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On St. Martin of Tours

"Generous Witness of the Gospel of Charity"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 13, 2007 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Sunday before leading the recitation of the midday Angelus with the crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Today, Nov. 11, the Church remembers St. Martin, bishop of Tours, one of the most celebrated and venerated saints in Europe. Born around 316 to pagan parents in Pannonia, present-day Hungary, he was directed by his father to a military career.

When he was still an adolescent, Martin encountered Christianity and, overcoming many difficulties, he registered among the catechumens to prepare himself for baptism. He received the sacrament around the age of 20 but still had to remain for some time in the military, where he gave testimony to his new way of life: Respectful and understanding toward all, he treated his servant as a brother and he avoided vulgar entertainments.

Leaving military service, he went to stay with the holy Bishop Hilary at Poitiers in France. Ordained deacon and priest by Hilary, Martin began a monastery at Liguge with some disciples. Martin's is the oldest known monastic foundation in Europe. About 10 years later, the Christians of Tours, being without a pastor, acclaimed Martin bishop. From that point on, Martin dedicated himself with ardent zeal to the evangelization of the countryside and the formation of the clergy.

Although many miracles are attributed to him, St. Martin is famous above all for an act of fraternal charity. While still a young soldier, he met a poor man along the road who was frozen and trembling from the cold. Martin took his own cloak and cutting it with his sword, gave half of it to the man. That night Jesus appeared to Martin in a dream, smiling and wrapped in the cloak.

Dear brothers and sisters, St. Martin's charitable gesture inscribes itself in the same logic that moved Jesus to multiply the loaves of bread for the famished crowds, but above all to leave himself in food for humanity in the Eucharist, supreme sign of God's love, "sacramentum caritatis." It is in the logic of sharing that the love of neighbor is concretely expressed. May St. Martin help us to understand that it is only through a common commitment to sharing that it is possible to respond to the great challenge of our time: that of building up a world of peace and justice in which every man can live with dignity. This can happen if a global model of authentic solidarity prevails, one that is able to assure all the inhabitants of the planet food, water, necessary medicines, and also work and energy resources, as well as cultural goods and scientific and technological knowledge.

We turn now to the Virgin Mary to implore that she help all Christians to be, like St. Martin, generous witnesses of the Gospel of charity and tireless builders of solidary sharing.

[After praying the Angelus the Holy Father greeted those who were present in various languages. In Italian he said:]

Lebanon's national assembly will soon be called to elect the new head of state. As numerous initiatives undertaken in recent days have shown, this is a crucial moment on which depends the very survival of Lebanon and its institutions. I make my own the concerns recently expressed by the Maronite Patriarch, His Beatitude Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, and his desire that the new president recognize all Lebanese. Together let us implore Our Lady of Lebanon that she inspire in all the parties involved the necessary detachment from personal interests and a true passion for the common good.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[In English he said:]

I extend heartfelt greetings to the English-speaking visitors here today. At this time the Church remembers Saint Martin of Tours, the saintly monk and bishop who was moved with such great compassion for the sufferings of the poor. Recalling the occasion when he cut his cloak in two, and gave one half to a poor man, we resolve to follow his example by sharing what we have with those less fortunate than ourselves. Upon all of you, and upon your families and loved ones at home, I invoke God's abundant blessings.

© Copyright 2007 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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