VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Gospel message cannot be fully part of people's lives unless it has been faithfully translated into their language and is reflected in their culture, Pope Benedict XVI said.
Talking about the life and mission of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, ninth-century brothers and missionaries, the pope said the two recognized that although the Slavic people of Central Europe had embraced Christianity and were baptized, the people needed to hear the Gospel and praise God in their own language.
At his weekly general audience June 17 in St. Peter's Square, Pope Benedict said the two brothers not only helped invent an alphabet for the Slavonic language -- an alphabet now known as Cyrillic in honor of one of the brothers -- but they also carried out a theological battle against what is known as the "Trilingual Heresy."
The heresy, the pope said, held that Hebrew, Greek and Latin were the only languages in which it is worthy to praise God.
Studying the work of the fourth-century theologian St. Gregory Nazianzen, St. Cyril became convinced of "the value of language in the transmission of revelation," because Jesus Christ is the Word of God addressed to all people of every language, the pope said.
"Cyril and Methodius were convinced that one could not say a specific people had fully received revelation until they had heard it in their own language and read it in the characters of their own alphabet," the pope said.
The work of the saintly brothers is "a classic example of that which is called 'inculturation.' Every people must welcome into their own culture the message received and express the truth of salvation with their own language," the pope said.
"This presupposes a very difficult process of translation because it requires the identification of appropriate terms to present the richness of the revealed word without betraying it," he said.
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Editor's Note: The text of the pope's audience remarks in English will be posted online at: www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2009/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20090617_en.html.
The text of the pope's audience remarks in Spanish will be posted online at: www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2009/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20090617_sp.html.