St. Hilary of Poitiers, doctor of the Church, was the subject of Benedict XVI's catechesis during his general audience, which was held in St. Peter's Square in the presence of 23,000 faithful.
The saint was born in Poitiers around the year 310 and raised, probably as a pagan, in a family of local Roman aristocracy. After some time spent searching for truth, he converted to Christianity and was baptized. Elected as bishop of his hometown about 353, his opposition to Arianism — which denied the divinity of Christ — led to his being exiled to Phrygia by order of the emperor Constantius who had aligned himself with the decisions of a council held in Beziers at which the majority of the participating bishops were Arians. Following the emperor's death in 361 Hilary returned to Poitiers where he remained until his own demise six years later.
In his most important work, De Trinitate, Hilary "describes his personal journey to a knowledge of God and is concerned to show how Sacred Scripture clearly testifies to the divinity of the Son and His equality with the Father, not only in the New Testament but also in the Old where the mystery of Christ is already apparent," said the Pope.
The bishop of Poitiers "develops all his Trinitarian theology on the basis of the formula of Baptism which the Lord Himself gives us, in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."
The Holy Father explained how St. Hilary presents "precise rules" for a correct reading of the Gospel when he indicates how "some pages of Scripture speak of Jesus as God, others underline His humanity, others still His pre-existence at the side of the Father, His descent to death, His resurrection."
"Firm in his opposition to radical Arians, Hilary showed a more conciliatory spirit towards to those who were prepared to confess that the Son was like to the Father in essence, always seeking to lead them to a complete faith: not just likeness but equality in divinity."
This is a "spirit of conciliation," said Pope Benedict, "which seeks to understand those people who have not yet arrived" at the truth and "helps them in a sprit of peace and with great theological intelligence to a full faith in the true divinity of Jesus Christ."
"God the Father, being all love, is capable of fully communicating His divinity to the Son," the Holy Father concluded. "By taking on a human nature, the Son united all humankind to Himself. For this reason the path to Christ is open to everyone although it always requires individual conversion."