Benedict XVI Lauds St. Peter Damian

On Occasion of Hermit’s 1,000th Birthday

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 22, 2007 ( Benedict XVI proposed St. Peter Damian as an example of a Christian in love with Christ, on the occasion of the 1,000th anniversary of the saint’s birth.

In a message sent to the Camaldolese order, the Pope described St. Peter Damian (1007-1072) as the soul of the Gregorian reform.

In the letter, received by Father Guido Innocenzi Gargano, superior of the Roman monastery of St. Gregory al Celio, and made public by the Vatican on Wednesday, the Holy Father remembers the millenary of the saint’s birth.

Born in Ravenna, Italy, Peter Damian began to teach but soon retired to the hermitage of Fonte Avellana, where he was elected prior.

He was a great propagator of religious life in Italy. He helped popes, particularly Gregory VII, with his writings and legations, in the reform of the Church. Made a cardinal and bishop of Ostia by Pope Stephen IX, he died in 1072 and soon after was venerated as saint.

Time of schism

The Holy Father proposed to Christians the example of Peter’s “multifaceted personality as scholar, hermit, man of the Church and, above all, enamored of Christ.”

“St. Peter Damian was first and foremost a hermit, indeed the last theoretician of hermitic life in the Latin Church,” who lived “at the very moment when the schism between East and West came about,” recalled the Pontiff.

The hermit’s life, continued the Pope, is “a powerful call for all Christians to the primacy of Christ” and his lordship.

He added: “After each ecclesiastical mission [Peter] returned to the peace of his hermitage of Fonte Avellana and, free of all ambition, even definitively renounced the dignity of the cardinalate so as not to be drawn away from his hermit’s solitude, the cell of his hidden life in Christ.”

St. Peter Damian was “the soul of the Gregorian reform,” Benedict XVI said, “which marked the passage from the first millennium to the second and of which Pope St. Gregory VII was the heart and the driving force.”

The saint frequently addressed “his hermit confreres, demanding the courage of a radical commitment to the Lord, as near as possible to martyrdom,” the Pope said.

He added that Peter called on “popes, bishops and high-ranking prelates to show evangelical detachment from honors and privileges in carrying out their ecclesial functions,” and reminded “priests of the exalted ideal of their mission, to be exercised with purity of private life and true individual poverty.”

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