Wednesday, March 05, 2008

On Primacy

At today's General Audience, B16 dwelt on one of his predecessors -- St Leo the Great:
The Roman primacy in the Church is "necessary", today as in the past it is "at the service of truth and charity" and "serves communion" in the one Church of Christ. Benedict XVI made the remarks during the illustration of the figure of St Leo the Great, to whom he dedicated today's address for the general audience, to again assert the purpose of Petrine primacy and to recall its existence since the time of the undivided Church....

[Leo's] pontificate began in 440, "undoubtedly one of the most important [pontificates] in the history of the Church", in "very difficult" times. The repeated assaults of the barbarian invasions, the weakening of the authority of the empire, and a grave social crisis, in the words of the pope, "had forced" the bishop of Rome to take on a role in the civil sphere as well, which increased the prestige of the Roman see. Benedict XVI recalled the best-known episode in the life of Leo the Great, when in 452 he went to Mantua and convinced Attila, leader of the Huns, not to continue with his invasion. "It was a memorable sign of the peacemaking activity conducted by the pontiff". But he did not have similar success with his attempt, in the spring of 455, to prevent the invasion and sacking of Rome on the part of the Vandals. "The gesture of the pope, who went unarmed to meet the invader, at least prevented Rome from being burned" and allowed the basilicas of St Peter, St Paul, and St John to be spared, "in which part of the terrorised population took refuge".

He was "a theologian and pastor, at the service of communion and a tireless promoter of Roman primacy, showing himself an authentic heir of the apostle Peter, and the Eastern bishops also showed in their awareness of this". So it was in 451, when the Council of Chalcedon addressed the "Christological controversy", affirming the union in the one person of Christ, without confusion and without separation, of his two natures as true God and true man. The principle was affirmed by Leo in an important doctrinal text that was read at Chalcedon and "welcomed with significant acclamation".

The primacy of the pope is, therefore, a "primacy of communion", "at the service of truth and charity" and "also at the service of communion among the different Churches". Citing Leo, the pope finally repeated: "what was communicated to all the apostles was entrusted to only one of them".
As noted below, today is the 75th birthday of the Vatican's chief ecumenist Cardinal Walter Kasper... whose recent musings on authority and synodality could be compared and contrasted with today's catechesis.

At an availability yesterday in Rome, the German prelate expressed his belief that Benedict would keep him on as president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Holy See's top liaison with Judaism.

Kasper also announced that a "delegation from Jerusalem" would come to the Vatican later this month in light of the continuing controversy over the 1962 Missal's recently revised prayer for the conversion of the Jewish people. Underscoring the importance of the session, the Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone SDB will lead the Vatican group at the discussion.

And following a first bilateral meeting yesterday, it was announced this morning that the founding seminar of a Vatican-backed "Catholic-Muslim Forum" will take place in early November in Rome.

Slated to take "Love of God, Love of Neighbor" as its focus, a statement from the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue said that the Pope will meet with the summit.

PHOTO: Reuters