Wednesday, March 28, 2007



Apostles' Successors Teach True Faith, Pope Says
Dedicates Audience to St. Irenaeus of Lyons

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 28, 2007 ( True Christian faith is not an invention of intellectuals, but the unique and universal doctrine taught by bishops as successors of the apostles, Benedict XVI says.

The Pope explained this during today's general audience, held in St. Peter's Square. He focused his reflection on St. Irenaeus of Lyons, a figure from the first generations of Christianity.

Irenaeus was a disciple of Bishop Polycarp of Smyrna, who was in turn a disciple of the apostle John. Following the persecution by Marcus Aurelius, Irenaeus became bishop of Lyons. He died between 202 and 203, probably as a martyr.

According to the Holy Father, Irenaeus "presents himself as the first great theologian of the Church, who established systematic theology."

"Without a doubt, Irenaeus is the champion in the fight against heresies," the Pontiff said, explaining the saint's role in the conflict with gnosticism.

Uninterrupted chain

Benedict XVI observed that for Irenaeus "the rule of faith" coincides with the Apostles Creed, and gives us the key to interpretation of the Gospel.

He affirmed that "the Gospel preached by St. Irenaeus is the one he received from Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, and the Gospel of Polycarp goes back to the apostle John, Polycarp having been John's disciple. Thus, the true teaching is not that invented by the intellectuals, rising above the simple faith of the Church. The true Gospel is preached by the bishops who have received it thanks to an uninterrupted chain from the apostles."

"[The bishops] have taught nothing but the simple faith, which is also the true depth of the revelation of God," the Pope continued.

He added: "Only this faith is apostolic, coming from the apostles, that is, from Jesus and from God.

"To adhere to this faith publicly taught by the apostles to their successors, Christians must observe what the bishops say. They must specifically consider the teaching of the Church of Rome, pre-eminent and ancient. This Church, because of its age, has the greatest apostolicity."

The Holy Father explained the characteristics which Irenaeus attributes to the Church's teaching: public, one and spiritual. He added: "From each of these characteristics, one can glean a fruitful discernment of the authentic transmission of the faith in the Church of today."

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