.- Pope Benedict XVI told some 25,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square today that St. Paul, who has often been called “the thirteenth Apostle,” demonstrated through his service of the Gospel, that “Salvation is offered to everyone without exception."
The Holy Father, who finished is examination of the twelve Apostles last Wednesday said that he would be dedicating this and future audiences to “other important figures of the early Church,” beginning with St. Paul, “the thirteenth Apostle.”
The Holy Father briefly outlined the life of Saul, indicating that he was from Tarsus, a city between Syria and Anatolia. A Jew of the diaspora, he came to Jerusalem to study Mosaic law but also practiced a trade, that of tentmaker, which later served him "to maintain and provide for himself, without weighing upon the Church."
The decisive moment for the Apostle was his "coming to know the community of those who professed themselves disciples of Jesus," practicing a faith "that concentrated not so much on the Law of God as on the person of Jesus ... to Whom was associated the remission of sins."
As a Jew, Saul considered this scandalous, to such an extent that he felt obliged to persecute Christians, even outside Jerusalem. However, on the road to Damascus, "he was seized by Christ... the light of the Risen One touched him and fundamentally changed his whole life," the Pope recounted.
The Holy Father noted that Paul himself speaks, "not only of vision but of illumination and, above all, of revelation and vocation in the meeting with the Risen One." He defines himself as "an Apostle by the will of God," said the Holy Father, "as if to underline that his conversion was the result not of reflection, but of divine intervention, of an unforeseeable divine grace.”
“And from that moment,” of his receiving that grace, the Pope continued, “all his energies were placed at the exclusive service of Jesus Christ and of His Gospel."
"From this we draw a very important lesson," Pope Benedict said, "what is important is to put Jesus Christ at the center of our lives.”
“Another fundamental lesson Paul teaches us," he continued, "is the universal nature of his apostolate… Salvation is offered to everyone without exception." The "announcement of grace destined to reconcile man with God, with himself and with others ... did not concern only the Jews or a limited group of people, but had a universal value and concerned everyone, because God is God to all," he noted.
In conclusion, Benedict XVI recalled Paul's numerous journeys, beginning in Antioch, his desire to spread the Good News in Spain, "the end of the known world," and his martyrdom in Rome under the emperor Nero.