IN PREPARATION for the 2,000th birth anniversary of St. Paul, Pope Benedict XVI has proclaimed a year of dedication to the apostle, the Vatican said.

The Pope announced the commemorative year at the eve of the feast of Saints Peter and Paul on June 28 at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, one of five churches considered as the great ancient basilicas of Rome.

According to a published information in the Vatican Radio calendar, the Pauline Year will run from June 29, 2008 to June 29, 2009. Possible activities to commemorate Paul’s year-long birth celebration were not specified as of press time.

St. Paul was born in Tarsus under the name Saul. He was, as he described himself in 1Corinthians and Galatians, a relentless persecutor of the Church, even witnessing the martyrdom of St. Stephen who was stoned to death. He came to faith through a vision of the risen Christ portrayed by a “blinding light” on his way to Damascus.

With thirteen letters attributed to him, St. Paul is considered the second most prolific contributor to the New Testament. His letters were deemed as the primary source of early church doctrine, which has strongly influenced church-thinking throughout the centuries. He did much to advance Christianity among the Gentiles.

On the other hand, those critical of Catholic, Orthodox and traditional Protestant Christianity coined the expression “Pauline Christianity” to describe what is regarded as a distortion of the original teachings of Jesus as influenced by St. Paul.

Despite this claim, St. Paul continues to enjoy much veneration from various churches, including those of the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican traditions, and some Lutheran sects. Yve Camae V. Espeña

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