Vatican City, Nov 9, 2008 / 10:08 am
Presiding over the recitation of the Sunday Angelus, Pope Benedict XVI commemorated the Feast of the Dedication of Rome’s Lateran Basilica. Calling Christians the ‘living stones’ of a ‘spiritual building,’ he reminded the faithful that God wants to build in the world a community that “worships him in spirit and truth.”
The Basilica, called the “mother and head of all churches of the City and the World,” was built after the Emperor Constantine’s Edict of Milan, which in 313 granted Christians freedom to practice their religion. The same emperor, the Holy Father recalled, “gave Pope Miltiades the old property of the family of the Laterans and built the Basilica, Baptistery and the residence of the Bishop of Rome, where the Popes lived until the Avignon period.”
The Holy Father also explained that although the church was originally opened in 324 and was dedicated to the Most Holy Savior, the names of Sts. John the Baptist and John the Evangelist, for whom the basilica is commonly named, were added only after the sixth century.
“This anniversary at first interested only the city of Rome; then, in 1565, it was extended to the Churches of the Roman rite. By honoring the Basilica, one intends to express love and veneration for the Roman Church, which, as St. Ignatius of Antioch affirms, ‘presides over the charity’ of the entire Catholic communion.”
The Holy Father noted that the readings for this solemnity recall an essential truth: “the temple of bricks is a symbol of the living Church, the Christian community, which the Apostles Peter and Paul already, in their letters, were understanding as a ‘spiritual building,’ constructed by God with the ‘living stones,’ which are the Christians, over the unique foundation, which is Jesus Christ, called the ‘cornerstone.’”
“The beauty and harmony of churches, destined to render praise to God, invites us, limited and sinners, to form a ‘cosmos,’ a well-ordered edifice, in communion with Jesus, who is the true Holy of Holies,” said the Pontiff.
He noted that this union happens in the Eucharistic liturgy, in which the “ecclesìa,” that is, the community of baptized, “meet again united to hear the Word of God and feed on the Body and Blood of Christ.”
Pope Benedict recounted the importance of the material building in which communities gather “to celebrate the praises of God.”
“Every community has the duty to guard with care its own sacred building, which constitutes a precious religious and historical patrimony. Let us invoke the intercession of Most Holy Mary to help us become, like her, a ‘house of God,’ a living temple of love,” the Holy Father continued.
After the Marian prayer of the Angelus, Benedict XVI recalled that today is the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht, “when Nazi fury against Jews broke loose in Germany.” He prayed for the victims and invited Christians to demonstrate “profound solidarity with the Hebrew world.”
The Pope also mentioned the armed encounters in the region of North Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “It is estimated that there are more than 1.5 million refugees,” he said, renewing his appeal to all to collaborate to restore peace in that land.
Finally, the Holy Father recalled that today’s Italian celebration of Thanksgiving, drawing attention to the problem of famine, “made more dramatic by the rise in prices of some basic food commodities. He prayed for the rural world, “especially for farmers in the developing world,” and said: “Who helps the poor helps Christ himself.”