|Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Benedict XVI pray before the tomb of Saint Paul and during the first Vespers for the opening of the Pauline year at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome, Italy.|
The initiation of the Pauline year began on June 28, 2008 with a Vespers service for the feast day of the Apostles Peter and Paul at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome, Italy. His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who joined His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI at the basilica, delivered the following homily:
Your Holiness, beloved Brother in Christ,
Dearest faithful in the Lord,
It is with solemn joy that we stand for vesperal prayer in this splendid and ancient temple of St. Paul "Outside the Walls" in the presence of numerous devout pilgrims from throughout the world on the occasion of the formal and festive opening of the Year of St. Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles.
The radical conversion and apostolic kerygma of Saul of Tarsus literally shook history in its entirety and shaped the very identity of Christianity. This great man profoundly influenced such classical Church Fathers as St. John Chrysostom in the East and St. Augustine of Hippo in the West. Though he never met Jesus of Nazareth, nevertheless St. Paul received the Gospel directly "from the revelation of Jesus Christ." (Gal. 1.11-12)
This sacred venue "Outside the Walls" is surely most appropriate for the commemoration and celebration of a man who married the Greek language with the Roman mindset of his time, once and for all shedding Christianity of any narrow mentality and forever forging the catholic ground of the ecumenical Church.
May St. Paul's life and letters continue to inspire us, "so that people all over the world may believe in Christ." (Rom. 16.27)