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Papal Homily at Augustine's Tomb

5/7/2007 - 6:00 AM PST

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"Serving Christ Is First of All a Question of Love"

PAVIA, Italy, MAY 7, 2007 (Zenit) - Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's April 22 homily at the basilica which houses St. Augustine's tomb.

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PASTORAL VISIT TO VIGEVANO AND PAVIA (ITALY)
CELEBRATION OF VESPERS
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Basilica of St Pietro in Ciel d'Oro, Pavia
Third Sunday of Easter, 22 April 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

With this final event, my Visit to Pavia acquires the form of a pilgrimage. This is the form in which I had conceived of it from the outset, desiring to come here to venerate the mortal remains of St Augustine, to express both the homage of the whole Catholic Church to one of her greatest "fathers" and my personal devotion and gratitude to the one who played such an important part in my life as a theologian and a Pastor, but, I would say, even more as a man and a priest.

I renew with affection my greeting to Bishop Giovanni Giudici and I offer a special greeting to Fr Robert Francis Prevost, Prior General of the Augustinians, to the Father Provincial and to the entire Augustinian community. I greet you all with joy, dear priests, men and women religious, consecrated lay people and seminarians.

Providence has deigned that my journey acquire the character of a true and proper Pastoral Visit, and therefore, in this pause for prayer here at the tomb of the Doctor gratiae, I would like to identify a significant message for the Church's progress. This message comes to us from the encounter of the Word of God and the personal experience of the great Bishop of Hippo.

We have listened to the short biblical Reading for Second Vespers of the Third Sunday of Easter (Heb 10:12-14). The Letter to the Hebrews has set us before Christ, the eternal High Priest, exalted to the Father's glory after offering himself as the one perfect sacrifice of the New Covenant in which the work of Redemption was accomplished.

St Augustine fixed his gaze on this mystery and in it he found the Truth he was so ardently seeking. Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, the Sacrificed and Risen Lamb, is the Face of God-Love for every human being on his journey along the paths of time towards eternity.

The Apostle John writes in a passage that can be considered parallel to the one just proclaimed in the Letter to the Hebrews: "In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins" (I Jn 4:10). Here is the heart of the Gospel, the central nucleus of Christianity. The light of this love opened Augustine's eyes and led him to encounter the "beauty so old and so new" (Confessions, X, 27) in which alone the human heart finds peace.

Dear brothers and sisters, here, in front of St Augustine's tomb, I would like in spirit to present anew to the Church and to the world my first Encyclical, which contains precisely this central message of the Gospel: Deus caritas est, God is love (cf. I Jn 4:8,16). This Encyclical, especially Part One, is deeply indebted to the thought of St Augustine, who was in love with the Love of God and sang of it, meditated upon it, preached it in all his writings and above all witnessed to it in his pastoral ministry.

Following in the wake of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and of my venerable Predecessors John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I and John Paul II, I am convinced that humanity today stands in need of this essential message, incarnate in Jesus Christ: God is love. Everything must start from here and everything must lead to here, every pastoral action, every theological treatise.

As St Paul said, "If I ... have not love I gain nothing" (cf. I Cor 13:3). All charisms lose their meaning and value without love, thanks to which instead, all compete to build the Mystical Body of Christ.

Here then is the message that still today St Augustine repeats to the whole Church and in particular, to this diocesan Community which preserves his relics with such veneration. Love is the soul of the Church's life and of her pastoral action. We heard it this morning in the dialogue between Jesus and Simon Peter: "Do you love me?... Tend my sheep" (cf. Jn 21:5-17).

Only those who live a personal experience of the Lord's love are able to exercise the task of guiding and accompanying others on the way of following Christ. At the school of St Augustine, I repeat this truth for you as Bishop of Rome, while as a Christian I welcome it with you with ever new joy.

Serving Christ is first of all a question of love. Dear brothers and sisters, your membership in the Church and your apostolate always shine forth through freedom from any individual interest and through adherence without reserve to Christ's love.

The young, in particular, need to receive the ...

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