.- In St. Peter’s Square some 40,000 people gathered to hear Pope Benedict’s continuing catechesis on the apostles. Today, the Holy Father spoke of the Apostle James the Lesser who, Benedict said, was a bridge builder and who provided a concrete and practical method of Christian faith.
Pope Benedict said that the New Testament Letter attributed to James, "places much emphasis on the need not to reduce one's own faith to a mere abstract or verbal declaration, but to express it solidly in works of charity. James, he said, reminds us that, “just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead (James 2:26).”
James also, “calls us to constancy in trials, ... and to faithful prayer to God for the gift of wisdom, thanks to which we come to understand that the true values of life are not to be found in transitory riches, but rather in knowing how to share our own wealth with the poor and needy."
“The Letter of Saint James demonstrates a Christianity very concrete and practical,” the Holy Father said.
The Pope also recalled how James the Less "played a preeminent role within the Church in Jerusalem. ... In the apostolic council held there ... he affirmed, together with others, that pagans could be welcomed into the Church without first undergoing circumcision."
"St. Paul," the Pope went on, "names him even before Peter as a 'pillar' of the Church," and "the Jewish-Christians considered him to be their principal point of reference." Together with Peter, he helped "to integrate the original Jewish dimension of Christianity with the need not to impose all the precepts of Mosaic Law upon pagan converts."
"In this way, two significant and complementary results were achieved, both of them still valid: on the one hand, the indissoluble relationship linking Christianity and Judaism was recognized, ... on the other, Christians of pagan origin were allowed to maintain their own sociological identity. ... Thus began a process of reciprocal esteem and respect which, despite unfortunate later misunderstandings, sought by its nature to safeguard the characteristic elements distinguishing each of the two sides."