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Papal Homily on Augustine's Conversions

5/16/2007 - 6:00 AM PST

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"Passion for the Truth Truly Guided Him"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 16, 2007 (Zenit) - Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's homily on Augustine's three stages of conversion. He delivered it April 22 during his pastoral visit to Pavia, Italy.

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PASTORAL VISIT TO VIGEVANO AND PAVIA (ITALY)
EUCHARISTIC CONCELEBRATION
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

"Orti Borromaici" Esplanade, Pavia
Third Sunday of Easter, 22 April 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Yesterday afternoon, I met the diocesan Community of Vigevano and the heart of my Pastoral Visit was the Eucharistic concelebration in Piazza Ducale; today, I have the joy of visiting your Diocese and a culminating moment of our encounter is also here at Holy Mass.

I greet with affection my Brothers who are concelebrating with me: Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, Archbishop of Milan, Bishop Giovanni Giudici, Pastor of your Diocese, Bishop emeritus Giovanni Volta, the retired Pastor, and the other Prelates of Lombardy.

I am grateful to the Government Representatives and local Administrations for their presence. I address my cordial greeting to the priests, deacons, Religious, leaders of lay associations, the young people, the sick and all the faithful, and I extend my thoughts to the entire population of this ancient and noble City, and of the Diocese.

During the Easter Season, the Church presents to us, Sunday after Sunday, some passages from the preaching with which, after Easter, the Apostles, particularly Peter, invited Israel to have faith in Jesus Christ, the Risen One, thereby founding the Church.

In today's reading, the Apostles stand before the Sanhedrin -- before that institution which, having sentenced Jesus to death, could not tolerate that this same Jesus was now beginning to be active again through the Apostles' preaching. They could not tolerate that his saving power was once more making itself felt and that his Name was attracting people who believed in him as the promised Redeemer.

They accused the Apostles. Their accusation is: "You want to make us responsible for that man's blood".

Peter, however, reacted to this accusation with a brief catechesis on the essence of Christian faith: "No, we do not want to make you responsible for his blood. The effect of the death and Resurrection of Jesus is quite different. God has exalted him as "'Head and Saviour' of all, and of you, too, his People of Israel". And where will this "Head" lead us? What does this "Saviour" bring?

He leads us, St Peter tells us, to conversion -- creates for us the leeway and opportunity to mend our ways and repent, begin again. And he offers us forgiveness for our sins: he introduces us into the proper relationship with God, hence, into the proper relationship of each individual with himself or herself and with others.

Peter's brief catechesis did not only apply to the Sanhedrin. It speaks to us all, for Jesus, the Risen One, is also alive today. And for all generations, for all men and women, he is the "Head" who shows us the way and the "Saviour" who straightens out our lives.

The two terms: "conversion" and "forgiveness of sins", which correspond to the titles of Christ "Head", archeg˛s in Greek, and "Saviour", are the key words of Peter's catechesis, words intended to move our hearts too, here and now. And what do they mean?

The path we must take -- the path that Jesus points out to us -- is called "conversion". But what is it? What must we do? In every life conversion has its own form, because every human being is something new and no one is merely a copy of another.

But in the course of history, the Lord has sent us models of conversion to whom we can look to find guidance. We could thus look at Peter himself to whom the Lord said at the Last Supper: "[W]hen you have turned again, strengthen your brethren" (Luke 22: 32).

We could look at Paul as a great convert. The City of Pavia speaks of one of the greatest converts in the history of the Church: St Aurelius Augustine. He died on 28 August in 430 in the port town of Hippo, in Africa, at that time surrounded and besieged by the Vandals.

After the considerable turmoil of a turbulent history, the King of the Longobards acquired Augustine's remains for the City of Pavia so that today they belong to this City in a special way, and, in it and from it, have something special to say to all of us, to humanity, but to all of us here in particular.

In his book, Confessions, Augustine touchingly described the development of his conversion which achieved its goal with Baptism, administered to him by Bishop Ambrose in the Cathedral of Milan. Readers of his Confessions can share in the journey that Augustine had to make in a long inner struggle to receive at last, at the baptismal font on the ...

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