In his general audience on 22 April, the Holy Father focused his attention today on the writings of Ambrose Autpert, a little-known author of the eighth century, highlighting how Autpert denounced greed in his day.

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Ambrose Autpert

In his general audience, held this morning in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope proceeded with his series of catecheses on the great writers of the Eastern and Western Churches in the Middle Ages, focusing his attention today on Ambrose Autpert.

Ambrose Autpert, the Holy Father explained, “is a little-known author of the eighth century. His works have, in fact, largely been attributed to other more famous figures, from St. Ambrose of Milan to St. Ildephonsus”.

Born to a high-ranking family in Provence, Ambrose Autpert entered the court of the Frankish King Pepin the Short where he was tutor to the future emperor Charlemagne. He subsequently travelled to Italy where he entered the Benedictine monastery of St. Vincent in the duchy of Benevento. Having been ordained a priest in 761, he was elected as abbot sixteen years later and died on 30 January 784.

“He was monk and abbot during a time marked by great political tensions, which also had repercussions on the internal life of the monasteries”, something also reflected in his writings, said the Holy Father. “He decried, for example, the contradiction between the splendid outward aspect of the monasteries and the tepidity (‘tepiditas’) of the monks themselves”. In his ascetic tract “Conflictus vitiorum” (Conflict between the Vices and the Virtues) he seeks “to teach monks how to face the spiritual struggle in daily life”.

Lust for profit

“Observing the lust for profit of the rich and powerful members of the society of his time, he felt moved to write a tract especially for them, ‘De cupiditate’ in which, with the Apostle Paul, he denounced greed as the root of all evil”, said the Holy Father, highlighting how, “in the light of the current world economic crisis, this still has great relevance. From this root, from greed, this crisis was born”.

Autpert’s teaching also has relevance “for mankind in this world. The rich have the duty to struggle against greed, against the desire to possess, to show off, against a false concept of freedom understood as being able to dispose of everything in accordance with one’s own will. The rich must also discover the authentic path of truth, love and a just life”.

The Pope went on: “Ambrose Autpert’s most important work is his ten-volume commentary on the Book of Revelation, … the first in-depth commentary in the Latin world on the last book of Holy Scripture”. In this work Autpert makes it clear that “the Church cannot be separated from Jesus Christ. He is the Mediator and the Church participates in such mediation because she is His Body”.

Autpert also “looks to Mary as a model of the Church”, recognising that the Virgin has “a decisive role in the work of Redemption”. Thus, “with good reason is he considered the first great Marian theologian of the West. Mercy, which he felt must free the soul from attachment to worldly and transitory pleasures, must be united to a profound study of the sacred sciences, especially meditation on Holy Scripture”.

“In Ambrose Autpert we see a person who lived in a time of great political manipulation of the Church, a time in which nationalism and tribalism disfigured her face. Yet amidst these difficulties, which we too also experience, he was able to discover the true face of the Church in Mary and the saints, and thus he understood what it means to be Catholic, to be Christian, to live from the Word of God, to enter into its profundity and so experience the mystery of the Mother of God. … Let us listen to this message and ask the Lord to help us live the mystery of the Church, also in our own time”, the Pope concluded.