Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, archpriest of the papal basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls in Rome, held a briefing this morning on the closure of the Pauline Year. The cardinal noted that although the year is coming to an end, "the great ferment of pastoral initiatives, catechesis, and cultural events is destined to continue and to find a large following at both the local and the continental level."
In the meeting, the cardinal reflected on the two basic objectives of the Pauline year, which were an increase in the knowledge of and mediation on the message of St. Paul and the creation of ecumenical programs to work with "non-Catholic Christian communities on various initiatives of prayer, study and culture."
Cardinal Montezemolo explained that since the inauguration of the Year of St. Paul on June 28, 2008, "the celebration of the second millennium of the birth of the Apostle of the Gentiles was perceived and experienced as a fresh stimulus, a further reason to work towards evangelization."
"This was also felt in the Orthodox Churches and in many other Christian communities, and has become a shared commitment on the path to recreating unity among Christians," he added.
The cardinal noted that St. Paul’s Outside-the-Walls has seen huge numbers of pilgrims over the last year. "On May 1, 2009 alone more than eighteen thousand pilgrims came to the basilica," he explained, "and over recent weeks we have certainly seen more than ten thousand a day."
For the celebration of the Pauline Year, an opening was made in the brickwork around Paul’s tomb under the main altar of the basilica "so that pilgrims could see one side of the great marble sarcophagus, which has never been opened and which has held the mortal remains of the Apostle for the last twenty centuries."
Although the Pauline year comes to an end on Sunday, Cardinal Montezemolo announced: "The Pauline Door ... will remain open, and the Pauline flame lit by the Holy Father at the beginning of this year will continue to burn... reminding all the pilgrims who continue to arrive from every corner of the globe of the richness and profundity of the Word of God transmitted to us by the Apostle of the Gentiles."