Steady rain fell on St. Peter’s Square today, but that did not stop 30,000 people from attending the Pope’s Wednesday audience. He pointed the gathered pilgrims to the example of St. Maximus of Turin, who teaches Christians that they are called to be good citizens of earth and of Heaven.
Maximus became bishop of the Italian city of Turin in the year 398 just as it was being threatened by various barbarian tribes. Since Turin was protected by a military garrison, it served as a safe haven for people fleeing rural areas.
Faced with such a situation the activities of Maximus, "bear witness to his commitment to react to the degradation and break-up" of civil society, said the Pope. The bishop censured the faithful when they sought to turn another's disadvantage to their own benefit, thus highlighting "the profound relationship between a person's duties as a Christian and as a citizen." And Maximus was concerned "not only with people's traditional love for their hometown" but also proclaimed "the specific duty of paying taxes."
A historical and literary analysis of the figure of St. Maximus, said the Pope, "demonstrates his growing awareness of the political responsibility of the ecclesiastical authorities at a time in which they were, in effect, substituting civil authority."
"It is clear that today's historical, cultural and social context is completely different," the Holy Father went on, "but in any case, ... the duties of believers towards their city and their homeland remain the same. The link between the obligations of the 'honest citizen' and those of the 'good Christian' has not changed in the least."
Pope Benedict then pointed the faithful to the Vatican Council II Pastoral Constitution "Gaudium et spes" which had the aim "of illuminating one of the most important aspects of the unity of Christian life: coherence between faith and life, between Gospel and culture."
Vatican Council II, he concluded, "exhorts Christians, as citizens of two cities, to strive to discharge their earthly duties conscientiously and in response to the Gospel spirit. They are mistaken who, knowing that we have here no abiding city but seek one which is to come, think that they may therefore shirk their earthly responsibilities. For they are forgetting that by the faith itself they are more obliged than ever to measure up to these duties, each according to his proper vocation."