In his weekly audience today, Pope Benedict XVI continued his lessons on the Fathers of the Church by focusing on Pope Saint Gregory the Great. From St. Gregory we can learn that closeness to God brings true peace and hope, Pope Benedict said.
Under the hot Roman May sun, the Holy Father taught the thousands of visitors and pilgrims in St Peter's Square about how Gregory the Great left a life of civil service for the service of God.
"Born of a noble Roman family, Gregory entered the civil service, in which he rose to the dignity of Prefect of the City, and then embraced the monastic life.”
Upon noticing Gregory’s skills and experience, Pope Pelagius II appointed him as deacon and sent him as ambassador to Constantinople "to help surmount the last vestiges of the Monophysite controversy and, above all, to obtain the emperor's support in the struggle to counteract the pressure of the Lombards."
Pope Benedict noted that Gregory's papal ministry was marked by tireless energy and a clear vision of the grave problems facing civil society and the Church:
"Gregory made every effort to contain the Lombard invasion, to provide for the evangelization of that people, and to establish peace throughout Italy. In addition to his preaching, teaching and pastoral activity, he also reorganized the management of the Church's goods and ensured a more effective administration of her charitable works,” Benedict XVI said.
Caring for the poor was also a priority for St. Gregory the Great.
Pope Benedict related one example of his compassion: “With the income of the considerable patrimony which the See of Rome possessed in Italy, especially in Sicily, he bought and distributed grain, helped those in need, assisted poverty-stricken priests, monks and nuns, paid the ransom of citizens who had fallen prisoner to the Lombards, and bought armistices and truces."
"Gregory," the Pope explained, "undertook these intense activities despite poor health which often forced him to keep his bed for days on end. ... Notwithstanding the difficult conditions in which he had to work, he managed, thanks to the holiness of his life and his abundant humanity, to conquer the trust of the faithful, achieving what, for his own time and for the future, were truly grand results."
"He was a man immersed in God. The desire for God was perpetually alive in the depths of his soul and precisely for this reason he always remained close to others, to the needs of the people of his time. At a time of disaster - a desperate time - he managed to create peace and bring hope. This man of God shows us,” Benedict XVI concluded, "where the true sources of peace are, where true hope comes from, and thus he is also a guide for us today."