Pope: St. Augustine Defined "True Secularism"
Highlights Theologian's Political Contribution
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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 20, 2008 (Zenit.org).- St. Augustine contributed to the development of modern politics with a definition of "true secularism" that clearly marks out the separation between Church and state, says Benedict XVI.
The Pope said this today during his weekly general audience in Paul VI Hall. This was the fourth address he dedicated to the bishop of Hippo, whose text "De Civitate Dei" (The City of God) he said has contributed to "the development of modern political thought in the West and in Christian historical theology."
Written between 413 and 426, the Holy Father explained that the text came about after the sacking of Rome by the Goths in 410, after which many pagans expressed doubt regarding the greatness of the Christian God who seemed incapable of defending the city.
"It is this charge that was deeply felt by the Christians that St. Augustine answered with this magnificent work, 'De Civitate Dei.' He clarified what we should and should not expect from God," said the Pontiff.
He added, "Even today, this book is the source used to clearly define true secularism and the jurisdiction of the Church, the true and great hope that gives us faith."
The Pope explained that the work is based on one fundamental interpretation of history -- "the struggle between two loves: love of oneself, 'even to the point of showing indifference toward God,' and love of God, 'even to the point of being indifferent toward oneself.'”
Benedict XVI also underlined primarily the importance of Augustine's "Confessions," written between 397 and 400, in which "one's misery in the light of God becomes praise for God and gratitude because God loves us and accepts us, he transforms us and raises us toward him."
"Thanks to the 'Confessions,'" the Pontiff added, "we can follow step by step the inner journey of this extraordinary man who was fascinated by God."
The Pope quoted St. Augustine, who commented at the end of his life on the aforementioned text: "They exercised such action on me while I was writing them and do so even now when I reread them. There are many brothers who like these writings."
He added, "I should also mention that I am one of these 'brothers.'"
"Today more than 300 letters and 600 sermons from the bishop of Hippo have survived," said the Holy Father. "Originally there would have been many more, perhaps even 3,000 or 4,000, fruit of 40 years of preaching."
Quoting Augustine's friend and biographer, Possidius, Benedict XVI said the saint and theologian is "always alive" in his writings: "He truly lives in his works, he is present with us, and this is how we see the permanent vitality of his faith to which he had dedicated all his life."