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Pope's Wednesday general audience - St. Andrew, the First Called

"Considered as the Apostle of the Greeks"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 15, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address at Wednesday's general audience, which he dedicated to meditate on "Andrew, the Protoklitos."

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Dear Brothers and Sisters:

In the last two catecheses we have spoken about the figure of St. Peter. Now, in the measure the sources allow us, we want to know the other 11 apostles a bit better. Therefore, today we speak of Simon Peter's brother, St. Andrew, who was also one of the Twelve.

What first impresses one about Andrew is his name: It is not Hebrew, as one would expect, but Greek, indicative of a certain cultural openness of his family. We find ourselves in Galilee, where the Greek language and culture are quite present.

In the lists of the Twelve, Andrew is in second place in Matthew (10:1-4) and in Luke (6:13-16), or in the fourth place, in Mark (3:13-18) and in the Acts of the Apostles (1:13-14). In any case, without a doubt he had great prestige within the early Christian communities.

The blood tie between Peter and Andrew, as well as the joint call addressed to them by Jesus, are mentioned expressly in the Gospels. One reads: "As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And he said to them, 'Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men'" (Matthew 4:18-19; Mark 1:16-17).

From the fourth Gospel we know another important detail: At first, Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist; and this shows us that he was a man who was searching, who shared Israel's hope, who wanted to know better the word of the Lord, the presence of the Lord.

He was truly a man of faith and hope; and one day he heard that John the Baptist was proclaiming Jesus as "the Lamb of God" (John 1:36); then, he moved, and together with another disciple, whose name is not mentioned, followed Jesus, he who was called by John "Lamb of God." The evangelist says: "They saw where he was staying; and they stayed with him" (John 1:40-43), demonstrating immediately an uncommon apostolic spirit. Andrew, therefore, was the first apostle who received the call and followed Jesus.

For this reason the liturgy of the Byzantine Church honors him with the nickname "Protoklitos," which means the "first called."

Because of the fraternal relationship between Peter and Andrew, the Church of Rome and the Church of Constantinople regard themselves as sister Churches. To underline this relationship, my predecessor, Pope Paul VI, in 1964 returned the famous relic of St. Andrew, until then kept in the Vatican basilica, to the Orthodox metropolitan bishop of the city of Patras, in Greece, where, according to tradition, the apostle was crucified.

The Gospel traditions mention Andrew's name particularly on three other occasions, allowing us to know something more about this man. The first is the multiplication of the loaves in Galilee. On that occasion, Andrew pointed out to Jesus the presence of a young boy who had five barley loaves and two fish: very little, he said, for all the people that had gathered in that place (cf. John 6:8-9).

It is worthwhile to underline Andrew's realism. He had seen the boy, that is, he had already asked him: "But, what is this for all these people?" (ibid.) and he became aware of the lack of resources. Jesus, however, was able to make them be sufficient for the multitude of people that had gone to hear him.

The second occasion was in Jerusalem. Leaving the city, a disciple showed him the spectacle of the powerful walls that supported the temple. The Master's response was astonishing: He said that of those walls not one stone would remain upon another. Then Andrew, along with Peter, James and John, asked him: "Tell us, when this will be, and what will be the sign when these things are all to be accomplished?" (Mark 13:1-4).

As a response to this question, Jesus pronounced an important discourse on the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world, inviting his disciples to read with care the signs of the times and to always maintain a vigilant attitude. From this episode we may deduce that we do not have to be afraid to ask Jesus questions, but at the same time, we must be ready to accept the teachings, also astonishing and difficult, which he offers us.

Recorded in the Gospels, finally, is a third initiative of Andrew. The setting continues to be Jerusalem, shortly before the Passion. On the occasion of the feast of Passover, John recounts, some Greeks had come to the Holy City, perhaps proselytes or God-fearing men, to worship the God of Israel during the feast of Passover.

Andrew and Philip, the two apostles with Greek names, were the interpreters and mediators for Jesus of this small group of ...

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