VATICAN CITY, JUNE 14, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI reflected on the lessons left to believers of all ages by St. Andrew, the so-called Apostle of the Greeks.
Addressing some 30,000 people gathered today in St. Peter's Square for the general audience, the Pope continued with a series of catecheses on the Twelve Apostles.
After dedicating three earlier catecheses to St. Peter, the Holy Father reflected on the figure of his brother, Andrew, disciple of John the Baptist, evangelizer of the Greeks, and patron of the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.
Andrew, as Benedict XVI recalled, was the first apostle to be called by Jesus to follow him; thus, the liturgy of the Byzantine Church honors him with the title "Protoklitos," which means the "first called."
"Because of the fraternal relationship between Peter and Andrew, the Church of Rome and the Church of Constantinople regard themselves as sister Churches," clarified Benedict XVI.
To underline this relationship, in 1964 Pope Paul VI "returned the famous relic of St. Andrew, until then kept in the Vatican basilica, to the Orthodox metropolitan bishop of the city of Patras, in Greece, where, according to tradition, the apostle was crucified," recalled Benedict XVI.
Grain of wheat
Also according to tradition, Andrew, like his brother Peter, asked to be placed on a cross different from that of Jesus. In his case, it was a cross in the shape of an X.
Andrew, the Pontiff noted, teaches that "beyond an instrument of torture" the cross is "the incomparable means of a full assimilation with the Redeemer, with the grain of wheat fallen into the earth."
"We must learn a very important lesson," said Benedict XVI. "Our crosses have value if they are considered and welcomed as part of the cross of Christ, if they are touched by the reflection of his light."
Only through that cross our sufferings are also ennobled and attain their true meaning."
The Holy Father added: "May the apostle Andrew teach us to follow Jesus with promptness, to speak with enthusiasm of him to all those with whom we meet and, above all, to cultivate a relationship of authentic familiarity with him, conscious that only in him can we find the ultimate meaning of our life and death."