Pope: Gospel Made to Be Preached in Every Language

Recalls Contribution of Cyril and Methodius to Inculturation

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 17, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Revelation should penetrate every culture and the truths of salvation should be expressed by every language of the world, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope affirmed this today when he reflected on the example of the «apostles to the Slavs» during the general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

Continuing his catechetical series on great thinkers from the Church of the East and the West in the Middle Ages, the Holy Father today spoke of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, co-patrons of Europe, along with St. Benedict.

He said the two brother-saints are «a classic example of what is today referred to with the term ‘inculturation’: Each people should make the revealed message penetrate into their own culture, and express the salvific truth with their own language.»

The Pontiff acknowledged that bringing this about implies «a very exacting work of ‘translation,’ as it requires finding adequate terms to propose anew the richness of the revealed Word, without betraying it.»

«The two brother saints have left in this sense a particularly significant testimony that the Church continues looking at today to be inspired and guided,» he affirmed.

Polyglot praise

Benedict XVI recalled how the two brothers were key to the development of the Slavic peoples, not only in the religious sense, but also culturally and nationally.

Their mission to the Slavs «very promptly had uncommon success,» the Pope explained. «In translating the liturgy to the Slavic language, the two brothers won great affection among the people.»

They also worked against a heresy of the era, which proposed that God could only be licitly praised in three languages: Hebrew, Greek and Latin.

Following the inspiration of St. Gregory Nazianzus, who emphasized the value of language in the transmission of Revelation, «Cyril asked Christ to speak in Slavic through him,» the Holy Father noted. «He introduces his work of translation with the solemn invocation: ‘Hear, Slavic peoples, hear the Word that proceeds from God, the Word that encourages souls, the Word that leads to the knowledge of God.'»

The Holy Father illustrated how the brothers were instrumental in creating the alphabet used for the translation.

He explained: «Actually, already years before the prince of Moravia asked Emperor Michael III to send missionaries to his land, it seems that Cyril and his brother Methodius, surrounded by a group of disciples, were working on a project of collecting the Christian dogmas in books written in Slavic. Then it was clearly seen that there was a need to have new graphic signs that were more adequate for the spoken language: Thus was born the Glagolitic alphabet, which modified later, was designated with the name ‘Cyrillic,’ in honor of its inspirer.»

The making of this alphabet was «a decisive factor for the development of the Slavic civilization in general,» the Bishop of Rome stated. And it was key for bringing Christ to the Slavs.

«Cyril and Methodius were convinced,» the Pope affirmed, «that the various peoples could not consider that they had fully received Revelation until they had heard it in their own language and read it with the characters proper to their own alphabet.»

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