Conversion "That Lasts a Lifetime"
The humanity of today "needs to rediscover that God is love", and to found its hope upon this, as Saint Augustine did sixteen centuries ago. Augustine is a figure to whom Benedict XVI feels himself "closely connected", toward whom he feels "personal devotion and gratitude", and who has "influenced" his life as "priest and theologian".PHOTO: AP/Plinio Lepri
This was the pope's fifth and final reflection on the bishop of Hippo at the general audience. Today's audience was divided between Saint Peter's basilica and the Paul VI audience hall, because of the great numbers of the faithful. To the more than 10,000 people present, Benedict XVI on this last occasion wanted to highlight Augustine as "one of the greatest converts of Christian history", a man who carried out a "true journey" of conversion "that lasted his entire life", "a model for everyone".
Personal tones and accents today highlighted, beyond his words alone, the relationship that Benedict XVI feels he has with Augustine. He had recalled this before, during his visit to Pavia last April, when "I offered at the tomb of this great lover of God my first encyclical", dedicated in its title to divine love, or when he recalled "the dream" of the young Augustine to remain in the monastery to dedicate himself to study and contemplation....
And then as now, the encounter with God is "the only response to the disquiet of our hearts", and "still today, just as in his time, humanity needs to know and live this fundamental reality", that God is "the only saviour who saves us, purifies us, gives us true joy and true life"; it needs to "know and above all live this reality, that God is love".