Pope Benedict XVI explained how it "was an expression of his communities' debt towards the Mother Church of Palestine, from which they had received the priceless gift of the Gospel."

Press Release – Vatican

VATICAN CITY, 1 OCT 2008 (VIS) – In his general audience, held this morning in St. Peter's Square in the presence of 20,000 people, the Pope continued his series of catecheses on St. Paul.

The Holy Father concentrated his attention on two episodes described in the Letter to the Galatians, episodes "that show the veneration and, at the same time, the freedom with which Paul treated Peter and the other Apostles: the Council of Jerusalem, and the incident at Antioch in Syria".

"Each Council and Synod of the Church is 'an event of the Spirit'", the Pope explained. "The Spirit, Who works in the entire Church, led the Apostles by the hand down new roads to achieve His plans. He is the main architect of the edification of the Church".

The Pope recalled how the Council of Jerusalem was called to determine "whether it was necessary to impose circumcision on the pagans who were following Jesus Christ the Lord, or if they could legally be freed from the restraints of Mosaic Law, in other words from the observation of norms established to make a men just, … especially those relating to ritual purity, clean and unclean foods, and norms concerning the Sabbath".

"If", he went on, "for Luke the Council of Jerusalem expressed the action of the Spirit, for Paul it represented the decisive recognition of the freedom that all the participants shared: freedom from the obligations arising from circumcision and from the Law".

"Nonetheless", the Holy Father continued, "Christian liberty is never to be identified with libertinism or with the freedom to do as one pleases; it is enacted in conformity with Christ and, hence, in true service to our bothers and sisters, especially those most in need".

In this context he mentioned the collection organised by St. Paul for the poor of Jerusalem, explaining how it "was an expression of his communities' debt towards the Mother Church of Palestine, from which they had received the priceless gift of the Gospel".

The incident between Peter and Paul in Antioch was caused by Peter's decision to abstain from eating with the Gentiles "so as not to scandalise those who continued to observe the laws of food purity", said the Pope.

"In reality the concerns troubling Paul on the one hand, and Peter and Barnabas on the other, were different", he explained. For Peter and Barnabas "the separation from pagans was a way to protect and to avoid scandalising believers from Jewish backgrounds, while for Paul it risked causing a misunderstanding of the universal salvation in Christ offered to both pagans and Jews".

Benedict XVI pointed out the fact that around the mid 50s Paul himself "had to face a similar situation, and he called on the strong not to eat unclean food so as not to alienate or scandalise the weak. … The incident of Antioch, then, was a lesson both for Peter and for Paul. Only sincere dialogue, open to the truth of the Gospel, could guide the path of the Church".

"This is a lesson we too must learn", he concluded. "With the different charisms entrusted to Peter and to Paul, let us all allow ourselves to be guided by the Spirit, seeking to live in the freedom that has its guide in our faith in Christ and its concrete form in service to others. It is vital to conform ourselves ever more closely to Christ. In this way we truly become free and find within ourselves the real centre and profound essence of the Law: love of God and of neighbour".


VATICAN CITY, 1 OCT 2008 (VIS) – Pope Benedict XVI's general prayer intention for October is: "That the Synod of Bishops may help the pastors and theologians, the catechists and promoters who are engaged in the service of the Word of God to courageously transmit the truth of faith in communion with the entire Church".

His mission intention is: "That in this month dedicated to the missions, through the promotional activities of the Pontifical Missionary Works and other organisms, every Christian community may feel the need to participate in the Church's universal mission with prayer, sacrifice and concrete help".