Early Christians,â Giovanni Maria Vian, director of LâOsservatore Romano, explained why Pope Benedict XVI is dedicating his Wednesday catechesis to the lives and witnesses of the early Christians..- In an interview with the Catholic organization â
During the interview, Vian called the early Christians âa light that comes from afar,â as Paul VI called them, and explained that they constitute âthe Christian tradition, and this is the reason for the Popeâs decision to speak about them in the weekly meetings he has with the faithful and with visitors.â He has chosen to speak âfirst about the apostles and the very first generations of Christians, and after about the Fathers of the Church.â
Vian also explained the significance of the fact that Pope Benedictâs reflections help preserve the Churchâs tradition. âTradition means âto transmit,â and tradition is a fundamental and essential concept of the Christian faith. This choice by the Pope is important because it is an invitation to Christians to renew their relationship with the tradition of the faith,â he said.
âItâs evident that the Fathers of the Church are above all intellectuals, masters of the faith, and in speaking of the first Christians one usually thinks of these authors. âFathersâ is a word that in the tradition of the Church means âauthorized person,â someone who has authority. On the other hand, the martyrs are witnesses of Christ, because martyr means that, witness.â
Vian said the Fathers of the Church âare exceptional figures, but at the same they are figures who know how to convey their experience of Christ. In his first encyclical the Pope wrote that Christianity is not an ideology or an ethic. It is an encounter with a person, Christ. What the Fathers convey is an experience of Christ, but they do so in a way that is very creative and very simple. That is what the Pope himself is doing,â Vian continued.
He went on to point out that one of the main characteristics of Benedict XVI is that he is âso imbued with Christian tradition that he does not need to include many quotes; rather, he himself is so immersed that he speaks as a Father of the Church, what he says is understood, even though they are profound discourses. It is a way of drawing close to the Christian experience in a very lofty but understandable way.â
âIn an age such as ours in which secularism is more and more rampant, it is essential that Christians acquire greater maturity in order to be more responsible and to be able to face these challenges,â Vian said. âThe patristic period is essential for Christian thinking and culture.â