Pope: Cyprian Teaches on Unity and Prayer

First African Bishop to Be Martyred

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 6, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI dedicated the general audience to the figure of St. Cyprian, calling particular attention to the bishop’s teachings on unity in the Church and prayer.

The Pope continued his series of catecheses on the Church Fathers today, turning to Cyprian, the first bishop of Africa to be martyred.

“The Church was his favorite subject,” the Holy Father said of the saint, and recalled that Cyprian “strongly affirms that the Church is one, founded on Peter.”

The Pontiff added: “He never tires of repeating that ‘he who abandons the Chair of Peter, upon which the Church is founded, lives in the illusion that he still belongs to the Church.’

“Unity is an irrevocable characteristic of the Church, symbolized by Christ’s seamless garment: a unity that, as he says, finds its foundation in Peter and its perfect fulfillment in the Eucharist.”

The Our Father

Benedict XVI said that the saint’s writings on the Lord’s Prayer have “helped me to understand and pray better.”

The Pope explained Cyprian’s linking of personal and liturgical prayer, a unity “based on the fact that they both respond to the same Word of God. The Christian does not say ‘My Father,’ but ‘Our Father,’ even in the secret of his own room, because he knows that in all places and in all circumstances, he is a member of the one Body.”

Cyprian’s exhortation to pray with reserve “to be pleasing to the divine eyes both in our bodily attitude and our tone of voice,” is “valid today” and helps “us to celebrate well the sacred liturgy,” the Holy Father said.

The Pontiff said that St. Cyprian is one of the founders of the theological-spiritual tradition that “sees in the ‘heart’ the privileged place of prayer.”

He added: “The heart is, in fact, the inner core of the human being where God dwells. That encounter in which God speaks to man and man listens to God takes place there; there man speaks to God and God listens to man.

“Let us have this ‘listening heart’ of which Scriptures and the Fathers speak: How greatly we need it! Only then will we be able to experience fully that God is our Father and the Church, the holy Bride of Christ, is truly our Mother.”

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