Wednesday, May 28, 2008

"The Last Roman"

Before a crowd of 35,000 at today's General Audience, B16 continued his talks on the Fathers with a look at his second "great" predecessor, Pope St Gregory I:
True hope comes from the “desire for God” and the capacity to “be close to people and their needs” which [the Pope said] is one of the traits of Pope Gregory the Great....

Dissatisfied with his life he decided to leave everything behind and turned his family home into a monastery, becoming himself a monk. And from this period he “retained an everlasting nostalgia,” Benedict XVI said, about a “happy time of meditation in God’ and a “serene immersion in study” with which he acquired a profound knowledge of the Scriptures and the Fathers of the Church.

His retreat did not last long though. The knowledge he acquired, the relations he developed with the Byzantines, the high regard with which he was held convinced Pope Pelagius to appoint him deacon and send him to Constantinople. There in six years he gained direct knowledge of the Byzantine world as well as of the Longobards, something which later will be useful to him.

After being recalled to Rome he became Pope Pelagius’ secretary and in 590 AD, his successor, even though he tried to avoid being elected by running away.

During his pontificate he showed an “extraordinary capacity to work” and “a constant balance in his decisions, including the difficult ones” as evinced by the 800 letters concerning the “daily dealings with problems coming from religious and civilian leaders of every order or level.”

Despite his thin and sickly appearance he was called the “last Roman”, said the Pope. “He had a weak voice and had a deacon read his homilies,’ the Pope said. “Thank God today we have the microphone.”
Gregory the Great devoted himself to the conversion of the peoples of the new Europe, Britain, France and Spain, the Pope said. He was “a true pacifier” as shown by the “close negotiations” with the Longobards which led to a stable armistice in 603 and was instrumental in the king’s conversion. Still the Pope also stressed the importance played by the Catholic Queen, Theodelinda, whose actions are indicative of the “role of women in the history of the Church.”

These are “truly shining results.” In addition to his spiritual and pastoral action, he was involved in all sorts of social actions, thanks also to the considerable wealth of the Church, which he wanted to see “managed with absolute correctness” so that the “face of the bride of Christ not be darkened.”
PHOTOS: AFP/Getty(1); Reuters(2)