.- Made public today was a message from the Pope to Fr. Guido Innocenzo Gargano, superior of the Roman monastery of San Gregorio al Celio and to all members of the Camaldolese Order, for the occasion of the 1000th anniversary of the birth St. Peter Damian, whose feast is Wednesday.
In his Message, dated February 20, the Holy Father writes that this anniversary "is an appropriate occasion to give more profound consideration to the aspects characterizing the saint's multifaceted personality as scholar, hermit, man of the Church and, above all, enamoured of Christ."
"St. Peter Damian," he continues, "was first and foremost a hermit, indeed the last theoretician of hermitic life in the Latin Church," who lived "at the very moment when the schism between East and West came about."
After highlighting how for St. Peter Damian "the hermit's life was a powerful call for all Christians to the primacy of Christ," Pope Benedict recalls that this Italian saint "was ready to travel from his hermitage and go anywhere his presence was necessary to mediate between contending parties, whether they were ecclesiastics, monks or simple faithful."
“After each ecclesiastical mission he returned to the peace of his hermitage of Fonte Avellana and, free of all ambition, even definitively renounced the dignity of the cardinalate so as not to be drawn away from his hermit's solitude, the cell of his hidden life in Christ."
The Holy Father also recalls that St. Peter Damian was "the soul of the 'Gregorian reform' which marked the passage from the first millennium to the second and of which Pope St. Gregory VII was the heart and the driving force."
"With the pen and the word" the saint addressed "his hermit confreres, demanding the courage of a radical commitment to the Lord, as near as possible to martyrdom." He called on "Popes, bishops and high-ranking prelates to show evangelical detachment from honors and privileges in carrying out their ecclesial functions," and he reminded "priests of the exalted ideal of their mission, to be exercised with purity of private life and true individual poverty."
St. Peter Damian's was aware "that only through a constant harmonic tension between the two fundamental poles of life - solitude and communion - can effective Christian testimony develop. Is not this," the Pope concludes, "also a valid teaching for our own times."