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Wednesday's Audience - On Chrysostom's Social Doctrine

9/30/2007 - 6:10 AM PST

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"All Are Brothers and Sisters With Equal Rights"


VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 30, 2007 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Wednesday at the general audience in St. Peter's Square. The reflection was a continuation of last week's commentary on St. John Chrysostom.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

We continue our reflection today on St. John Chrysostom. After his time spent in Antioch, he was appointed in 397 the bishop of Constantinople, capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. From the beginning, John proposed a reform of his Church: The austerity of the bishop's palace would be an example to everyone -- clergy, widows, monks, people of the court and the rich. Unfortunately, many of those people, implicated by his judgments, distanced themselves from him.

Attentive to the poor, John was also called "the almsgiver." With careful administration, in fact, he was able to establish charitable institutions that were well appreciated. His initiatives in various fields caused some to view him as a dangerous rival. However, like a good pastor, he treated everyone in a kind and fatherly manner. In particular, he showed kindness toward women and dedicated special attention to marriages and the family. He invited the faithful to participate in liturgical life, which he made splendid and attractive with his creative genius.

Despite his goodness, his life was not serene. As pastor of the capital of the empire, he found himself often involved in political intrigues, because of his ongoing relationship with the authorities and civil institutions. On the ecclesiastical plane, moreover, given that he deposed six bishops in the year 401 in Asia who were unworthily elected, he was accused of having exceeded the limits of his own jurisdiction, and thus became a target of easy attacks.

Another cause of attacks against him was the presence in Constantinople of some refugee Egyptian monks, excommunicated by Patriarch Theophilus of Alexandria. Lively disagreement was started when Chrysostom criticized Empress Eudoxia and her courtiers, who responded by discrediting and insulting him. Thus, he was deposed at the synod organized by Patriarch Theophilus in 403, and condemned to a brief period of exile.

After his return, he caused more hostility by protesting the festivals in honor of the empress -- which the bishop considered lavish pagan festivals -- and banishing the priests who performed the baptisms in the Easter Vigil in 404. So began the persecution of Chrysostom and his followers, the so-called Johannites.

John explained the facts in a letter to the Bishop of Rome, Innocent I. But it was too late. In 406 he had to again go into exile, this time to Cucusa, in Armenia. The Pope was convinced of his innocence, but he did not have the power to help him. A council, called by Rome to pacify the two parts of the empire and between their two Churches, could not take place.

A difficult trip from Cucusa to Pythius, a destination that was never reached, was meant to impede the faithful from visiting him and to break the resistance of the worn-out prelate: The condemnation to exile was truly a condemnation to death!

The numerous letters from exile are moving. John speaks of his pastoral concerns with undertones of sorrow for the persecutions suffered by his followers. His march toward death came to an end in Comana in Pontus. There, the dying John was brought into the chapel of the martyr Basiliscus, where he gave forth his spirit to God and was buried, martyr next to martyr (Palladio, "Life" 119). It was Sept. 14, 407, feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

The reconciliation took place in 438 with Theodosius II. The relics of the saintly bishop, placed in the Church of the Apostles in Constantinople, were brought in 1204 to Rome, to the early Constantinian basilica, and now lie in the Chapel of the Choir of Canons of St. Peter's Basilica.

On Aug. 24, 2004, a large portion of the relics were given by Pope John Paul II to Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople. The liturgical memorial of the saint is celebrated on Sept. 13. Blessed John XXIII proclaimed him patron saint of the Second Vatican Council.

It is said of John Chrysostom that, when he sat on the throne of the New Rome, that is, Constantinople, God revealed him as a second Paul, a doctor of the universe. But in reality, in Chrysostom, there is a substantial unity of thought and action, both in Antioch and in Constantinople. Only his role and situations change.

Meditating on the eight works carried out by God during six days, John Chrysostom, in his commentary on Genesis, desires to lead the faithful from creation to the Creator. "It is a great good," he says, "to know that which is creature and that which is Creator." He shows us the beauty of creation and the transparency ...

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