Benedict turns to Paul to promote unity

Announcing a Pauline Year to commemorate the 2000th anniversary of the birth of the Apostle of the Gentiles, Pope Benedict emphasised the ecumenical dimensions of the event, saying that St Paul "spent himself for the unity and harmony of all Christians".

"The Apostle of the Gentiles, who dedicated himself to the spreading of the good news to all peoples, spent himself for the unity and harmony of all Christians," the Pope said, according to an AsiaNews report.

Speaking at St Paul outside the Walls basilica, the pope stressed this afternoon the witness, which united Paul and Peter up to their martyrdom.

Planned as part of the celebrations of Saint Paul's birth (which historians place between 7 and 10 AD), the Pauline Year will run from 28 June 2008 to 29 June 2009. It will be "a series of liturgical, cultural and ecumenical events as well as pastoral and social initiatives inspired by St Paul's spirituality", the pope says.

"There will be conferences and special studies on St Paul's writings which will improve our understanding of the wealth of learning they contain - a real legacy for humanity redeemed by Christ.

"Around the world in local dioceses, shrines and places of worship, religious, educational and welfare institutions bearing St Paul's name or inspired by him and his teachings will be able to organise similar initiatives", the pontiff said.

"Last but not least," the pope says, "a special aspect that will need much care at the different stages of the Pauline bimillenary is its ecumenical dimension."

"Especially involved in bringing the Good News to all the peoples, the Apostle to the Nations did all he could for the unity and harmony of all Christians," Pope Benedict said.

Turkey visit inspired pope on inter-religious dialogue

Meanwhile, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the newly appointed head of the Vatican office that specializes in relations with Muslims pledged on Wednesday to back the moderate forces within Islam to improve dialogue and help defeat extremist groups that encourage terrorism, the Star-Telegram says.

"We must help our Muslim friends rediscover the roots of their religion and therefore favour these moderate Muslims to achieve a dialogue that will bring a civil and harmonious cohabitation," Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran said.

Today's Zaman adds that Cardinal Tauran credited Pope Benedict's visit to Turkey last year for the decision to upgrade its office for inter-religious dialogue.

"This decision expresses the importance the pope gives to dialogue among religions, especially Islam," the French-born prelate said on Monday evening.

"It's a decision that matured during the pope's voyage to Turkey."

The pope's trip last November focused on repairing relations with Muslims after his Regensburg speech in September sparked outrage and protest in the Muslim world.

Pope launches Pauline Year with its unique ecumenical dimension (AsiaNews, 28/6/07)
Pope Kicks Off Year of St Paul (Zenit, 28/6/07)
Top Vatican official pledges to back moderate Muslims (Star Telegram, 28/6/07)
Cardinal says pope's Turkey trip was boost for Muslim office (Today's Zaman, 28/6/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
St Paul (Wikipedia)
The Holy See - Archive - Documents of the II Vatican Council

St Paul turns 2000 (CathNews, 28/6/07)
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29 Jun 2007