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Year of Saint Paul

June 28, 2008 - June 29, 2009

God our Father, source of mercy and truth, through the preaching of Saint Paul the Apostle, You teach us and deepen our faith.

Grant that we may follow Saint Paul’s example and grow in holiness.

Strengthen us to continually convert our hearts and minds to You.

Enliven us to live by the Spirit in faith, hope, and charity.

Inspire us to hand on to others what we have received from You.

Fortify us to pour out ourselves and serve You with humility and compassion.

Move us to unite ourselves to the sufferings of Christ that we may die with Him in order to rise with Him.

Help us to trust that nothing can separate us from Your love.

Direct us to seek only the things of heaven so that after running the race and fighting the good fight, we might share the crown of glory promised to those who love You.

We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Saint Paul the Apostle, pray for us.

© 2008, Diocese of Harrisburg. Reprinted with permission.

Related links: Saints Peter & Paul | Conversion of Saint Paul | Saint Paul's Basilica | USCCB News Release | On the Vatican Website

Excerpt from Homily, Vespers on the Eve of Saints Peter & Paul, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI

"This Basilica, which has seen events of profound ecumenical significance, reminds us how important it is to pray together for the gift of unity, that unity for which St. Peter and St. Paul offered their existence up to the supreme sacrifice of their own blood.

A very old tradition, which goes back to apostolic times, recounts that not far from here was where they had their last encounter before martyrdom. They were said to have embraced each other, and to have blessed each other reciprocally. They are depicted on the main door of this Basilica in the scene of their martyrdom.

From the very beginning then, Christian tradition has considered Peter and Paul inseparable, even if they each had a different mission to fulfill. Peter first confessed his faith in Christ; Paul received the gift of being able to plumb the profundity of its richness. Peter founded the first Christian community coming from the chosen people; Paul became the apostle of the gentiles. With different charisms, they worked for a single cause: building the Church of Christ.

In the Readings, the liturgy offers for our meditation a well-known text of St. Augustine: "Only one day is consecrated to the feast of the two apostles. But they were also a single unit. Even if they were martyred on different days, they were one. Peter went ahead, Paul followed...Thus we celebrate this feast day, consecrated for us by the blood of these apostles" (Disc. 295, 7-8).

And St. Leo the Great commented: "Of their merits and their virtues - which were superior from all accounts - we cannot think of anything contradictory or divisive, because election had made them equal, their efforts similar and their end alike" (In natali apostol., 69, 6-7).

In Rome, the link that gave Peter and Paul a common mission has assumed from the first centuries a very specific significance. Like the mythical brothers Romulus and Remus, attributed with the founding of Rome, Peter and Paul likewise are considered as founders of the Church of Rome.

Leo the Great said in this respect, addressing the city: "These are your holy fathers, your true shepherds, who, to make you worthy of the kingdom the heavens, had built very well and felicitously, doing their best to lay down the foundations of your walls" (Omelie 82,7).

As much as they were humanly very different from each other, and even if their relationship was not without tensions, Peter and Paul therefore appear as the initiators of a new city, as a concretization of a new and authentic way of being brothers, made possible by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

And so we can say that today the Church of Rome celebrates its birthday, inasmuch as the two Apostles had laid down its foundations. Moreover, Rome now realizes with greater awareness that is its mission and its grandeur.

St. John Chrysostom writes that "the sky is not as bright when the sun sheds its rays as the city of Rome which radiates the splendor of those burning torches (Peter and Paul) through all the world...This the reason why we love this city...for these two pillars of the Church" (Comm. a Rm 32).

We will remember the apostle Peter more particularly tomorrow, when we celebrate the divine Sacrifice in the Vatican Basilica built on the place where he was martyred. But tonight, we look at St. Paul, whose relics are guarded with great veneration in this Basilica."

..."May he guide and protect us in this bimillennial celebration, helping us to progress in our humble and sincere quest for full unity of all the members of the Mystical Body of Christ. Amen. "


Special Indulgences are conceded to faithful on the occasion of the 2000th anniversary of the birth of St Paul the Apostle

In the imminence of the liturgical Solemnity of the Princes of the Apostles, motivated by pastoral solicitude the Supreme Pontiff intends to provide promptly for spiritual treasures to be granted to the faithful for their sanctification, so that on this pious and happy occasion, from First Vespers of the Solemnity mentioned, they may renew and reinforce with even greater fervour intentions of supernatural salvation, principally in honour of the Apostle to the Gentiles, the 2000th anniversary of whose birth on earth is now approaching.

The gift of Indulgences which the Roman Pontiff offers to the universal Church, truly smoothes the way to attaining a supreme degree of inner purification which, while honouring the Blessed Apostle Paul, exalts the supernatural life in the hearts of the faithful and gently encourages them to do good deeds.

Therefore, this Apostolic Penitentiary, to which the Holy Father has entrusted the task of the preparation and compilation of the Decree on the granting and obtaining of Indulgences that will be valid for the duration of the Pauline Year, benevolently bestows with this Decree issued in conformity with the desire of the August Pontiff, the following graces listed:

I. Each and every truly repentant individual member of the Christian faithful, duly absolved through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and restored with Holy Communion, who devoutly makes a pilgrimage to the Papal Basilica of St Paul on the Ostian Way and who prays for the Supreme Pontiff's intentions, will be granted the Plenary Indulgence from temporal punishment for his/her sins, once sacramental forgiveness and pardon for any shortcomings has been obtained.

The Christian faithful may benefit from the Plenary Indulgence both for themselves and for the deceased, as many times as they fulfil the required conditions but without prejudice to the norm stipulating that the Plenary Indulgence may be obtained only once a day.

In order that the prayer raised on this holy visit may lead and invite the souls of the faithful to venerate more intensely the memory of St Paul, the following has been established: the faithful, in addition to raising their own supplications before the altar of the Most Blessed Sacrament, each one according to his own devotion, must go to the altar of the Confessio and devoutly recite the Our Father and the Creed, adding pious invocations in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St Paul. And may this devotion always be closely united to the memory of the Prince of the Apostles, St Peter.

II. The Christian faithful of the various local Churches, having fulfilled the required conditions (sacramental Confession, Eucharistic Communion, prayers for the Supreme Pontiff's intentions) and in a spirit of total detachment from any inclination to sin, may benefit from the Plenary Indulgence if they take part devoutly in a sacred function or in a pious public exercise in honour of the Apostle to the Gentiles; on the days of the solemn opening and closure of the Pauline Year, in all the sacred places; on other days specified by the local Ordinary, in holy places dedicated to St Paul and, for the convenience of the faithful, in other places designated by the same Ordinary.

III. Lastly, the faithful prevented by illness or another legitimate and important cause, always in a spirit of detachment from any inclination to sin, with the intention of fulfilling the usual conditions as soon as possible, will also be able to obtain the Plenary Indulgence, as long as they spiritually join in a Jubilee celebration in honour of St Paul, offering their prayers and sufferings to God for Christian unity.

In order that the faithful may more easily share in these heavenly favours, may the priests approved by the competent ecclesiastical authority for hearing confessions prepare promptly and generously to receive them.

This Decree is effective for the whole of the Pauline Year. Notwithstanding anything to the contrary.

Given in Rome, at the Offices of the Apostolic Penitentiary, 10 May, in the Year of the Incarnation of the Lord 2008, on the eve of Pentecost.

Cardinal James Francis Stafford
Major Penitentiary

Fr Gianfranco Girotti, O.F.M. Conv.
Titular Bishop of Meta Regent

USCCB News Release

June 27, 2008

Bishops Launch Pauline Year Website

WASHINGTON---In time for the Year of St. Paul, beginning June 28, the Secretariat of Divine Worship of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has launched a website dedicated to the Pauline year honoring the 2000th anniversary of the birth of St. Paul.  The site is designed to provide resources and related materials to those interested in participating in and learning more about the year-long celebration.

The website contains links to dates and events for liturgical observances that will mark celebrations throughout the year.  Several links connect directly to the Vatican website to provide access to documents, for example, which explain related plenary indulgences granted by Pope Benedict XVI and homilies he has delivered in anticipation of the Year of St. Paul; others explain guidelines for Votive Masses and provide readings and prayers for participants’ use in Holy Hour observances honoring St. Paul. 

Monsignor Anthony Sherman, executive director of the USCCB’s Secretariat of Divine Worship explained that growing interest among Catholics since Pope Benedict announced the Pauline Year a year ago has spurred the need for the website and greater access to information about the observance.

"Many dioceses have asked for resources for the Pauline Year and, through this website, we hope to provide practical and easy-to-use resources," Monsignor Sherman said. This includes a Spanish language version of the site, according to Monsignor Sherman, that should be ready over the next couple of weeks.

Pope Benedict announced the special observance in honor of St. Paul on June 28, 2007 at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls while celebrating First Vespers of the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul.

The Secretariat’s Pauline Year website resources are available at   

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Great Apostle Saint Paul
Environment in which St Paul lived and worked

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today I would like to begin a new cycle of Catecheses focusing on the great Apostle St Paul. As you know, this year is dedicated to him, from the liturgical Feast of Sts Peter and Paul on 29 June 2008 to the same Feast day in 2009. The Apostle Paul, an outstanding and almost inimitable yet stimulating figure, stands before us as an example of total dedication to the Lord and to his Church, as well as of great openness to humanity and its cultures. It is right, therefore, that we reserve a special place for him in not only our veneration but also in our effort to understand what he has to say to us as well, Christians of today. In this first meeting let us pause to consider the environment in which St Paul lived and worked. A theme such as this would seem to bring us far from our time, given that we must identify with the world of 2,000 years ago. Yet this is only apparently and, in any case, only partly true for we can see that various aspects of today's social and cultural context are not very different from what they were then.

A primary and fundamental fact to bear in mind is the relationship between the milieu in which Paul was born and raised and the global context to which he later belonged. He came from a very precise and circumscribed culture, indisputably a minority, which is that of the People of Israel and its tradition. In the ancient world and especially in the Roman Empire, as scholars in the subject teach us, Jews must have accounted for about 10 percent of the total population; later, here in Rome, towards the middle of the first century, this percentage was even lower, amounting to three percent of the city's inhabitants at most. Their beliefs and way of life, is still the case today, distinguished them clearly from the surrounding environment; and this could have two results: either derision, that could lead to intolerance, or admiration which was expressed in various forms of sympathy, as in the case of the "God-fearing" or "proselytes", pagans who became members of the Synagogue and who shared the faith in the God of Israel. As concrete examples of this dual attitude we can mention on the one hand the cutting opinion of an orator such as Cicero who despised their religion and even the city of Jerusalem (cf. Pro Flacco, 66-69) and, on the other, the attitude of Nero's wife, Poppea, who is remembered by Flavius Josephus as a "sympathizer" of the Jews (cf. Antichità giudaiche 20, 195, 252); Vita 16), not to mention that Julius Caesar had already officially recognized specific rights of the Jews which have been recorded by the above-mentioned Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (cf. ibid., 14,200-216). It is certain that the number of Jews, as, moreover, is still the case today, was far greater outside the land of Israel, that is, in the Diaspora, than in the territory that others called Palestine.

It is not surprising, therefore, that Paul himself was the object of the dual contradictory assessment that I mentioned. One thing is certain: the particularism of the Judaic culture and religion easily found room in an institution as far-reaching as the Roman Empire. Those who would adhere with faith to the Person of Jesus of Nazareth, Jew or Gentile, were in the more difficult and troubled position, to the extent to which they were to distinguish themselves from both Judaism and the prevalent paganism. In any case, two factors were in Paul's favour. The first was the Greek, or rather Hellenistic, culture which after Alexander the Great had become a common heritage, at least of the Eastern Mediterranean and of the Middle East, and had even absorbed many elements of peoples traditionally considered barbarian. One writer of the time says in this regard that Alexander "ordered that all should consider the entire oecumene as their homeland... and that a distinction should no longer be made between Greek and barbarian" (Plutarch, De Alexandri Magni fortuna aut virtute, 6, 8). The second factor was the political and administrative structure of the Roman Empire which guaranteed peace and stability from Britain as far as southern Egypt, unifying a territory of previously unheard of dimensions. It was possible to move with sufficient freedom and safety in this space, making use, among other things, of an extraordinary network of roads and finding at every point of arrival basic cultural characteristics which, without affecting local values, nonetheless represented a common fabric of unification super partes, so that the Jewish philosopher, Philo of Alexandria, a contemporary of Paul himself, praised the Emperor Augustus for "composing in harmony all the savage peoples, making himself the guardian of peace" (Legatio ad Caium, 146-147).

There is no doubt that the universalist vision characteristic of St Paul's personality, at least of the Christian Paul after the event on the road to Damascus, owes its basic impact to faith in Jesus Christ, since the figure of the Risen One was by this time situated beyond any particularistic narrowness. Indeed, for the Apostle "there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3: 28). Yet, even the historical and cultural situation of his time and milieu could not but have had an influence on his decisions and his work. Some have defined Paul as "a man of three cultures", taking into account his Jewish background, his Greek tongue and his prerogative as a "civis romanus [Roman citizen], as the name of Latin origin suggests. Particularly the Stoic philosophy dominant in Paul's time which influenced Christianity, even if only marginally, should be recalled. Concerning this, we cannot gloss over certain names of Stoic philosophers such as those of its founders, Zeno and Cleanthes, and then those closer to Paul in time such as Seneca, Musonius and Epictetus: in them the loftiest values of humanity and wisdom are found which were naturally to be absorbed by Christianity. As one student of the subject splendidly wrote, "Stoicism... announced a new ideal, which imposed upon man obligations to his peers, but at the same time set him free from all physical and national ties, and made of him a purely spiritual being" (M. Pohlenz, La Stoa, I, Florence, 2, 1978, pp. 565 f.). One thinks, for example, of the doctrine of the universe understood as a single great harmonious body and consequently of the doctrine of equality among all people without social distinctions, of the equivalence, at least in principle, of men and women, and then of the ideal of frugality, of the just measure and self-control to avoid all excesses. When Paul wrote to the Philippians, "Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things" (Phil 4: 8), he was only taking up a purely humanistic concept proper to that philosophical wisdom.

In St Paul's time a crisis of traditional religion was taking place, at least in its mythological and even civil aspects. After Lucretius had already ruled polemically a century earlier that "religion has led to many misdeeds" (De rerum natura, 1, 101, On the Nature of Things), a philosopher such as Seneca, going far beyond any external ritualism, taught that "God is close to you, he is with you, he is within you" (Epistulae morales to Lucilius, 41, 1). Similarly, when Paul addresses an audience of Epicurean philosophers and Stoics in the Areopagus of Athens, he literally says: "God does not live in shrines made by man,... for in him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17: 24, 28). In saying this he certainly re-echoes the Judaic faith in a God who cannot be represented in anthropomorphic terms and even places himself on a religious wavelength that his listeners knew well. We must also take into account the fact that many pagan cults dispensed with the official temples of the town and made use of private places that favoured the initiation of their followers. It is therefore not surprising that Christian gatherings (ekklesiai) as Paul's Letters attest, also took place in private homes. At that time, moreover, there were not yet any public buildings. Therefore Christian assemblies must have appeared to Paul's contemporaries as a simple variation of their most intimate religious practice. Yet the differences between pagan cults and Christian worship are not negligible and regard the participants' awareness of their identity as well as the participation in common of men and women, the celebration of the "Lord's Supper", and the reading of the Scriptures.

In conclusion, from this brief over-view of the cultural context of the first century of the Christian era, it is clear that it is impossible to understand St Paul properly without placing him against both the Judaic and pagan background of his time. Thus he grows in historical and spiritual stature, revealing both sharing and originality in comparison with the surrounding environment. However, this applies likewise to Christianity in general, of which the Apostle Paul, precisely, is a paradigm of the highest order from whom we all, always, still have much to learn. And this is the goal of the Pauline Year: to learn from St Paul, to learn faith, to learn Christ, and finally to learn the way of upright living.

© Copyright 2008 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Vatican Website:

Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience

Benedict XVI, General Audience, Saint Peter's Square, Wednesday, October 25, 2006, Paul of Tarsus

Benedict XVI, General Audience, Saint Peter's Square, Wednesday, November 8, 2006, St Paul's new outlook

Benedict XVI, General Audience, Saint Peter's Square, Wednesday, November 15, 2006, St Paul and the Spirit

Benedict XVI, General Audience, Saint Peter's Square, Wednesday, 22 November 2006, St Paul and the Church

Benedict XVI, General Audience, Paul VI Audience Hall, Wednesday, 2 July 2008, Saint Paul (part 1), Religious and Cultural Environment

Benedict XVI, General Audience, Paul VI Audience Hall, Wednesday, 27 August 2008, Saint Paul (2), Life of Saint Paul before and after Damascus.

Benedict XVI, General Audience, Paul VI Audience Hall, Wednesday, 3 September 2008, Saint Paul (3), St Paul's "Conversion".

Benedict XVI, General Audience, Paul VI Audience Hall, Wednesday, 10 September 2008, Saint Paul (4), Saint Paul's Concept of Apostolate.

Benedict XVI, General Audience, St Peter's Square, Wednesday, 24 September 2008, Saint Paul (5), Paul, the Twelve and the pre-Pauline Church.

Benedict XVI, General Audience, Paul VI Audience Hall, Wednesday, 1 October 2008, Saint Paul (6), The "Council" of Jerusalem and the Incident in Antioch.

Benedict XVI, General Audience, St Peter's Square, Wednesday, 8 October 2008, Saint Paul (7), The Relationship with the Historical Jesus.

Benedict XVI, General Audience, St. Peter's Square, Wednesday, 15 October 2008, Saint Paul (8), Paul's Ecclesiological Dimension.

Benedict XVI, General Audience, St. Peter's Square, Wednesday, 22 October 2008, Saint Paul (9), The Importance of Christology: Pre-existence and Incarnation.

Benedict XVI, General Audience, St. Peter's Square, Wednesday, 29 October 2008, Saint Paul (10), The Importance of Christology: the Theology of the Cross.

Benedict XVI, General Audience, St. Peter's Square, Wednesday, 5 November 2008, Saint Paul (11), The Importance of Christology: the Decisiveness of the Resurrection.

Benedict XVI, General Audience, St. Peter's Square, Wednesday, 12 November 2008, Saint Paul (12), Eschatology : the Expectation of the Parusia.

Benedict XVI, General Audience, St. Peter's Square, Wednesday, 19 November 2008, Saint Paul (13), The Doctrine of Justification: from Works to Faith.

Benedict XVI, General Audience, Paul VI Audience Hall, Wednesday, 26 November 2008, Saint Paul (14): The Apostle's Teaching on Faith and Works In Regard to Justification

Benedict XVI, General Audience, Paul VI Audience Hall, Wednesday, Wednesday, 3 December 2008, Saint Paul (15), The Apostle’s teaching on the relation between Adam and Christ

Benedict XVI, General Audience, Paul VI Audience Hall, Wednesday,10 December 2008, Saint Paul (16), Theology of the sacraments

Benedict XVI, General Audience, Paul VI Audience Hall, Wednesday, 7 January 2009, Saint Paul (17), Spiritual Worship

Benedict XVI, General Audience, Paul VI Audience Hall, Wednesday, 14 January 2009, Saint Paul (18), The Theological vision of the Letters to the Colossians and Ephesians

Benedict XVI, General Audience, Paul VI Audience Hall, Wednesday, 28 January 2009, Saint Paul (19), Theological vision of Pastoral Letters

Benedict XVI, General Audience, Paul VI Audience Hall, Wednesday, 4 February 2009, Saint Paul (20), St Paul's martyrdom and heritage

Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus, Solemnity Of The Holy Apostles Peter And Paul, Sunday,  June 29, 2008

Holy Mass For The Imposition Of The Pallium On Metropolitan Archbishops, On The Solemnity Of The Holy Apostles Peter And Paul, Homilies Of Ecumenical Patriarch Of Constantinople and  His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, Vatican Basilica, Sunday,  June 29, 2008

Celebration Of First Vespers Of The Solemnity Of The Holy Apostles Peter And Paul, For The Opening Of The Pauline Year, Homily Of His Holiness Benedict XVI, Basilica Of Saint Paul Outside-The-Walls, Saturday, June 28, 2008

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