The Apostle John was the subject of Benedict XVI’s catechesis during today’s general audience, held in St. Peter’s Square in the presence of 25,000 people.

“John was always part of the small group which Jesus took with Him on certain occasions,” the Pope explained. Within the Church of Jerusalem, he added, the Apostle “occupied an important position. … In fact, Paul numbers him among those he called the ‘pillars’ of that community.” Before the Sanhedrin, John affirmed that “‘we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.’ This frankness in confessing his faith is an example … for us all to be ready to declare decisively our unshakeable adherence to Christ, putting our faith before all calculation or human interest.”

“According to tradition, John is the ‘beloved disciple’ who rested his head on the Master’s chest during the Last Supper; he was at the foot of the Cross together with Jesus’ Mother, and was a witness … to the presence of the Risen One.” Various scholars see in him “the prototype of the disciple of Jesus” Who wishes “to make each of us a disciple living in personal friendship with Him. To do this, it is not enough to follow and listen to Him on the outside, it is necessary to live with Him and like Him. This is only possible in the context of a relationship of great familiarity, pervaded by the warmth of complete trust.”

“In the apocryphal Acts of John,” the Holy Father went on, “the Apostle is presented … as one who communicates the faith in meeting ‘souls capable of hope and of being saved.’ Everything is inspired by the paradoxical intent of making the invisible visible. Indeed, the Oriental Church calls him ‘the Theologian,’ in other words, one capable of speaking of divine things in accessible terms, revealing a mysterious access to God through adherence to Christ.”

In the East, John, who according to tradition lived in Ephesus, “enjoyed and continues to enjoy great veneration; in Byzantine iconography he is often depicted as a very old man in an attitude of intense contemplation, almost as if calling for silence.”

“Without adequate prayer it is not possible to approach the supreme mystery of God and His revelation,” said the Pope, and he concluded by quoting the words of the Patriarch Atenagoras: “John is at the origin of our most exalted spirituality. Like him, the ‘silent’ experience the mysterious exchange of hearts; they invoke the presence of John and their hearts are aflame.”

In the greetings he addressed to participants, the Holy Father reminded Polish pilgrims that July is “a month in which we traditionally venerate the Most Precious Blood of Christ.”

He went on: “In the world innocent human blood is continually being spilt. The hearts of men are often full of hate rather than evangelical love, they often contain disdain and arrogance rather than care for mankind,. I ask you to pray that modern humanity may experience the power of the Blood of Christ, spilt on the Cross for our salvation.”

Benedict XVI also greeted participants in a symposium on the defense of creation, shortly to be held in Brazil. “I hope,” he said, “that this important initiative, promoted by the Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, may contribute to promoting an ever greater respect for nature, entrusted by God to the … responsible hands of man.”

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