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Pope, at St Augustine's burial place, says seek truth

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  • Pope, at St Augustine's burial place, says seek truth

    PAVIA, Italy (Reuters) - Pope Benedict on Sunday visited the burial place of St Augustine, the intellectually restless 5th century theologian who had major impact on Western thought, and urged Catholics to never stop seeking the truth.

    The 80-year-old Pope, on the second day of a weekend trip to northern Italy, said a mass for some 20,000 people gathered on a riverside field in this city southwest of Milan.

    Benedict, one of the Catholic Church's top theologians even before he was elected Pope two years ago, dedicated most of his homily at the mass to St. Augustine, who was born in North Africa and is considered one of history's greatest thinkers.

    Augustine's major writings, including "Confessions,", "The City of God," and "Of Free Choice of the Will," are considered to be central to the developing of both Western theology and Western thought in the first millennium.

    Augustine was tormented by his personal quest for the truth and a personal relationship with God, and the Pope said today's Christians should emulate him.

    "There is no need for me to say how much this regards us. We should remain people who seek, who are not content with what others do and say," he said in his homily.

    Benedict himself was greatly influenced by Augustine. In 1953 the future pope wrote his doctoral dissertation about St. Augustine and cites him often in his writings and speeches.

    Some of the most popular quotes by St. Augustine, who led a hedonistic life for some time before his conversion, include "Love the sinner and hate the sin" and "(God) Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet".

    Though he lived some nearly 1,600 years ago, Augustine's life and writing influenced artists through the ages, including songs by Bob Dylan, Sting and even the Rolling Stones.

    The Pope was due to pray at Augustine's tomb before returning to Rome. The saint's remains were moved to Italy for protection several hundred years after his death in what is now Algeria.

  • #2
    PAVIA, Italy: Pope Benedict XVI paid homage Sunday to a key figure in the early Christian church, St. Augustine, during one of his rare pastoral trips and delivered a message that he said the world needed to hear: God is love.

    In the northern city of Pavia, Benedict prayed before the remains of Augustine and said he wanted to use such a poignant moment to remind the faithful of the "significant message" for the church contained in his own first encyclical, published last year.

    "I am convinced that contemporary humanity needs this essential message, embodied in Jesus Christ: God is love," he said during a prayer service before the relics of Augustine, contained in a glass case in Pavia's 12th century San Pietro in Ciel d'Oro basilica.

    Augustine, the 5th century theologian, was a tremendous spiritual and theological influence on Benedict. The pontiff's encyclical, in which he offered his vision for the Roman Catholic Church's mission in the world, is largely attributed to Augustine's writings.

    The pope's visit to the basilica was the highlight of a two-day visit to northern Italy — his first purely pastoral visit in Italy — during which he focused on the importance of Augustine's message, as well as the need to protect life and defend the traditional family.

    Augustine, who lived from 354-430, was raised a Christian but renounced his faith as a teenager, only to convert again to Christianity in his mid 30s. His writings, in such works as "Confessions" and "City of God," are considered by many to be the foundations of Western theology and he is known as a father, or doctor of the early Christian church.

    The pope cites Augustine frequently and wrote his doctoral thesis on him in 1953.

    Augustine's lifelong quest for truth was the topic of a homily Benedict delivered during an open-air Mass Sunday attended by thousands of people.

    "He wanted to be able to know what man is, where the world comes from, where do we come from, where we are going and how we can find a true life," he said. "The passion for the truth is the true password of his life."

    Benedict stressed Augustine's conversion, and prayed that God give the faithful "the necessary conversion that takes us to a true life."

    Earlier in the day, Benedict visited a hospital and praised medical advances, saying they were alleviating the suffering of many people. But he added: "It is my true hope that the necessary scientific and technological progress are constantly accompanied by the conscience to also promote ... those fundamental values like the respect of human life in each of its phases," he said.

    Benedict has repeatedly campaigned for defense of human life, and his call for a respect for life in all its stages — from conception to natural death — is a Vatican catch phrase to express opposition to abortion and euthanasia.

    Benedict's trip to Pavia and Vigevano, where he celebrated Mass on Saturday, marked his most extensive pastoral visit in Italy since being elected pope two years ago.

    The 80-year-old pope has limited his domestic and international travel, although he chose to add the stop in Vigevano because it was the one diocese in the region that the globe-trotting Pope John Paul II didn't visit during his 26-year papacy.


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