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Papal pilgrimage focuses on St. Augustine April 23, 2007

A 2-day papal visit to Pavia, Italy "took the form of a pilgrimage" on April 22, Pope Benedict XVI observed, as the Holy Father knelt in silent prayer before the relics of St. Augustine.

In a Sunday-afternoon ceremony at the basilica of San Pietro in Ciel d'Oro, the Pontiff paid tribute to the great Doctor of the Church, who had heavily influenced his own theological development. He remarked in particular that his own first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, was "greatly indebted to the thought of St. Augustine, who was enamored of the love of God."

The light of God's love "opened Augustine's eyes, and brought him to encounter the 'beauty, ever ancient and ever new' in which alone the human heart finds peace," the Pope said. He added that bringing the same message of God's love to the contemporary world is the highest priority for today's Church.

"Love is the heart of Church life and of her pastoral activity," the Pope continued, preaching at a Vespers service in the basilica. "Following Christ is above all a question of love."

Earlier in the afternoon, during a visit to the University of Pavia, the Pope had encouraged students to imitate St. Augustine in his scholarly commitment, but also-- more importantly-- in his dedication to the faith. "From a life dedicated to searching for worldly success," the Pope remarked, St. Augustine "passed to a life totally donated to Jesus Christ, the only Master and Lord. May St. Augustine be for everyone a model for the dialogue between reason and faith." Still earlier on Sunday, at the Almo Collegio Borromeo, Pope Benedict had spoken of St. Augustine's conversion to Christianity, and his subsequent realization that his pastoral work was more important than his philosophical exploration. "Augustine had understood an ultimate level of humility," the Pope said. "Not only the humility to make his own great philosophy part of the faith of the Church, not only the humility to translate his great knowledge into the simplicity of announcement, but also the humility to recognize that he himself and the entire pilgrim Church were in constant need of the merciful goodness of a forgiving God."

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