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Wednesday, March 5, 2008


VATICAN CITY, 5 MAR 2008 (VIS) - St. Leo the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church, was the subject of Benedict XVI's catechesis during this morning's general audience. The Holy Father greeted pilgrims gathered in the Vatican Basilica before going on to the Paul VI Hall where more than six thousand people were waiting to hear him speak.

  St. Leo the Great, "as implied by the epithet tradition soon accorded to him", was one of the greatest incumbents of the See of Rome, the authority and prestige of which he strengthened. "He is also the earliest Pope whose sermons have come down to us, sermons he would address to the people who gathered around him during celebrations", said the Pope.

  "It is natural we should think of him also in the context of these Wednesday general audiences, which have over recent decades become a customary way for the Bishop of Rome to meet with the faithful and with many visitors from all over the world".

  St. Leo the Great was elected as Pope in the year 440. His pontificate lasted more than two decades and included "difficult times" during which "repeated barbarian invasions, the progressive weakening of imperial authority in the West and a lengthy social crisis forced the Bishop of Rome ... to take on an important role also in civil and political affairs", said Pope Benedict.

  For example, in 452 Leo the Great met with Attila the Hun in Mantua to dissuade him from continuing the invasion which had devastated parts of northern Italy. In 455 he similarly sought to dissuade Genseric the Vandal and, though he did not prevent him invading and sacking Rome, he did convince him not to raze the city and to respect the basilicas of St. Peter's, St. John Lateran and St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls, where part of the population had taken refuge.

  In his numerous sermons and letters, St. Leo appears to us "in all his greatness, dedicated to the service of truth in charity through the assiduous exercise of the word which reveals him, at one and the same time, as theologian and pastor. ... Constantly concerned for his faithful and for the people of Rome, but also for communion between the various Churches and for their needs, he tirelessly supported and promoted Roman primacy".

  The Holy Father explained how during Leo's pontificate the Council of Chalcedon took place, "the most important assembly in the history of the Church up to that time", which "affirmed the union in the one Person, without confusion and without separation, of the two natures, human and divine".

  "It is clear", Benedict XVI went on, "that this Pope felt particularly acutely his responsibility as Peter's Successor, whose role in the Church is unique because 'just one Apostle is entrusted with what is communicated to all the Apostles'". Leo the Great "showed himself capable of exercising this responsibility in both West and East, intervening prudently, firmly and coherently in various circumstances, both through his writings and by his legates. Thus he showed how the exercise of Roman primacy was necessary then, as it is now, as an effective service to communion, which is a characteristic of the one Church of Christ.

  "Conscious of the historical moment in which he lived and of the move that was taking place - in a period of profound crisis - from a pagan to a Christian Rome, Leo the Great remained close to the people and to the faithful with pastoral activity and prayer". He also "related the liturgy to the daily life of Christians", showing how "Christian liturgy is not a recollection of past events but the realisation of invisible truths that act upon the life of each individual".
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VATICAN CITY, 5 MAR 2008 (VIS) - In the light of the open letter "A Common Word" signed by 138 Muslim scholars, and of Benedict XVI's response through Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B., a delegation of five signatories of that letter met with five representatives of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue in the Vatican on 4 and 5 March.

  A communique made public today and signed by the heads of the two delegations, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran and by Sheikh Abdal Hakim Murad, states that, "in order to further develop Catholic-Muslim dialogue, the participants agreed to establish the 'Catholic-Muslim Forum' and to organise the first seminar of the forum in Rome from 4 to 6 November 2008".

  That meeting will be attended by 24 religious leaders and scholars from each side. The theme will be "Love of God, Love of Neighbour" and the sub-themes "Theological and Spiritual Foundations" and "Human Dignity and Mutual Respect". The seminar will conclude with a public session on 6 November and the participants will be received by Pope Benedict XVI.

  The participants in this month's meeting were, on the Catholic side, Cardinal Tauran, Archbishop Pier Luigi Celata and Msgr. Khaled Akasheh, respectively president, secretary and head officer for Islam of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue; Fr. Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot M.C.C.J., president of the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies; and Fr. Christian W. Troll S.J., visiting professor at the Pontifical Gregorian University.

  On the Muslim side, the meeting was attended by Sheikh Murad, president of the Muslim Academic Trust, UK; Professor Aref Ali Nayed director of the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre, Amman, Jordan; Dr. Ibrahim Kalin of the SETA Foundation, Ankara, Turkey; Imam Yahya Pallavicini, vice-president of CO.RE.IS. (Comunità Religiosa Islamica), Italy; and Sohail Nakhooda, editor-in-chief of "Islamica" Magazine, Amman, Jordan.

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