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Saint Cyril of Jerusalem

Father of the Church - from (what is now) Israel
Born in (or near) Jerusalem in 315 AD
Died in Jerusalem in 387
Feast day - 18th March

Catechesis by Pope Benedict XVI
Paul VI Hall, General Audience, Wednesday 27 June 2007 - in Croatian, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear brothers and sisters,
Our attention today is focused on St Cyril of Jerusalem. His life is woven of two dimensions: on the one hand, pastoral care and, on the other, his involvement, in spite of himself, in the heated controversies that were then tormenting the Church of the East. Cyril was born at or near Jerusalem in 315 AD. He received an excellent literary education which formed the basis of his ecclesiastical culture, centred on study of the Bible. He was ordained a priest by Bishop Maximus. When this Bishop died or was deposed in 348, Cyril was ordained a Bishop by Acacius, the influential Metropolitan of Caesarea in Palestine, a philo-Arian who must have been under the impression that in Cyril he had an ally; so as a result Cyril was suspected of having obtained his episcopal appointment by making concessions to Arianism.

Actually, Cyril very soon came into conflict with Acacius, not only in the field of doctrine but also in that of jurisdiction, because he claimed his own See to be autonomous from the Metropolitan See of Caesarea. Cyril was exiled three times within the course of approximately 20 years: the first time was in 357, after being deposed by a Synod of Jerusalem; followed by a second exile in 360, instigated by Acacius; and finally, in 367, by a third exile - his longest, which lasted 11 years - by the philo-Arian Emperor Valens. It was only in 378, after the Emperor's death, that Cyril could definitively resume possession of his See and restore unity and peace to his faithful.

Some sources of that time cast doubt on his orthodoxy, whereas other equally ancient sources come out strongly in his favour. The most authoritative of them is the Synodal Letter of 382 that followed the Second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople (381), in which Cyril had played an important part. In this Letter addressed to the Roman Pontiff, the Eastern Bishops officially recognized Cyril's flawless orthodoxy, the legitimacy of his episcopal ordination and the merits of his pastoral service, which ended with his death in 387.

Of Cyril's writings, 24 famous catecheses have been preserved, which he delivered as Bishop in about 350. Introduced by a Procatechesis of welcome, the first 18 of these are addressed to catechumens or candidates for illumination (photizomenoi) [candidates for Baptism]; they were delivered in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre. Each of the first ones (n 1-5) respectively treat the prerequisites for Baptism, conversion from pagan morals, the Sacrament of Baptism, the ten dogmatic truths contained in the Creed or Symbol of the faith. The next catecheses (n 6-18) form an "ongoing catechesis" on the Jerusalem Creed in anti-Arian tones. Of the last five so-called "mystagogical catecheses", the first two develop a commentary on the rites of Baptism and the last three focus on the Chrism, the Body and Blood of Christ and the Eucharistic Liturgy. They include an explanation of the Our Father (Oratio dominica). This forms the basis of a process of initiation to prayer which develops on a par with the initiation to the three Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist.

The basis of his instruction on the Christian faith also served to play a polemic role against pagans, Judaeo Christians and Manicheans. The argument was based on the fulfilment of the Old Testament promises, in a language rich in imagery. Catechesis marked an important moment in the broader context of the whole life - particularly liturgical - of the Christian community, in whose maternal womb the gestation of the future faithful took place, accompanied by prayer and the witness of the brethren. Taken as a whole, Cyril's homilies form a systematic catechesis on the Christian's rebirth through Baptism. He tells the catechumen: "You have been caught in the nets of the Church. Be taken alive, therefore; do not escape for it is Jesus who is fishing for you, not in order to kill you but to resurrect you after death. Indeed, you must die and rise again (cf Rom 6, 11&14) ... Die to your sins and live to righteousness from this very day" (Procatechesis, 5).

From the doctrinal viewpoint, Cyril commented on the Jerusalem Creed with recourse to the typology of the Scriptures in a "symphonic" relationship between the two Testaments, arriving at Christ, the centre of the universe. The typology was to be described decisively by Augustine of Hippo: "In the Old Testament there is a veiling of the New, and in the New Testament there is a revealing of the Old" (De catechizandis rudibus 4, 8). As for the moral catechesis, it is anchored in deep unity to the doctrinal catechesis: the dogma progressively descends in souls who are thus urged to transform their pagan behaviour on the basis of new life in Christ, a gift of Baptism. The "mystagogical" catechesis, lastly, marked the summit of the instruction that Cyril imparted, no longer to catechumens but to the newly baptized or neophytes during Easter week. He led them to discover the mysteries still hidden in the baptismal rites of the Easter Vigil. Enlightened by the light of a deeper faith by virtue of Baptism, the neophytes were at last able to understand these mysteries better, having celebrated their rites.

In particular, with neophytes of Greek origin, Cyril made use of the faculty of sight which they found congenial. It was the passage from the rite to the mystery that made the most of the psychological effect of amazement, as well as the experience of Easter night. Here is a text that explains the mystery of Baptism: "You descended three times into the water and ascended again, suggesting by a symbol the three days burial of Christ, imitating Our Saviour who spent three days and three nights in the heart of the earth (cf Mt 12, 40). Celebrating the first emersion in water you recall the first day passed by Christ in the sepulchre; with the first immersion you confessed the first night passed in the sepulchre: for as he who is in the night no longer sees, but he who is in the day remains in the light, so in the descent, as in the night, you saw nothing, but in ascending again you were as in the day. And at the self-same moment you were both dying and being born; and that water of salvation was at once your grave and your mother .. For you .. the time to die goes hand in hand with the time to be born: one and the same time effected both of these events." (Second
Mystagogical Catecheses, 4).

The mystery to be understood is God's plan which is brought about through Christ's saving actions in the Church. In turn, the mystagogical dimension is accompanied by the dimension of symbols which express the spiritual experience they "explode". Thus, Cyril's catechesis, on the basis of the three elements described - doctrinal, moral and lastly mystagogical - proves to be a global catechesis in the Spirit. The mystagogical dimension brings about the synthesis of the two former dimensions, orienting them to the sacramental celebration in which the salvation of the whole man takes place.

In short, this is an integral catechesis which - involving body, soul and spirit - remains emblematic for the catechetical formation of Christians today.

Greetings in different languages to the pilgrims present in the Vatican Basilica

"Saluto con affetto tutti voi, cari pellegrini provenienti da varie parti d’Italia. Celebreremo dopodomani la solenne festa degli Apostoli Pietro e Paolo. Il loro esempio e la loro costante protezione vi sostengano nello sforzo di seguire Cristo e di testimoniare nella vostra vita un'adesione fedele e coraggiosa ai suoi insegnamenti.

Je salue cordialement les pèlerins de langue française présents dans cette Basilique et venus en pèlerinage sur les tombes des Apôtres et présents ce matin. Je vous invite à vivre ce temps fort comme un ressourcement dans la foi et un engagement renouvelé à suivre le Christ. Vous assurant de ma prière, je vous confie tous à l’intercession de la Vierge Marie, Mère de Dieu et notre Mère.

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present today. May your visit here to the Basilica and your time in Rome be filled with joy, and strengthen your faith in Jesus Christ and deepen your love of the universal Church. I assure you of my prayers for your families at home, particularly those who may be ill or suffering in any way. God bless you all!

Sehr herzlich grüße ich alle deutschsprachigen Pilger und Besucher, die hier im Petersdom an der heutigen Generalaudienz teilnehmen. Ich freue mich über euer zahlreiches Kommen. Euer Besuch in Rom mit den Zeugnissen vieler Märtyrer und Heiliger wie auch die Erfahrung der Weltkirche, die wir hier machen dürfen, stärke euch im Glauben und in der Gemeinschaft mit Christus und untereinander. Auf die Fürsprache der heiligen Apostel Petrus und Paulus, deren hohes Fest wir in wenigen Tagen feiern, segne ich euch alle und auch eure Lieben.

Saludo cordialmente a los peregrinos de lengua española. Pasado mañana celebraremos la fiesta de los apóstoles Pedro y Pablo. Deseo que la visita a sus tumbas, así como el ejemplo de su vida y martirio, consolide vuestra fe en Cristo y os ayude a dar testimonio, con vuestra palabra y obras, de su Evangelio. Con afecto, os encomiendo a la intercesión maternal de la Virgen María. ¡Que Dios os bendiga!"


Greetings in different languages to the pilgrims present in Paul VI Hall

"I extend a special welcome to the English-speaking visitors here today, including pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Kampala in Uganda, led by Archbishop Cyprian Lwanga. I also greet the group of supporters of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, and participants in the Jewish-Christian dialogue symposium organized by the Focolari Movement, as well as various groups from Wales, Norway, Malawi Australia, India and the United States. Upon you all and your families at home, I invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace.

J’accueille avec plaisir tous les pèlerins de langue française présents ce matin. À l’exemple de saint Cyrille, mettez le Christ au centre de votre vie, de votre prière et de votre action. Bon séjour à Rome !

Amados peregrinos de língua portuguesa, uma cordial saudação de boas-vindas para todos, nomeadamente para o grupo de estudantes de Coimbra. Viestes a Roma para revigorar a vossa fé cristã e os vínculos de amor e obediência à Igreja, que Jesus quis fundar sobre Pedro. Que as vossas vidas, fortes na fé, sempre possam irradiar o amor de Deus, e as suas bênçãos desçam abundantes sobre vós e vossas famílias!

Saludo cordialmente a los peregrinos de venidos de España y de Latinoamérica, especialmente a la Unión de Hermandades de Jerez de la Frontera, acompañados por su Obispo Monseñor Juan del Río, a los miembros de las Cofradías de la Diócesis de Calahorra- La Calzada-Logroño, a los Cursillistas de Cristiandad de Toledo y Talavera, a la Asociación Pro Huérfanos de la Guardia Civil y a los peregrinos de Tulacingo, Monterrey, Tijuana, Mérida y Chile. Que las enseñanzas de san Cirilo nos ayuden a comprender la importancia de la formación catequética en la vida de nuestras comunidades.

Liebe Brüder und Schwestern! Mit Freude heiße ich die Audienzbesucher aus den Ländern deutscher Sprache willkommen. Besonders grüße ich die Kirchenchöre und Freunde der Kirchenmusik aus dem Bistum Trier sowie die vielen Jugendlichen von Schulen usw., die heute mitten unter uns sind. Nach dem Beispiel des heiligen Cyrill wollen wir die Geheimnisse des Glaubens, die wir in der Liturgie feiern, in uns wirksam werden lassen und durch ein christliches Leben in der Welt von heute bezeugen. Der Herr schenke uns dazu seine Gnade. Euch allen wünsche ich eine schöne und gesegnete Zeit in Rom!

Srdačno pozdravljam sve hodočasnike iz Hrvatske i iz Bosne i Hercegovine, a posebno vjernike, predstavnike civilnih vlasti i članove odbojkaškoga kluba „Napredak“ iz Odžaka. Neka vas, vaše obitelji i sve one koji su vam pri srcu prati Božji blagoslov. Hvaljen Isus i Marija!

Pozdrawiam pielgrzymów z Polski. Zbliża się uroczystość świętych apostołów Piotra i Pawła. W sposób szczególny wspominamy ich w Rzymie, gdzie nauczali, dawali świadectwo i ponieśli męczeństwo w imię Chrystusa. Nawiedzenie ich grobów niech będzie dla wszystkich okazją do umocnienia w wierze, nadziei i miłości. Niech Bóg wam błogosławi.

Lepo pozdravljam vernike iz Čateža ob Savi v Sloveniji! Vaše romanje v mesto, ki sta ga posvetila apostola Peter in Pavel, naj poživi vašo vero in zvestobo do Cerkve. Naj vas vedno spremlja moj blagoslov!

* * *

Rivolgo un cordiale benvenuto ai pellegrini di lingua italiana. In particolare, saluto i fedeli della parrocchia di Santa Maria Assunta, in Lesmo, che ricordano il centenario di dedicazione della propria chiesa; come pure quelli della parrocchia dei Santi Leucio e Pantaleone, in Borgo di Montoro Inferiore. Cari amici, vi ringrazio per la vostra visita ed invoco volentieri su di voi e sulle vostre Comunità copiosi doni celesti per una sempre più solida testimonianza cristiana.

Saluto poi i partecipanti al Convegno internazionale sulle cellule staminali adulte, organizzato dall'Università "La Sapienza" di Roma, che si pone l'obiettivo di sviluppare la terapia cellulare autologa in ambito cardiaco, mediante l'utilizzo delle cellule staminali adulte. Al riguardo, la posizione della Chiesa, suffragata dalla ragione e dalla scienza, è chiara: la ricerca scientifica va giustamente incoraggiata e promossa, sempre che non avvenga a scapito di altri esseri umani la cui dignità è intangibile fin dai primi stadi dell'esistenza.

Il mio pensiero va, infine, ai giovani, ai malati e agli sposi novelli. Siamo ormai entrati nell'estate, per molti tempo di ferie e di riposo. Per voi, cari giovani, sia un'occasione per utili esperienze sociali e religiose; per voi, cari sposi novelli, un opportuno periodo per cementare la vostra unione e approfondire la vostra missione nella Chiesa e nella società. Auspico inoltre che a voi, cari malati, non manchi durante questi mesi estivi la vicinanza di persone care."

Saint Cyril's Baptismal Catecheses (n 11, 5-10):

God is Spirit (Jn 4,24), and being Spirit and incorporeal, he begot spiritually by an inscrutable and incomprehensible generation. The Son himself says of the Father: “The Lord said to me, 'You are my Son, today I have begotten you'" (Ps 2.7). This 'today' is not recent but eternal; this 'today' is timeless, before all ages. “From the womb before the morning star I begot you” (Ps 109 [110],3). So believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God. He is the Only-begotten Son according to the words of the Gospel: “For God so loved the world that he gave his Only-begotten Son, so that they who believe in him may not perish, but may have eternal life” (Jn 3,16)... Saint John witnessed to this saying: “We saw his glory, the glory as of the Only-begotten from the father, full of grace and truth” (Jn 1.14).

Trembling before him the demons said: “Leave us alone! What have you to do with us, Jesus, Son of the living God.” So he is the Son of God by nature and not by adoption, being begotten of the Father... For the Father, who is true God, begot a Son who is true God like himself... The Father did not beget the Son in the way that the human mind begets speech. For the mind has a substantial reality within us, but our speech once uttered is scattered on the air and expires. We know that Christ was begotten not as an uttered word but as “the living and abiding Word” (1Pt 1,23) not a word spoken by the lips and scattered, but begotten by the Father eternally, indefinably and substantially. “For in the beginning was the Word and the Word was God” (Jn 1,1), the Word who knew the Father's will and made all things by the Father's decree, the Word who descended and ascended (cf. Is 55,10-11)... This Word is endowed with authority and universal rule, for “the Father has entrusted all things to the Son” (cf. Jn 13.3).