Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Year of St. Paul-Audience Series

B16 lays out a basic bio on St. Paul, continuing his series.

Pope, at audience, offers quick biography of St. Paul

First the Pope explained that experts set the birth of St. Paul in the year 8 AD-- thus establishing this year as the 2000th anniversary-- because Saul was described as a young man at the time St. Stephen was slain, and as an old man when he was imprisoned in Rome.

Saul was born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia that was a provincial capital-- which, incidentally, was once ruled by Cicero, and later was the site of the first meeting between Marc Antony and Cleopatra.

Saul was a Jew who spoke Greek and a Roman citizen. Thus, the Pope remarked, he lived at the intersection of three important cultures. He was also a trained craftsman, who probably learned from his father to make tents.

At about the age of 12, young Saul left Tarsus for Jerusalem, to study in the strict tradition of the Pharisees. That study, the Pope observed, "instilled in him a great zeal for the Mosaic law," and caused him to view the followers of Christ as dangerous threats to Jewish orthodoxy and identity.

That intolerant attitude was changed completely along the road to Damascus, the Pope continued, and Paul became a tireless missionary for the Gospel. He undertook three great missionary journeys, which are described in the Acts of the Apostles, followed by his fourth trip as a prisoner to Rome.

Pope Benedict traced the route taken by Paul and his companions on those trips, as well as the key role that Paul played in the Council of Jerusalem. The Pope noted that while St. Luke reports that Paul spent two years in Rome under house arrest, the final events of the Apostle's life are not fully recorded. But apparently his appeal to the Emperor Nero was unsuccessful, and he died as a martyr. The Pontiff promised to speak about St. Paul's martyrdom, too, in a future Wednesday catechetical talk.

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