VATICAN CITY, FEB. 15, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The Gospel’s interaction with cultures has made Europe a “laboratory” of significant and lasting values, thanks to the work of patron saints Benedict, Cyril and Methodius, says John Paul II.
The feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, co-patrons of Europe and evangelizers of the Slav peoples, celebrated a day earlier, prompted the Pope today to recall the Christian heritage of the continent. Some of the Eastern countries where the ninth-century saints worked will soon join the European Union.
“They are bearer-nations of a specific cultural and spiritual richness; in them, Christianity has exercised an extraordinary force of cohesion, while respecting their peculiar characteristics,” the Holy Father said in his midday Angelus address at St. Peter’s Square.
St. Cyril’s and St. Methodius’ method of evangelization was exemplary, the Pope said. “Moved by the ideal to unite new believers in Christ, [they] adapted liturgical texts to the Slavic language and the customs of new peoples to Greco-Roman law.”
“Evangelizing the Central-Eastern areas of the continent, they contributed in a decisive way to having Christian Europe be able to breathe with two lungs: the Western and the Eastern,” he said.
“Indeed, just as it is impossible to think of European civilization without the Benedictine work and legacy, so one cannot fail to consider the evangelizing and social action of the two brothers, saints of Salonika,” the Pope noted.
“The meeting between the Gospel and cultures made a laboratory of Europe where, in the course of centuries, significant and lasting values were consolidated,” he added.
The Holy Father invited the faithful to pray, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of the saints invoked as patrons of Europe, so that “also in our days, the universal message of Christ, entrusted to the Church, will be the light of truth and source of justice and peace for the peoples of the continent and of the whole world.”
Sts. Cyril and Methodius played a decisive part for the unity of Eastern and Western Europe, both at the religious as well as the cultural level. They created the Cyrillic alphabet for the Slav peoples.
In 1980, John Paul II proclaimed them co-patrons of Europe, together with St. Benedict. In 1999 he added three women as co-patronesses: St. Catherine of Siena, St. Bridget of Sweden, and St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein).