In the course of his visit to the Major Seminary of Rome on 17th February 2007, the Pope said that he was fascinated by the great humanity of St Augustine, who was not able initially simply to identify himself with the Church, because he was a catechumen, but had to struggle spiritually to find, little by little, the way to God's word, to life with God, right up to the great "yes" to his Church.
A number of contemporary scholars have written books and articles about the obvious influence on the thought and theology of Pope Benedict XVI by the writings and world view of St Augustine of Hippo.
For example, for the National Post (Canada) of 19th April 2007, Fr. Raymond J. de Souza, chaplain to Newman House at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, wrote:
St. Augustine is more than the principal intellectual influence on Pope Benedict XVI; the greatest of the first millennium’s Christian scholars is the Pope’s constant intellectual companion. His preaching and teaching are unfailingly leavened with Augustinian quotations.
If Pope John Paul II was a great philosopher pope, teaching the wisdom of Saint Thomas Aquinas to the late 20th century, Benedict is doing the same for Augustine in the 21st century.
“Augustine defines the essence of the Christian religion,” then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger once said. “He saw Christian faith, not in continuity with earlier religions, but rather in continuity with philosophy as a victory of reason over superstition.”
It is a favourite theme of Pope Benedict, one that provided the high point of his papacy thus far, the world-shaking address at Regensburg last year, when he argued that to act contrary to right reason was to act contrary to God — a critical message in an age of religiously-motivated violence. ...
Pope Benedict XVI follows St Augustine in seeing the Christian logos, the divine Word that rationally orders all things, an entirely different conception of God.
Here is a God who is rational, whose creation reflects the order and goodness of right reason, and who can be known by human beings, made in His image and able to reason themselves. And even more extraordinary than that, this God revealed Himself as one who was love — a love that creates, redeems and calls His creation to Himself.
The logos of philosophy becomes the God who is love, as Benedict put it in his first encyclical.
The God of Judeo-Christian revelation is not merely the god of the philosophers, acting as a remote first cause or principle of motion. Rather this God is a rational person, the principle of rationality and truth. This God can be approached by human creatures in truth — both the natural truths of science, and the revealed truths of faith.
The ancient gods of the Nile or Mount Olympus, with their need for power and domination, had no standing in the world of philosophy. They belonged to a world of superstition. Saint Augustine demonstrated how the God of Abraham belonged the world of philosophy, but pointed beyond it to the world of salvific love.
Benedict argued at Regensburg that the meeting of Biblical faith with Greek philosophy constitutes an essential part of Christian revelation. It was St Augustine in whom that encounter was lived most deeply in the early Church.
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