image of the Merciful Jesus, dear friends, shine forth in you, in your life!

On Peace, Missions and Justice

March 15, 2009

On Peace, Missions and Justice

“A Strong Effort Is Required By All”

NAPLES, Italy, OCT. 21, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today after celebrating Mass in Naples, and before leading the recitation of the midday Angelus. The Pope was in Naples to open the 21st International Encounter of Peoples and Religions.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

At the end of this solemn celebration, I would like to renew, my dear friends of Naples, my greeting to you and my thanks for the cordial reception that you gave me. I address a particular greeting to the delegations that have come from various parts of the world to participate in the International Meeting for Peace sponsored by the Community of Sant’Egidio. The theme of this meeting is “Toward a World Without Violence: Religions and Cultures in Dialogue.” May this important cultural and religious initiative contribute to consolidating peace in the world.
Let us pray for this. But let us also pray today in a special way for missionaries. Today, in fact, we celebrate World Mission Sunday, which has a very significant motto: “All the Churches For All the World.” Every particular Church is responsible for the evangelization of all of humanity, and this cooperation among the Churches was augmented by Pope Paul VI 50 years ago with the encyclical “Fidei Donum.” Let us not fail to give our spiritual and material support to those who work on the frontlines of the missions: priests, religious and lay people, who often encounter grave difficulties in their work, and even persecutions.

Let us give these prayer intentions to Mary Most Holy, who, in the month of October we love to invoke with the title with which she is venerated at the shrine of Pompeii, not far from here: Queen of the Rosary. To her we entrust the many pilgrims who have traveled from Caserta.

May the Holy Virgin also protect those who in various ways commit themselves to the common good and the just order of society, as has been highlighted rather well during the 45th Social Week of Italian Catholics. The event is being held in these days in Pistoia and Pisa, 100 years after the first such Week, promoted above all by Giuseppe Toniolo, an illustrious figure among Christian economists.

There are many problems and challenges that we face today. A strong effort is required by all, especially lay faithful working in social and political spheres, to assure that every person, in particular the youth, be assured the indispensable conditions for developing their natural talents and cultivating the generous choices of service to their families and the entire community.



On St. Eusebius of Vercelli

January 29, 2009

 

st-eusebius“He Governed the Church With the Austerity of Fasting”
VATICAN CITY, OCT. 17, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today at the general audience in St. Peter’s Square on St. Eusebius of Vercelli. After the discourse, the Pope announced the names of 23 who will be made cardinals in a consistory Nov. 24.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters:

This morning I invite you to reflect on St. Eusebius of Vercelli, the first bishop of northern Italy of whom we have sure knowledge. Born in Sardinia at the beginning of the fourth century, at a young age he transferred to Rome with his family. Later he was instituted as a lector: In this way he came to form part of the clergy of Urbe, during the time that the Church was suffering the difficult test of the Arian heresy.

The great esteem that many had for Eusebius explains his election, in 345, as the bishop of Vercelli. The new bishop immediately began an intense program of evangelization in a territory that was still to a large extent pagan, especially in the rural areas.

Inspired by St. Athanasius — who had written “The Life of St. Anthony,” founder of Eastern monasticism — founded in Vercelli a community of priests, similar to a monastic community. This monastery gave to the clergy of northern Italy a significant character of apostolic sanctity, and inspired important bishops such as Limenio and Honoratus, successors of Eusebius in Vercelli, Gaudentius in Novara, Exuperantius in Tortona, Eustasius in Aosta, Eulogius in Ivrea, Maximus in Turin, all venerated by the Church as saints.

Solidly formed in the faith of the Council of Nicaea, Eusebius defended with all his strength the full divinity of Jesus Christ, defined by the Nicene Creed as “of the same nature” as the Father. With this objective he allied himself with the great fathers of the fourth century, above all St. Athanasius, the herald of the Nicene orthodoxy, against the pro-Arian politics of the emperor.

For the emperor the simpler Arian faith was more useful politically as an ideology of the empire. For him the truth didn’t count, only the political opportunity: He wanted to use religion as a tie to unite the empire. But these great fathers resisted, defending the truth over and against political domination. For this reason, Eusebius was condemned to exile, as were other bishops of the East and the West: such as Athanasius, Hilary of Poitiers — of whom we spoke last week — and Osius of Cordoba. At Scythopolis in Palestine, where he was confined from 355 to 360, Eusebius wrote a wonderful page of his life. Here too he founded a monastery with a small group of disciples, and from there maintained correspondence with this faithful in Piedmont, which is demonstrated best by the second of the three letters of Eusebius that have been recognized as authentic.

After 360 he was exiled to Cappadocia and in Thebaid, where he suffered severe physical maltreatment. In 361, Emperor Constantius II died, and was succeeded by Emperor Julian, known as the Apostate, who was not interested in Christianity as the religion of empire, but rather wanted to restore paganism. He ended the exile of bishops and in this way permitted Eusebius to take back his see.

In 362 Eusebius was invited by Athanasius to participate in the Council of Alexandria, which decided to pardon Arian bishops provided they reverted to the lay state. Eusebius was able to exercise his episcopal ministry for another decade, until he died, establishing with his city an exemplary relationship, which inspired the pastoral service of other bishops of northern Italy, whom we shall talk about in future catecheses, such as St. Ambrose of Milan and St. Maximus of Turin.

The relationship between the bishop of Vercelli and his city is made clear above all by two epistolary testimonies. The first is found in the letter we already cited, which Eusebius wrote from exile in Scythopolis “to my most delightful brethren and to my beloved priests, as well as to the holy peoples of Vercelli, Novara, Ivrea and Tortona, keeping firm in the faith” (“Ep. secunda,” CCL 9, p. 104).

These greetings, which show the emotion of the good shepherd when speaking to his flock, is confirmed to a large extent at the end of the letter, in the warm greetings of the father to each and every one of his sons in Vercelli, with expressions overflowing with affection and love.

One must underline above all the explicit relationship that unites the bishop to the “sanctae plebes” [holy people] not only of Vercelli — the first, and for many more years, the only diocese of the Piedmont region — but also of Novara, Ivrea and Tortona, that is to say, those Christian communities within his diocese that had reached a certain consistency and autonomy.

Another interesting element can be found in the farewell of the letter: Eusebius asks his sons and daughters to greet “even those who are outside the Church, and who have deigned to love us:” (etiam hos, qui foris sunt et nos dignantur diligere.) This is an evident sign that the bishop’s relationship with his city was not limited to the Christian population, but also extended to those outside the Church who recognized in a certain sense his spiritual authority, and loved this exemplary man.

The second testimony of the singular relationship the bishop had with his city appears in the letter that St. Ambrose of Milan wrote to the Christians of Vercelli around 394, more than 20 years after Eusebius’ death (“Ep. extra collectionem 14”: Maur. 63).

The Church of Vercelli was going through a difficult time: It was divided and without a bishop. With frankness, Ambrose declared that he couldn’t recognize in them “the descendants of the holy fathers, who elected Eusebius as soon as they saw him, without even having known him beforehand, passing over even their own fellow citizens.” In the same letter, the bishop of Milan clearly bore witness to his esteem for Eusebius: “A great man,” he wrote decisively, who “deserved to be elected by the whole Church.”

Ambrose’s admiration for Eusebius was based above all on the fact that Eusebius governed his diocese with the witness of his own life: “He governed the Church with the austerity of fasting.” In fact, Ambrose himself was fascinated, as he himself admitted, by the monastic ideal of contemplating God, which Eusebius had pursued in the footsteps of the prophet Elijah.

To begin with, Ambrose noted, the bishop of Vercelli gathered his own priests into “vita communis” [community life] and educated them “in the observance of monastic rules, even though they lived in the middle of the city.” The bishop and his priests had to share the problems of their fellow citizens, and they did this credibly by cultivating at the same time a different citizenship, that of heaven (cf. Hebrews 13:14). Thus they truly constructed a genuine citizenship in true solidarity with the citizens of Vercelli.

In this way Eusebius, while he took up the cause of the “sancta plebs” of Vercelli, lived in the midst of the city like a monk, opening his city to God. This trait did not take anything away from his exemplary pastoral dynamism.

Among other things, it seems that he set up parish churches in Vercelli to establish ecclesial services that were organized and stable, and that he promoted Marian shrines for the conversion of pagan rural populations. On the contrary, this “monastic character” gave a particular dimension to the relationship of the bishop with his city. Like the apostles, for whom Jesus prayed at the Last Supper, the pastors and the faithful of the Church “are in the world” (John 17:11), but not “of the world.”

Therefore, the pastors, Eusebius reminds us, should exhort the faithful not to consider the cities of the world as their permanent dwelling, but rather to seek the future city, the definitive Jerusalem in heaven. This “eschatological dimension” allows the pastors and the faithful to protect the hierarchy of just values, without giving into the trend of the moment, or to the unjust demands of political power. The authentic hierarchy of values, Eusebius’ whole life seems to tell us, does not come from the emperors of yesterday or today, but from Jesus Christ, the perfect man, equal to the Father in divinity, but at the same time a man like us.

Referring to this scale of values, Eusebius does not tire of “recommending without reservations” to his faithful to guard, “with every resource, the faith, to maintain harmony, to be assiduous in prayer” (“Ep. secunda,” cit.).

Dear brothers and sisters, I too recommend to you with all my heart these perennial values, and I bless and greet you with the same words St. Eusebius used to conclude his second letter: “I address you all, my brothers and holy sisters, sons and daughters, the faithful of both sexes and every age, so that … you may bring our greetings even to those who are outside the Church, but who deign to love us” (ibid.).

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our catechesis on the teachers of the ancient Church, we now turn to Saint Eusebius of Vercelli. Eusebius was born in Sardinia at the beginning of the fourth century, educated in Rome and eventually elected Bishop of Vercelli. There he founded a priestly community inspired by the early monastic communities of Egypt, and helped to spread the ideal of apostolic holiness throughout northern Italy.

Eusebius tirelessly defended the full divinity of Christ proclaimed at the Council of Nicaea, even at the cost of exile. His example of pastoral zeal greatly influenced many of his contemporaries, including Saints Ambrose and Maximus of Turin. Eusebius’ Letters testify to his closeness to the faithful of Vercelli, as well as his concern for those who were not of the faith. His episcopal ministry was shaped by his commitment to the monastic ideals of contemplation and self-discipline. He thus found the strength to resist every form of external pressure in his faithful service to the Gospel. May his teachings and example inspire us, in all our life and activity, to “make every effort to preserve the faith, to live in harmony and to be constant in the practice of prayer” (cf. Ep. II).

I warmly greet the Immaculate Heart Sisters from Nigeria who celebrate the seventieth anniversary of their foundation. I likewise greet the members of the national pilgrimage of Tanzania. My welcome also goes to the Lutheran pilgrims from Norway and to the members of Serra International. Upon all the English-speaking visitors, including those from England, Scotland, Ireland, Australia, Papua New Guinea, Japan, the Philippines and the United States, I invoke God’s abundant blessings.



On True Healing

January 28, 2009

On True Healing

“What a Treasure Is Hidden in the Little Phrase ‘Thank You'”

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 15, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday to the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square when he led the praying of the midday Angelus.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

The Gospel from this Sunday presents Jesus curing 10 lepers, of whom only one, a Samaritan, and thus a foreigner, returns to give thanks (cf. Luke 17:11-19). The Lord says, “Rise and go on your way; your faith has saved you” (Luke 17:19).

This Gospel passage invites us to a double reflection. Above all, it makes us think of two levels of healing: one that is more superficial, affecting the body; another, more profound, reaching the depths of a person, that which the Bible calls the “heart,” and from there, irradiating to all of existence.

The complete and radical healing is “salvation.” Even in common language, the distinction between “health” and “salvation” helps us to understand that salvation is much more that health. It is, in fact, a new life, full and definitive. Moreover, here, as in other circumstances, Jesus uses the expression, “Your faith has saved you.” Faith saves the human person, re-establishing him in his profound relationship with God, with himself, and with others. And faith is expressed with appreciation. He who, like the healed Samaritan, knows how to give thanks, shows that he does not consider everything as something which is merited, but instead as a gift that, even if it comes through people or through nature, in the end, comes from God. Faith involves, then, the openness of the person to the grace of the Lord; to recognize that all is gift, all is grace. What a treasure is hidden in the little phrase “thank you!”

Jesus cures 10 people sick with leprosy, a sickness in that time considered a “contagious impurity,” which required a rite of purification (cf. Leviticus 14:1-37). In reality, the leprosy that truly disfigures the person and society is sin; pride and egotism give birth in the spirit to indifference, hate and violence. Only God, who is Love, can cure this leprosy of the spirit, which disfigures the face of humanity. Upon opening the heart to God, the converted person is healed interiorly of evil.

“Repent and believe in the Gospel” (cf. Mark 1:15). Jesus made this invitation at the beginning of his public life, and it continues to resound in the Church, to the point that even the Blessed Virgin in her apparitions, especially in recent times, has renewed this call.

Today we think especially of Fatima, where, precisely 90 years ago, from May 13 to Oct. 13, 1917, the Virgin appeared to three little shepherds: Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco. Thanks to a television connection, I want to make myself spiritually present in that Marian shrine, where Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, secretary of state, has in my name presided over the concluding ceremonies of such an important anniversary.

I cordially greet him, and the other cardinals and bishops present, the priests that work in the shrine and the pilgrims who have come from every part of the world for this occasion. We ask the Blessed Virgin for the gift of conversion for all Christians, so that they may announce and give a faithful and coherent witness to the perennial evangelical message, which indicates to humanity the path to an authentic peace.

I warmly welcome the English-speaking visitors present at this Angelus. In today’s Gospel our Lord takes pity on the lepers, cleansing them of their infirmities and reminding us all of his desire to heal those who suffer. During your time in Rome may God bless you with the saving power of his peace and love.

[In Italian, the Pope added:]

Serious news of attacks and violence continues to arrive daily from Iraq, shaking the conscience of all people who have the good of that country and the peace of the region at heart. Among this news, I learned today of the kidnapping of two good priests of the Syrian Catholic archdiocese of Mosul, who have been threatened with death. I appeal to the kidnappers to release the two religious immediately and, in underlining once again that violence does not resolve tensions, I raise to the Lord a heartfelt prayer for their liberation, for all those suffering from violence, and for peace.

On Hilary of Poitiers

January 28, 2009

“God Only Knows How to Be Love”

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 10, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today at the general audience in St. Peter’s Square. The reflection focused on St. Hilary of Poitiers.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today I would like to speak about a great Father of the Western Church, St. Hilary of Poitiers, one of the great bishops of the 4th century. Confronted with the Arians, who considered the Son of God a creature, albeit an excellent one, Hilary dedicated his life to the defense of faith in the divinity of Jesus Christ, Son of God, and God as the Father, who generated him from all eternity.

We do not have definitive data about most of Hilary’s life. Ancient sources say that he was born in Poitiers, probably around the year 310. From a well-to-do family, he received a good literary education, which is clearly evident in his writings. It does not seem that he was raised in a Christian environment. He himself tells us about a journey of searching for the truth, which little by little led him to the recognition of God the creator and of the incarnate God, who died to give us eternal life. He was baptized around 345, and elected bishop of Poitiers around 353-354. 

In the years that followed, Hilary wrote his first work, the “Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew.” It is the oldest surviving commentary in Latin that we have on this Gospel. In 356, Hilary, as bishop, attended the Synod of Beziers in southern France, which he called the “Synod of the False Apostles,” given that the assembly was dominated by bishops who were followers of Arianism, and thus negated the divinity of Jesus Christ. These “false apostles” asked Emperor Constantine to condemn to exile the bishop of Poitiers. So Hilary was forced to leave Gaul during the summer of 356.

Exiled to Phrygia, in present-day Turkey, Hilary found himself in contact with a religious environment totally dominated by Arianism. There, too, his pastoral solicitude led him to work tirelessly for the re-establishment of the Church’s unity, based on the correct faith, as formulated by the Council of Nicea. To this end, he began writing his most important and most famous dogmatic work: “De Trinitatae” (On the Trinity). 

In it, Hilary talks about his own personal journey toward knowing God, and he is intent on showing that Scriptures clearly attest to the Son’s divinity and his equality with the Father, not only in the New Testament, but also in many pages of the Old Testament, in which the mystery of Christ is already presented. Faced with the Arians, he insists on the truth of the names of the Father and the Son and develops his entire Trinitarian theology departing from the formula of baptism given to us by the Lord himself: “In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

The Father and the Son are of the same nature. And if some passages of the New Testament could lead one to think that the Son is inferior to the Father, Hilary offers precise rules to avoid misleading interpretations: Some passages in Scripture speak about Jesus as God, others emphasize his humanity. Some refer to him in his pre-existence with the Father; others take into consideration his self lowering (“kenosis”), his lowering himself unto death; and lastly, others contemplate him in the glory of the resurrection. 

During the years of his exile, Hilary also wrote the “Book of the Synod,” in which, for his brother bishops of Gaul, he reproduces and comments on the confessions of faith and other documents of the synods which met in the East around the middle of the 4th century. Always firm in his opposition to radical Arians, St. Hilary showed a conciliatory spirit with those who accepted that the Son was similar to the Father in essence, naturally trying to lead them toward the fullness of faith, which says that there is not only a similarity, but a true equality of the Father and the Son in their divinity. 

This also seems characteristic: His conciliatory spirit tries to understand those who still have not yet arrived to the fullness of the truth and helps them, with great theological intelligence, to reach the fullness of faith in the true divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In 360 or 361, Hilary was finally able to return from exile to his homeland and immediately resumed the pastoral work in his Church, but the influence of his teaching extended, in fact, well beyond its borders. A synod celebrated in Paris in 360 or 361 took up again the language used by the Council of Nicea. Some ancient authors think that this anti-Arian development of the bishops of Gaul was due, in large part, to the strength and meekness of the bishop of Poitiers.

This was precisely his gift: uniting strength of faith and meekness in interpersonal relationships. During the last years of his life, he wrote “Treatises on the Psalms,” a commentary on 58 psalms, interpreted according to the principle highlighted in the introduction to the work: “There is no doubt that all the things said in the Psalms must be understood according to the Gospel proclamation, so that, independently of the voice with which the prophetic spirit has spoken, everything refers to the knowledge of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, incarnation, passion and kingdom, and the glory and power of our resurrection” (“Instructio Psalmorum,” 5). 

In all of the Psalms, he sees this transparency of Christ’s mystery and of his body, which is the Church. On various occasions, Hilary met with St. Martin: The future bishop of Tours founded a monastery near Poitiers, which still exists today. Hilary died in 367. His feast day is celebrated on Jan. 13. In 1851, Blessed Pius IX proclaimed him a doctor of the Church.

To summarize the essential aspects of his doctrine, I would like to say that the starting point for Hilary’s theological reflection is the baptismal faith. In “De Trinitate,” he writes: Jesus “commanded to baptize in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (cf. Matthew 28:19), that is to say, confessing the Author, the Only Begotten One and the Gift. One alone is the author of all things, because there is only one God the Father, from whom all things proceed. And one alone is our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom all things were made (1 Corinthians 8:6), and one alone is the Spirit (Ephesians 4:4), gift in everything. … Nothing can be found lacking in a plenitude that is so grand, in which converges in the Father, and in the Son, and in the Holy Spirit, the immensity of the Eternal, the revelation in the Image, the joy in the Gift” (“De Trinitatae” 2:1). 

God the Father, being all love, is able to communicate the fullness of his divinity to the Son. I find this phrase of St. Hilary to be particularly beautiful: “God only knows how to be love, only knows how to be Father. And he who loves is not envious, and whoever is Father, is so totally. This name does not allow for compromise, as if to say that God is father only in certain aspects and not in others” (ibid. 9:61).

For this reason, the Son is fully God without lacking anything or having any lessening: “He who comes from the perfect is perfect, because he who has everything, has given him everything” (ibid. 2:8). Only in Christ, Son of God and Son of Man, does humanity find salvation. Taking on human nature, he united every man to himself, “he became our flesh” (“Tractatus in Psalmos” 54:9); “he took on the nature of all flesh, thus becoming the true vine, the root of all branches” (ibid. 51:16). 

Precisely because of this motive, the path to Christ is open to all — because he drew everyone into his humanity — even though personal conversion is always required: “Through the relationship with his flesh, access to Christ is open to everyone, provided that they leave aside the old man (cf. Ephesians 4:22) and nail him to his cross (cf. Colossians 2:14); provided they abandon their former works and are converted, in order to be buried with him in baptism, in view of life (cf. Colossians 1:12; Romans 6:4)” (ibid. 91:9).

Faithfulness to God is a gift of his grace. Therefore St. Hilary asks, at the end of his treatise on the Trinity, to be able to remain faithful to the faith of baptism. One of the characteristics of this book is this: Reflection is transformed into prayer and prayer leads to reflection. The entire book is a dialogue with God. 

I would like to end today’s catechesis with one of these prayers, that also becomes our prayer: “Grant, O Lord,” Hilary prays in a moment of inspiration, “that I may remain faithful to that which I professed in the symbol of my regeneration, when I was baptized in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. That I may adore you, our Father, and together with you, your Son; that I may be worthy of your Holy Spirit, who proceeds from you through your only Son. … Amen” (“De Trinitatae” 12:57).

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The subject of today’s catechesis is Saint Hilary of Poitiers. He was born around the year 310, baptized when he was about thirty-five, and became Bishop of Poitiers some eight years later. In opposition to the Arians, who believed Jesus was a created being, Hilary dedicated his life to defending our faith in the divinity of Christ. While exiled to Frigia, because of the stance he took against the Arians at the Synod of Béziers, he began his most important work, De Trinitate. In this text he demonstrates how both the old and new testaments clearly attest the divinity of the Son and his equality with the Father with whom he shares one nature. In his De Synodis Hilary maintained a conciliatory spirit with those who used deficient theological formulations, while leading them to accept fully the Nicean creed. In 360 he returned home, took up his pastoral duties, and continued to write. The influence of his teaching spread and many were strengthened in their resistance to Arian thought, realising that Christ is our Saviour precisely because he is true God and true man. Fundamental to Hilary’s insight was the importance of our Trinitarian baptismal faith. Let us join him in praying to the Lord that we remain faithful to this confession, and always bear joyful witness to our baptismal call!

I welcome all the English speaking visitors present today, including members of the Congregation of Holy Cross, participants in the Nato Defence College Senior Course, and the student groups from Scotland and Denmark May your time in Rome be one of spiritual renewal. Upon all of you I invoke God’s abundant blessings of joy and peace.