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Pope venerates St. Celestine, hermit, who became Pontiff and resigned

Catholic World News - July 05, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI traveled to Sulmona, in Italy’s Abruzzo region, on July 4, to join in celebrations there for the 700th anniversary of the death of St. Celestine V, the hermit who was elected Pope in 1294 but resigned after just five months.

At an outdoor Mass attended by about 25,000 people, the Pope spoke about St. Celestine’s dedication to contemplative prayer. While the monk-turned-Pontiff failed to gain control over the Vatican during a tumultuous period in Church history, Pope Benedict pointed out that he is remembered today “above all for his sanctity.” The Pope added that holiness of life “never loses it power to attract; it does not fall into oblivions; in never goes out of fashion.”

The particular form of prayer adopted by St. Celestine—the life of a hermit—does not mean flight from reality, the Pope said. On the contrary, the saint was determined to face the truth without the distractions of the self-indulgent society in which he lived. "We, too, who live in an epoch of greater comfort and possibilities, are called upon to appreciate a sober lifestyle," the Pope said. The hyperactive approach to modern life can distract us from what is essential, the Pope said. “Let’s not fear the silence inside and outside us.”

On Sunday afternoon, speaking to young people at the Sulmona cathedral, the Pope offered a similar message. A secular culture based on consumption can be disorienting, he said; it leads man to “lose his sense of the past, of history.” Christians should love history, he said, and their faith and prayer life should help them see the world in a broader context. He urged the young people to cultivate an active prayer life, saying that prayer would help them to see the world “with a new light and a new strength, in a manner worthy of man, more serenely and more effectively.”

During the Pope’s outdoor Mass, security officials stopped a man who was trying to approach the stage. The service was not disrupted.

After the Mass, and the visit to the cathedral, the Pope venerated the relics of St. Celestine before embarking on his return trip to Rome.

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