St. Gregory the Great Had It Right, Says John Paul II

Praises His Intuition About Christianity and Scientific Development

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 27, 2003 ( John Paul II pointed to Pope St. Gregory the Great and praised his intuition that the legacy of classical and Christian antiquity «constituted a precious foundation for all subsequent scientific and human development.»

That intuition «retains all its value today in view of the future of humanity and especially of Europe,» John Paul II said in a message, dated Oct. 22, to Monsignor Walter Brandmüller, president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences. The Holy Father sent the message on the occasion of the 14th centenary of St. Gregory’s death.

«The future cannot be built by disregarding the past,» John Paul II said. «This is why on several occasions I have exhorted the competent authorities to fully appreciate the rich classical and Christian roots of European civilization, to transmit the lymph to the new generations.»

Both the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences as well as the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei recalled the «eminent figure» of Gregory the Great, «the Successor of Peter,» John Paul II said.

His commitment to highlight the primacy of the human person — «considered not only in his physical, psychological and social dimension but also in the constant reference to his eternal destiny» — was another significant characteristic of St. Gregory the Great.

This is a truth «to which today’s world must pay attention if it wishes to build a world that is more respectful of the multiplicity of needs of every human being,» John Paul II noted.

Although «profoundly rooted» in Rome, in its people and in its traditions, St. Gregory, «motivated by an exemplary zeal to spread the Gospel,» promoted «an intense missionary activity,» the Holy Father said.

In addition to cultivating «the missionary longing inherent in his ministry, he contributed decisively to a harmonious integration of the different peoples of Western Christianity.»

In order «to build a peaceful and solidaristic future, it would be useful to look at this authentic disciple of Christ and follow his teaching, proposing again with courage to today’s world the salvific message of the Gospel,» the Holy Father exhorted.

It is only in Christ «that the man of every age can find the secret for the full realization of his essential aspirations,» he concluded.

St. Gregory the Great, whose pontificate was from 590 to 604, defended papal supremacy and worked for the reform of clerical and monastic life, in addition to combating the Nestorian heresy and making key contributions to Christology.

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