At the Roman Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, where the remains of the Apostle have been kept for centuries, Pope Benedict XVI accompanied by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I and representatives of other Christian denominations, arrived in procession to begin "The Year of Saint Paul," commencing June 28, 2008, and ending in June 2009.
This year-long celebration coincides with what is thought to be the 2000th anniversary of the birth of the great "Apostle to the Gentiles," an apostle whose life and witness speak powerfully to our own times.
In announcing this year, the Holy Father told us that the world today needs witnesses and martyrs like Saint Paul. Pope Benedict reminded us that Paul had been a violent persecutor of the Church, yet through the intervention of God's powerful grace and glory, Paul underwent a profound conversion. Indeed, it was Saint Paul who spread the message of Christ our hope to the Gentiles. Paul dedicated his whole life to spreading knowledge of Christ.
Saint Paul's famous words to the Galatians: "It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me!" confirm that for him, Christ was not merely an idea, nor was following Christ adherence to a mere set of rules. Saint Paul makes it vividly clear that Christ is alive, risen from the dead, and powerfully active in the hearts of believers.
In explaining the Pauline Year, Pope Benedict suggested that “we are therefore gathered not to reflect on a past history,” because “Paul wants to talk to us today. That is why I have desired to convoke this Pauline Year: to listen to him and to learn from him today, as our teacher, 'the faith and the truth' in which are rooted the reasons for the unity of the Disciples of Christ.”
The jubilee is an occasion to engage daily in reading, praying, studying and living the inspired word of God. We should be eager to rediscover and deepen our reflection of the thought and spirituality of Paul through his own writings, his 13 letters and the Epistle to the Hebrews.
Worth imitating is Paul’s life in and for the cross of Christ to the point of boasting in it and preaching it everywhere by word and example. As we look to Saint Paul over this next year, his life and his preaching still speak to us in this 21st century. May the Year of Saint Paul, the untiring evangelizer and inspiring apostle, be a time for renewing our missionary zeal to preach and spread the Gospel. For as St. Paul reminds each one of us: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel."