2011-05-23 13:17:09

Sts. Cyril and Methodius: evangelizing civilization

Pope Benedict XVI delivered a pair of addresses Monday morning, one to a delegation from Bulgaria and another to a delegation from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The delegations are in Rome on pilgrimage, to mark the feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius. The theme uniting the Holy Father’s two speeches was the need to recover the Christian roots of Europe.

Sts. Cyril and Methodius were brothers born into a Byzantine noble family of Senatorial rank in Thesalonika in the early 9th century. They dedicated their lives to the service of the Church and the cause of the Gospel, and their missionary efforts brought the Good News to the Slavic peoples, in the process introducing the patrimony of Western civilization and laying the foundations for a cultural identity that was at once Slavic, European and Christian.

Their passionate erudition has earned them the undying veneration of Christians in the East and West alike.

In remarks to the Bulgarian delegation, here in Rome on an annual pilgrimage coinciding with the Eastern feast day of the great saints, and headed by the President of the Bulgarian Parliament, Tsetska Tsacheva, Pope Benedict celebrated the brothers as, “Illustrious and most worthy pioneers of the evangelization of Europe.” He went on to say, “With their courageous preaching in the streets of the continent,” the brothers, “promoted a vast spiritual renewal and laid the foundations for an authentic promotion of freedom and of the unity of Christian Europe.”

The spirit and example of Cyril and Methodius is not only to be praised as a piece of a bygone age.

“For the peoples of Europe,” said Poe Benedict, “these two great saints remind us that their unity” – the unity of Europe – “will be more solid if it is based on common Christian roots.” The Pope identified Christianity as a central and defining element in Europe’s complex history, and discussed how the Christian faith has shaped the culture of the Old Continent, saying that this faith, “is intertwined with its history,” to such a point that the history of Europe is not comprehensible without reference to the events that marked the first great period of evangelization, and the centuries in which Christianity assumed a growing role.

The Pope went on to discuss how, in the present day, Europeans are called to commit themselves to creating the conditions for a deep, cohesive and effective cooperation among peoples – a cooperation that cannot be based on an appeal to purely economic interests, but must rather rely on those authentic human goods​​, which have their foundation in universal moral law written on the heart of every man.

“It is important, therefore,” said Pope Benedict, “that Europe also grow in the spiritual dimension, in keeping with the best angels of the history,” of Europe’s peoples.

This was a theme to which the Holy Father also turned in his remarks to the delegation from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, headed by the country’s President, Gjorge Ivanov. “Still today,” said Pope Benedict, “the testimony and teaching of Sts. Cyril and Methodius are relevant both for those who serve the gospel, and for those who are called to steer the destinies of nations.”

Listen to Chris Altieri’s report: RealAudioMP3

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