Wednesday General Audience

The Gospel must reach all of society not just the poor, says Pope Benedict

The Gospel must reach all of society not just the poor, says Pope Benedict


The Holy Father traveled to the Vatican from his summer house in Castelgandolfo this morning for his weekly General Audience, which he delivered to the 20,000 pilgrims gathered to listen. 

Pope Benedict focused on how St. John Chrysostom set about to reform the Church immediately after being made the bishop of Constantinople in 397 and on how his reform encompassed all of society. 

The saint did not exempt himself from this reform either. "The austerity of the episcopal palace had to be an example to everyone." In fact, thanks to his "concern for the poor," the saint "was also known as the 'Alms-giver' ... and he created a number of highly-regarded charitable institutions."

St. Chrysostom worked to bring life to families too. "As a true pastor, he treated everyone cordially. ... In particular, he always showed tender concern for women and particular interest in marriage and the family. He invited the faithful to participate in liturgical life, which his creative genius would make particularly splendid and attractive."

The bishop saint also worked for reform in the political and civic orders. The Holy Father noted that, “Because of his continuous dealings with the civil authorities and institutions, he often found himself involved in political questions and intrigues, ... and was condemned to exile" where he died in the year 407.

Speaking of how he intended to lead mankind back to God, Pope Benedict XVI said that saint wished “to lead the faithful back from the creation to the Creator”.

He taught that because God is the God of condescension and he sent fallen man a letter: Holy Scripture, man has been prepared for the sending of the Holy Spirit. The arrival of the Holy Spirit, according to St. John Chrysostom, makes possible the transformation of the world.

The Holy Father explained that St. John Chrysostom saw four phases. God Who is visible in His creation, God Who writes us a letter [the Scriptures], God Who descends towards us, and arrival of the vital and dynamic principle of the Holy Spirit, Who transforms the reality of the world. God comes into our lives ... and transforms us from within."

In his commentary to the Acts of the Apostles, St. John Chrysostom proposes "the model of the early Church as a model for society, creating a social 'utopia' ... and seeking to give a Christian soul and a Christian aspect to the city. In other words, Chrysostom understood that it was not enough to give alms, to help the poor one case at a time, rather that it was necessary to create a new structure, a new model for society ... based on the new Testament. According to Pope Benedict, it is for this reason that we may consider him as one of the great Fathers of the Church's social doctrine."

With St. Paul, St. John Chrysostom "supported the primacy of human beings, including slaves and the poor, said the Pope. This contrasted with the structure of the Greek 'polis' where "vast sectors of the population were excluded form the right to citizenship;" in the Christian city, on the other hand, "all are brothers and sisters with the same rights."

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