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Posted June 22, 2007

Athanasius Defended God's Closeness, Says Pope

Address Focused on Foe of Arianism

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 20, 2007 .- St. Athanasius' defense of Christ's divinity was a battle to show that God is accessible, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope explained this today at the general audience held in Paul VI Hall. The Holy Father continued with his series of catechesis on the Church Fathers, reflecting today on St. Athanasius, who lived from about A.D. 300 to 373.

Athanasius was one of the participants in the Council of Nicaea, which "dealt with many questions, foremost among them, the serious problems that had originated some years before with the preaching of the deacon Arian," the Pontiff said.

Arius' "theory threatened authentic faith in Christ, declaring that the 'logos' was not true God, but a created God, a being not quite God and not quite man, but in the middle. And therefore the true God remained inaccessible to us," he added.

The Pope explained that in the saint's most famous work, "Athanasius says, in a phrase that has become well known, that the Word of God 'became man so that we might become God. He manifested himself by means of a body in order that we might perceive the unseen Father. He endured shame from men that we might inherit immortality.'

"The fundamental idea of the entire theological battle of St. Athanasius was that God is accessible. He is not a secondary God, he is true God, and through our communion with Christ we can truly unite ourselves to God. He truly became 'God with us.'"

Benedict XVI said that "we have many reasons to thank St. Athanasius," who "has always been esteemed as a model of orthodoxy, in the East as well as in the West."