The Apostle James the Less was the subject of Benedict XVI’s catechesis at today’s general audience, held in St. Peter’s Square in the presence of 40,000 people.

The Pope recalled how James the Less “played a preeminent role within the Church in Jerusalem. … In the apostolic council held there … he affirmed, together with others, that pagans could be welcomed into the Church without first undergoing circumcision.”

“St. Paul,” the Pope went on, “names him even before Peter as a ‘pillar’ of the Church,” and “the Jewish-Christians considered him to be their principal point of reference.” Together with Peter, he helped “to integrate the original Jewish dimension of Christianity with the need not to impose all the precepts of Mosaic Law upon pagan converts.”

“In this way, two significant and complementary results were achieved, both of them still valid: on the one hand, the indissoluble relationship linking Christianity and Judaism was recognized, … on the other, Christians of pagan origin were allowed to maintain their own sociological identity. … Thus began a process of reciprocal esteem and respect which, despite unfortunate later misunderstandings, sought by its nature to safeguard the characteristic elements distinguishing each of the two sides.”

The New Testament Letter attributed to this Apostle “places much emphasis on the need not to reduce one’s own faith to a mere abstract or verbal declaration, but to express it solidly in works of charity. … He calls us to constancy in trials, … and to faithful prayer to God for the gift of wisdom, thanks to which we come to understand that the true values of life are not to be found in transitory riches, but rather in knowing how to share our own wealth with the poor and needy.”

Following his catechesis, Benedict XVI greeted pilgrims in various languages. Among the groups present were participants in a meeting promoted by the “Family of St. Luigi Orione,” for the “Feast of the Pope” the theme of which is: “Many Hearts around the Pope, Evangelizer of Life.” The Pope thanked them for this initiative and invited them “to continue bearing witness to the Gospel of life through all your institutions and activities, seeking especially to serve the weak and the needy.”

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