VATICAN CITY, JUN 27, 2007 (VIS) – The Holy Father dedicated his catechesis during today’s general audience to St. Cyril of Jerusalem (ca. 315-387), whom he described as a bishop of a great “ecclesiastical culture, centered on the study of the Bible.” The general audience, Benedict XVI’s hundredth, began with his greeting pilgrims in St. Peter’s Basilica, then continued in the Paul VI Hall. It was attended by around 7,000 people.
Cyril, the Pope explained, was consecrated a bishop in 348 by Acacius, metropolitan of Caesarea in Palestine and a supporter of Arianism. However, soon afterwards the two men came into contrast, “not only in the doctrinal field, but also in the area of jurisprudence, because Cyril claimed the autonomy of his see from the metropolitan see of Caesarea.” He was exiled thee times and only in 378, following the death of the emperor Valens, could Cyril return to his see, “restoring unity and peace among the faithful.” Of this saint we have his “Catecheses,” 24 catechetical lectures introduced by a prologue. “Catechesis,” the Holy Father explained, “was an important moment, inserted into the broad context of the entire life – and especially the liturgical life – of the Christian community” where “the future faithful were gestated, accompanied by the prayer and witness of their brethren. This was a very important moment, it was not just an intellectual catechesis, but a way of learning to live in the Christian community.
As a whole, Cyril’s homilies constitute a systematic and pragmatic catechesis on the rebirth of Christians through Baptism.” From a doctrinal point of view, Cyril uses his work – through “a ‘symphonic’ relationship between the two Testaments” – to reach “Christ, center of the universe.” In his moral catechesis, he invites people “to transform pagan forms of behavior on the basis of the new life in Christ.” In his “mystagogic” catechesis, he brings the newly baptized “to discover the hidden mysteries … contained in the baptismal rites.” “The mystery to be understood is the design of God which is accomplished through the salvific action of Christ in the Church. The mystagogic dimension is, in turn, accompanied by the dimension of symbols which express the spiritual experience they bring about.” “This is, then,” the Pope concluded, “an integral catechesis which – involving body, soul and spirit – remains emblematic for the catechetical formation of Christians today. Let us ask the Lord to help us understand a Christianity that truly embraces all of our existence and makes us credible witnesses of Christ, true God and true man.”
AG/CYRIL OF JERUSALEM/… VIS 070627 (440)