Pope: Paul's Conflict With Peter Taught Dialogue

Explains Apostles Were Seeing Two Different Perspectives

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 1, 2008 (Zenit.org).-The relationship between Sts. Peter and Paul helped the two apostles to learn that only sincere dialogue, open to the truth of Christ, can guide the path of the Church.



The Pope affirmed this today during the general audience in St. Peter's Square, in which he continued with his series of catecheses on the Apostle Paul. The Church is celebrating through June the Pauline Jubilee Year, which marks the 2,000th anniversary of the Apostle's birth.

The Holy Father spoke of two main encounters between Paul and Peter: first at the Council of Jerusalem and then in the well-known encounter where Paul rebuked the first Pope.

Regarding this second episode, Benedict XVI explained that the perspectives of the two apostles were different, though both were eager to protect the faith of believers.

The incident arose over the question of what to do when Christians of both Jewish and pagan origin share at one table.

The Pope recalled that initially, "Peter, shared the table with both, but with the arrival of some Christians linked to James […] Peter had begun to avoid contact at the table with pagans, so as not to scandalize those [of Jewish origin] who continued observing the rules regarding food purity. […] That choice deeply divided the Christians come from circumcision and those come from paganism."

Concerns

The Holy Father noted that Peter's decision "brought a fiery reaction from Paul, who arrived to the point of accusing Peter and the rest of hypocrisy."

But, the Pontiff clarified, in reality "the concerns of Paul, on one hand, and Peter and Barnabas on the other, were different."

He explained: "For [Peter], the separation of the pagans represented a way to teach and avoid scandalizing the believers coming from Judaism. For Paul, it constituted, on the other hand, the danger of a misunderstanding of the universal salvation in Christ offered as much to the pagans as to the Jews.

"If justification was brought about only in virtue of faith in Christ, of conformity with him, without any work of the law, then what sense was there in still observing the [rules on] purity of food when participating at the table?"

Thus, Benedict XVI contended, it is likely that Peter and Paul simply had taken different perspectives: "For [Peter], not losing the Jews who had embraced the Gospel, for [Paul], not diminishing the salvific value of the death of Christ for all believers."

The Pope mentioned, however, that Paul would later face the same dilemma, and espouse a perspective similar to that which he rebuked.

"Writing to the Christians of Rome a few years later -- around the middle of the decade of the 50s -- Paul will find himself before a similar situation and he will ask the strong that they not eat impure food so as not to lose the weak or cause scandal for them," the Holy Father recalled.

A lesson

Thus, Benedict XVI concluded, the Antioch event "showed itself to be a lesson both for Peter and for Paul. Only sincere dialogue, open to the truth of the Gospel, could guide the path of the Church."

And, he affirmed, the same lesson needs to be learned today: "With the distinct charisms entrusted to Peter and Paul, let us all be guided by the Spirit, trying to live in the liberty that finds its orientation in faith in Christ and is made tangible in service to our brothers.

"It is essential to be ever more conformed to Christ. It is in this way that one is truly free, in this way the deepest nucleus of the law is expressed in us: the love of God and neighbor. Let us ask the Lord to teach us to share his sentiments, to learn from him the true liberty and evangelical love that embraces every human being."