GENERAL AUDIENCE 11 March 2009
Saint Boniface, the Apostle of the Germans
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
St Boniface was born in Wessex about 675 and was baptized with the name of Winfrid. He entered the monastery at a very early age and seemed destined for a peaceful and brilliant academic career. He was ordained a priest at the age of about 30 and felt called to an apostolate among the pagans on the continent. His country, Great Britain which had been evangelized barely 100 years earlier by Benedictines led by St Augustine at the time showed such sound faith and ardent charity that it could send missionaries to Central Europe to proclaim the Gospel there.
In 716, Winfrid went to Frisia (today Holland) with a few companions, but he encountered the opposition of the local chieftain and his attempt at evangelisation failed. Having returned home, he did not lose heart and two years later traveled to Rome to speak to Pope Gregory II and receive his instructions. hTe Pope welcomed him “with a smile and a look full of kindliness”, and after conferring upon him the new name of Boniface, assigned to him the mission of preaching the Gospel among the German peoples.
Boniface embarked on the preaching of the Gospel in those regions, fighting against pagan worship and reinforcing the foundations of human and Christian morality. With a deep sense of duty he wrote in one of his letters: “We are diligent Pastors who watch over Christ’s flock, who proclaim God’s will to the leaders and ordinary folk, to the rich and the poor… in season and out of season…” Boniface, adaptable and friendly yet firm obtained great results.
The Supreme Pontiff himself consecrated Boniface “Regional Bishop” for the whole of Germany. Boniface then resumed his apostolic labours and extended his action also to the Church of the Gauls: with great caution he restored discipline in the Church, convoked various Synods to guarantee the authority of the sacred canons and strengthened the necessary communion with the Roman Pontiff, a point that he had very much at heart.