At today's general audience in St. Peter's Square, the Pope focused his remarks on St. Boniface, "apostle of the Germans." Pope Benedict said that Boniface’s “courageous witness” is an invitation to all to “welcome the Word of God in their lives as an essential point of reference, to love the Church passionately, to feel a joint responsibility for her future and to seek unity around St. Peter’s Successor.”
St. Boniface, Benedict XVI explained to the 20,000 people gathered in the square, was born in Great Britain around the year 675 and entered a monastery while still very young.
He felt called to become a missionary among the pagans of continental Europe, and in the year 716, he and several companions travelled to Frisia, which is modern-day Holland. There they encountered opposition from a local chieftain and their attempted mission of evangelization failed.
Two years later Boniface went to Rome to meet Pope Gregory II, who entrusted him with the mission of preaching the Gospel among the people of Germany.
There, the Holy Father recalled, Boniface “restored ecclesiastical discipline, called a number of synods to ensure the authority of sacred canons and strengthened communion with the Roman Pontiff.” Also, Boniface “backed the foundation of various monasteries, for both men and women, to act as beacons irradiating human and Christian faith and culture in the region.”
Shortly before his eightieth birthday, Boniface returned to Frisia. There, as he was celebrating Holy Mass in Dokkum on June 5, 754, he was killed by a band of pagans.
From the teaching and the prodigious activities of this missionary and martyr, Pope Benedict said, one can draw the message of "the central importance of the Word of God, lived and interpreted in the faith of the Church, which he preached and to which he bore witness even unto the supreme gift of self in martyrdom."
Benedict XVI also pointed out that one could draw the message of Boniface’s “faithful communion with the Apostolic See, which was a fixed and central principle of his missionary work."
Lastly, the Holy Father identified the message of Boniface’s "promotion of the encounter between Roman Christian culture and Germanic culture.” Transmitting the ancient heritage of Christian values,” the Pope added, Boniface “gave the people he evangelized a more humane lifestyle, thanks to which the inalienable rights of the person enjoyed greater respect."
The Holy Father concluded by comparing St. Boniface’s faith with “our own faith, often lukewarm and bureaucratized.” “We have to ask ourselves: how can we renew it so as to ensure the precious gift of the Gospel reaches our own times?"