Cardinal Bagnasco: St. Lawrence a Model of Defending Church Liberty

3rd-Century Martyr Remembered Today

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By Antonio Gaspari

ROME, AUG. 10, 2012 ( What can we learn from a martyr who in the name of Christ refused to give to the emperor the goods of the Church of Rome, and gave them all to the poor instead? In what way can the atrocious death of St. Lawrence be an example to today’s Christians? Can St. Lawrence’s witness of faith be repeated also in our days?

Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, president of the Italian bishops, offered reflections today on these and other questions as he celebrated Mass in the Cathedral of Genoa, on the occasion of the feast of its patron, St. Lawrence.

The archbishop of Genoa recalled that St. Lawrence was killed by slow burning at the stake because he opposed Emperor Valerian’s aim to have the goods of the Church of Rome consigned to him, and St. Lawrence instead gave them all to the poor.

«This gesture means two things: that in the Church every earthly good is destined to the poor, and that the poor are the real treasure of the Church,» said the cardinal.

«His act not only answers the arrogance of the Emperor, but is important for the whole of history. And we still talk about it today!» added the archbishop.

According to the episcopal conference president, St. Lawrence’s faith in Jesus was a testimony «for then and for today. (…) In fact, his martyrdom is a prophecy, that is, it proclaims a truth that is above, and which precedes human authority and the prevailing conformity.»

«In his ‘non serviam’ to the Emperor, he says that that way of behaving is old and surpassed, that a new reality has appeared and that, the prevarication notwithstanding, the new world has already conquered even if now it succumbs,» he specified.

«St. Lawrence did not wish to defend the riches of the Church – without which, moreover, the needy cannot be helped – but the liberty of the Church for her mission of salvation,» stressed Cardinal Bagnasco.

The archbishop of Genoa considered that St. Lawrence, is «not a champion of a pauperism ante litteram, but of the free mission of the Church to all, beginning with those in the greatest difficulty.»

In regard to the social mission of the Church, the prelate expressed rejection of moral relativism because it proposes «avidity and cynicism» whereas Catholics not only promote good works but stir consciences to have a new mentality mature. Looking ahead, Cardinal Bagnasco explained that «without a spiritual and moral spirit there is no historical significance.»

«I don’t know if, after Lawrence’s witness, Emperor Valerian changed his style of government of the empire and Christians. But he certainly must have given thought to what seemed to him a strange and absurd position,» he said.

Cardinal Bagnasco concluded by confirming that «Christians, as is their duty, have been and will continue to be, leaven in society with confidence and a spirit of service, aware of having received an inexhaustible deposit of religious, human and cultural vision and values.»

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