While preparing for the celebration of Sts. Peter and Paul in Rome on Friday, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the importance of the Apostle Paul for Christians today and announced that the year dedicated to him will focus on ecumenism.
The Holy Father was at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls to begin the solemnity honoring the two saints who helped found the Church.
Speaking about St. Paul, the Pope said that he, "was 'set apart for the Gospel of God,' to spread the announcement of divine grace that, in Christ, reconciles man with God, with himself and with others."
The Apostle of the Gentiles, said the Pope, "was anything but a gifted speaker," and hence "the extraordinary apostolic results he was able to achieve are not to be attributed to brilliant rhetoric or to refined apologetics and missionary strategies. The success of his apostolate depended above all on his personal involvement in announcing the Gospel of Christ with total dedication to Him, a dedication that feared no risks, difficulties or persecutions."
"From this," he continued, "we can draw a very important lesson for all Christians: The activity of the Church is credible and effective only in as much as those who are part thereof are ready to pay their faithfulness to Christ in person. ... If such willingness is lacking, then the decisive argument of truth upon which the Church depends also fails. ... As in the beginning, today too Christ needs apostles ready to sacrifice themselves ... like St. Paul."
Benedict also officially announced that the Church will dedicate “a special jubilee year to the Apostle Paul from June 28, 2008 to June 29, 2009, for the occasion of the 2000th
anniversary of his birth, which historians place between 7 and 10 AD."
The Pope explained that the year’s events will be hosted primarily in Rome and consist of "a series of liturgical, cultural and ecumenical events, as well as pastoral and social initiatives." In addition, "special attention" will be given to penitential pilgrimages to the tomb of the Apostle while, all over the world in dioceses and places of worship dedicated to St. Paul, similar initiatives may be held.
The Holy Father highlighted the fact that the Pauline Year will be characterized by its "ecumenical dimension" because "the Apostle of the Gentiles, particularly dedicated to bringing the Good News to all peoples, concerned himself with the unity and harmony of all Christians.
"May he guide and protect us in this bi-millennial celebration," the Pope added in conclusion, "helping us to progress in a humble and sincere search for full unity among all members of the mystical Body of Christ."