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Papal audience topic: St. Peter Canisius, model for respectful debate

Catholic World News - February 09, 2011

At his weekly public audience on February 9, Pope Benedict XVI spoke about St. Peter Canisius (1521- 1597), the Dutch-born Jesuit who was known as the “2nd apostle to Germany” and named a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XI in 1925.

As a theologian working in Germany during the years of the Protestant Reformation, St. Peter Canisius “took part in many civic and theological disputes,” the Pope pointed out. He was remarkable, Pope Benedict added, for his ability “to harmonize fidelity to dogmatic principles with the respect due to each individual.”

“In a historical period of deep confessional contrasts, he avoided severity and the rhetoric of anger, something fairly rare in discussions among Christians at that time,” the Pope said. The great theologian’s approach, and his determination to revitalize the faith, offer models for today, the Pontiff added. St. Peter Canisius produced a large body of written work, offering guidance for individual prayer and participation in the liturgy as well as catechetical works that became widely used. His own personal piety, the Pope observed, offers evidence that Catholic teaching is most fruitful “only if the preacher is a personal witness of Jesus and knows how to become his instrument.”

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