Thursday, October 4, 2007

Benedict Praises St. Cyril of Alexandria

Continuing with Benedict's series of talks on the Church Fathers, the latest talk addressing Church Doctor, St. Cyril of Alexandria:

Today, continuing our journey in the footsteps of the Fathers of the Church, we meet a great figure: St. Cyril of Alexandria. Linked to the Christological controversy that led to the Council of Ephesus in 431, and the last noteworthy representative of the Alexandrian tradition, Cyril was later defined in the East as the “custodian of accuracy” -- in other words, a guardian of the true faith -- and even the “seal of all the Fathers."

These ancient expressions manifest something that is, in fact, characteristic of Cyril, that is, the constant references the bishop of Alexandria makes to preceding ecclesiastical authorities -- including, above all, Athanasius -- with the goal of showing the continuity of his own theology with tradition.

Cyril took care to ensure that his theology was firmly situated within the tradition of the Church, by which he sees the guarantee of continuity with the Apostles and with Christ himself ...

If only the same could be said for Benedict. Instead we hear praises for St. Cyril's orthodoxy out of one side of Benedict's mouth and the most heterodox theological speculations imaginable out of the other. Let us consider St. Cyril's approach to religious relations with the "Jews" in contrast to that of Benedict XVI:

[St. Cyril] drove out of Alexandria the Jews, who had formed a flourishing community there since Alexander the Great. But they had caused tumults and had massacred the Christians, to defend whom Cyril himself assembled a mob. This may have been the only possible defence, since the Prefect of Egypt, Orestes, who was very angry at the expulsion of the Jews was also jealous of the power of Cyril, which certainly rivaled his own. Five hundred monks came down from Nitria to defend the patriarch. In a disturbance which arose, Orestes was wounded in the head by a stone thrown by a monk named Ammonius. The prefect had Ammonius tortured to death, and the young and fiery patriarch honoured his remains for a time as those of a martyr. The Alexandians were always riotous as we learn from Socrates (VII, vii) and from St. Cyril himself (Hom. for Easter, 419). (Catholic Encyclopedia, St. Cyril of Alexandria)

It should also be mentioned that St. Cyril of Alexandria lived during the time that the emperor Julian made a project of rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem in an attempt to overturn Christianity. The plan ended in failure and various historians from that period record that this was due to supernatural intervention. Needless to say, St. Cyril was no supporter of this early Zionist movement.

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