Introducing the Sunday Angelus prayer, the Holy Father said he felt that the coincidence of the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul with the observance of Sunday is "favorable to giving greater emphasis to an extraordinary event: the Pauline Year."
The Holy Father inaugurated the Pauline Year on Saturday evening in a ceremony held next to the tomb of St. Paul. The Pauline Year will last until June 29, 2009.
"Historians put the birth of Saul, who would become Paul, between 7 and 10 A.D. Therefore, upon the passage of about two thousand years, I wanted to convene this special jubilee which will naturally center upon Rome, and in particular the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls and Paul's place of martyrdom at the Tre Fontana Square," said the pontiff.
The jubilee year, he said, will involve the whole Church and will especially focus on places important in St. Paul’s life: his birthplace Tarsus, the Holy Land, the Island of Malta, and pilgrimage destinations in present-day Turkey.
He also emphasized that the Pauline Year is a celebration of the whole Church, in all corners of the earth, because "the horizon of the Pauline Year cannot but be universal, as was St. Paul, the Apostle par excellence for those whose relation to the Hebrews was ‘distant’ but, ‘thanks to the blood of Christ,’ they ‘have become close.’ That is why in a world that is increasingly 'small', but where many have not yet met the Lord Jesus, the jubilee of St. Paul invites all Christians to be missionaries of the Gospel."
Later the Holy Father recalled that "this missionary dimension needs to be accompanied by one of unity, represented by St. Peter, the 'rock' on whom Christ built His Church. The charisms of the two great Apostles are complementary for the building of a single people of God. Christians cannot give sound witness to Christ if they are not united together."
He then asked for prayers for particular intentions.
"The Pauline Year, evangelism, communion within the Church and the full unity of all Christians: Pray for these great intentions entrusted to the heavenly intercession of Mary, Most Holy Mother of the Church and Queen of the Apostles," the Holy Father concluded.
He then prayed the Angelus with those present and gave them his Apostolic blessing.
Visit CNA's Pauline Year web site.
Before the thousands of pilgrims gathered on Sunday in St. Peter's Square, Pope Benedict XVI recalled that the missionary dimension represented by St. Paul must always be accompanied by the dimension of unity represented by St. Peter, upon whom Christ built His Church. “Christians cannot give sound witness to Christ if they are not united together,” he said.