Pope Speaks About a Re-evangeliser of Europe During Weekly Audience


(11 June 08 - RV) Pope Benedict spoke today about an early Irish Saint who helped re-evangelise Europe, during his weekly general audience in St Peter's Square.Lydia O'Kane reports...

Pope Benedict arrived into St Peter's Square in the fondly named Pope mobile to the cheers of all the pilgrims and tourists present.

After taking his seat under the shade of a large canopy the Holy Father continued his serialisation of figures of the early church. This week he turned an Irish Saint, Columban who was one of many Irish monks who contributed to the re-evangelisation of Europe in the early Middle Ages.

Columban made his monastic profession in Bangor and was ordained a priest. At the age of fifty, he left the monastery to begin missionary work in Europe, where entire regions had lapsed into paganism. Beginning in Brittany, Columban and his companions established monasteries at Annegray and Luxeuil. These became centres for the spread of the monastic and missionary ideals brought by the monks from their native Ireland. Columban introduced to Europe the Irish penititential discipline, including private confession.

The Pope went on to say that this Saint revived and nourished the Christian roots of Europe and is still serves an example for us today.

His stern moral teachings led to conflict with the local Bishops and the Frankish court, resulting in the exile of the Irish monks, first to the Rhineland and then to Italy. At Bobbio, where he established a great monastic centre, Columban worked for the conversion of the Arian Lombards and the restoration of unity with the Bishop of Rome. It was there that he died, leaving behind not only the example of an austere monastic life, but also a corpus of writings which shaped the monastic culture of the Middle Ages and thus nourished the Christian roots of Europe.

At the conclusion of the audience Pope Benedict offered warm greetings to all the English speaking pilgrims including those from Thailand and Nebraska in the U.S.

I offer a warm greeting and prayerful good wishes to Cardinal Kitbunchu and the pilgrims from Thailand who are present today, and also to the large group of delegates from the Pope Paul VI Institute in Nebraska. To all the English-speaking visitors, from England, Scotland, Scandinavia, Korea, and the United States of America, I extend a warm welcome. May God bless you all.

Taking a final turn around St Peter's Square in the pope mobile the Holy Father waved to all those gathered before returning inside the Vatican.