Pope Benedict XVI accepted an invitation from the Order of Saint Augustine to visit the tomb of Saint Augustine in the Augustinian church at Pavia in northern Italy.
The Pope landed by helicopter in the stadium of the small city of
Vigevano around 4:45 p.m. on Saturday, 21st April 2007.
There was a 5:30 p.m. Eucharistic celebration there in the Ducal Square, with a capacity for about 5,000 people.
A large screen was set up in the adjacent square for the overflow.
At the end of the Mass, the Pontiff visited the local Cathedral of St Ambrose, where he met volunteer workers and handicapped people.
Around 8.00 p.m. the Pope went by helicopter to
Pavia, and attended a concert of music by Motzart and Schubert.
On Sunday, 22nd April, he celebrated Mass in
Pavia at 10.30am, and at 4.00pm met with students and staff of the University of Pavia.
After the meeting, at 5.30 p.m. Pope Benedict XVI travelled to the
St Peter in Ciel d'Oro. He incensed the glass-sided urn containing the earthly remains of Saint Augustine, and then prayed in front of the tomb of
St Augustine. The visit included the celebration of liturgical Vespers, and his lighting of a perpetual votive candle in front of the tomb in perennial memory of his visit.
In his homily, the Holy Father explained the reason for his journey to Pavia, to venerate the earthly remains of Saint Augustine: “to pay homage on the part of the whole Catholic Church to one of her greatest 'fathers', and express my own devotion and gratitude to one who played a major part in my life as a theologian and a bishop, and I would say, even before as a man and a priest”.
From the tomb of the “Doctor gratiae”, Pope Benedict XVI re-launched “a significant message for the life of the Church” which comes from the encounter between the Word of God and the personal experience of the Bishop of Hippo: Saint Augustine found in Jesus Christ, incarnate Word, the Lamb, immolated and risen, the revelation of the face of God who is Love.
The Pope concluded: “Here, before the tomb of
Saint Augustine I would ideally consign to the Church and to the world my first Encyclical, which contains precisely this central message of the Gospel: Deus caritas est, God is love” (1 Jn 4,8.16). This Encyclical, especially the first part, owes much to the thought of
Saint Augustine , who was in love with the Love of God, of which he sang, meditated, preached in all his writings and above all bore witness to in his pastoral ministry”.
Following the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and his papal predecessors, Pope Benedict XVI said he was convinced “humanity today needs this essential message incarnated in Jesus Christ: God is love. From this everything must start and to this must everything lead … this then is the message which still today
Saint Augustine repeats to the whole Church and especially to this diocesan community which preserves his relics with such veneration: Love is the soul of the life of the Church and her pastoral activity.” Discipleship of Christ “is first of all a question of love" the Pope said, urging the diocesan community to follow in the footsteps of Augustine announcing “frankly the "good news" of Christ, his proposal for life, his message of reconciliation and forgiveness”.
Then, appreciating the pastoral goal to lead people to Christian maturity, the Pope said “the Church is not merely an organisation of collective events, or, the opposite, the sum of individuals who live a private religiosity. The Church is a community of persons who believe in the God of Jesus Christ and strive to live in the world the commandment of charity which He gave us”. After encouraging those present to “advance in personal and community witness of industrious love”, the Pope concluded: “Let us set out from here carrying in our hearts the joy of being the disciples of Love”.
(Continued on the next page.)
Images of the Pope in S. Pietro in Ciel d'Oro on 22nd April 2007 are available in an Augnet gallery named Italy: Pope in Pavia. Choose it after you click here.