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Gregory the Great as Model

"The Life of the Pastor Must Be a Balanced Synthesis"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 5, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday before reciting the midday Angelus with crowds at the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Today the Roman calendar remembers St. Gregory the Great, Pope and doctor of the Church (about the years 540-604). His singular figure, I would say almost unique, is an example that must be presented both to pastors of the Church as well as public administrators: In fact, first he was prefect and later Bishop of Rome.

As an imperial official, he was outstanding for his administrative capacity and moral integrity, to the point that, when only 30 years old, he held the highest civil office of "prefect of the city" ("Praefectus Urbis").

Meanwhile, maturing in his interior was the vocation to the monastic life which he embraced in the year 574, when his father died. Thereafter the Benedictine Rule became the foundation of his life. Even when he was sent by the Pope as his representative to the emperor of the East, he had a monastic, simple and poor lifestyle.

When being called back to Rome, though he lived in a monastery, he was a close collaborator of Pope Pelagius II, and, when the latter died, victim of a plague epidemic, Gregory was acclaimed by all as his successor.

He tried in every way to avoid the appointment, but in the end had to give in and, leaving the cloister with regret, dedicated himself to the community, aware that he was doing his duty and that he was a simple "servant of the servants of God."

"He is not really humble," he wrote, "who understands that he must be leader of others by decree of the divine will and yet disdains this pre-eminence. If on the contrary he submits to divine dispositions and does not have the vice of obstinacy and is prepared to benefit others with those gifts, when the highest dignity of governing souls is imposed on him, he must flee from it with his heart, but against his will, he must obey" ("Pastoral Rule," I, 6).

These words are as a dialogue with himself. With prophetic vision, Gregory intuited that a new civilization was dawning with the meeting between the Roman heritage and the peoples called "barbarians," thanks to the force of cohesion and the moral loftiness of Christianity. Monasticism was becoming a richness not only for the Church, but for the whole of society.

Of frail health but strong moral stature, St. Gregory the Great carried out intense pastoral and civil action. He left a very large collection of letters, admirable homilies, a famous commentary on the Book of Job and writings on the life of St. Benedict, as well as numerous liturgical texts, famous for the reform of chant, which, due to his name, was called "Gregorian."

However, his most famous work, without a doubt, is the "Pastoral Rule," which had the same importance for the clergy as St. Benedict's Rule for the monks of the Middle Ages. The life of the pastor of souls must be a balanced synthesis between contemplation and action, animated by love "which reaches the loftiest heights when it bends down with mercy to the profound ills of others. The ability to bend down to the misery of others is the measure of the force of one's self-giving to others" (II,5). In this teaching, always timely, the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council were inspired to describe the image of the pastor of our times.

Let us pray to the Virgin Mary that the example and teaching of St. Gregory the Great may be followed by the pastors of the Church and also by leaders of civil institutions.

[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

I offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking visitors gathered for this Angelus prayer, including the pilgrims from the Diocese of London in Canada, accompanied by their bishop. In today's Gospel, Jesus invites us to purity of heart and sincere obedience to God's law. May your visit to Rome strengthen you in love of the Lord and in joyful fidelity to his holy will. God bless you all!

© Copyright 2006 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Gregory, Pope, Benedict, Angelus, Life

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